I do not know why Dan didn’t call me and ask where to find a missional church in California (where we both happen to live). We have many here that are reaching people, making disciples and planting churches. We also have many that are helping out in their city with ministries to the homeless, AIDS hospice care, victims of abuse and many other social concerns. You cannot find these churches in the Christian yellow pages. Because these movements are decentralized, small and highly mobile, they are hard to find. You have to know someone to find them.
I cannot speak for the many other networks of missional churches in America right now, but I can speak on behalf of Church Multiplication Associates (CMA).
At a conference in 2007 a study of our movement was conducted by an outside source. Leadership Network sponsored a “House Church Report” conducted by Ed Stetzer’s ministry surveying some of our leaders who attended the conference. 97 leaders responded representing 53 organic churches.
82% of the leaders were being mentored and/or coached by other individuals as one of their primary means of training, which is important in a multiplication movement. Discipleship in organic churches was significant in 79% of those in the survey group. These numbers are probably much higher than conventional Christian leadership would claim, but in my opinion they are not high enough.
From the 53 organic churches represented in the survey, there were 52 new churches started out of them in 2006 alone. I can’t complain about that number (nearly 100% reproduction), but I do want to know which church was the one that didn’t plant a church and ruined our perfect score (just kidding).
There were 34 church plants started in the past 5 years by the 97 leaders surveyed alone. And of those 34 churches planted, 10 of them had gone on to start new churches themselves. In other words, 30% of the daughter churches had grand-daughter churches over the past 5 years. In a sample of almost 100 Christian leaders there were 34 new church starts out of them in the past 5 years and 30% of their daughter churches reproduced to a third generation. That is a pretty high level of missional involvement. But again, I think we can and should do better.
The 53 organic churches in the survey reported seeing 189 people who became followers of Christ (first time commitments) in 2006. That is an average of 3.5 people coming to Christ per organic church in a single year. Considering the average organic church has about 12 people in it that is a high percentage of conversion growth for any Western nation—higher than 25% conversion rate. Of course that is simply an educated estimate based on the survey data. That is not confirmed data.
CMA is not just a US movement. We had representatives from 11 or 12 different nations at the conference where this survey was taken. If those leaders outside of the US were taken under consideration there would have been 944 decisions in 2006 o (yep, if you do the math, two leaders overseas account for 755 conversions and a whole lot more churches, things do change when you cross borders). That would mean we are averaging over 17 conversions per organic church, which would probably be a conversion rate higher than 100% in our churches. But this study was really looking at the movement in the US, where we are more likely at closer to 25%.
This past year (2009) CMA has conducted over 52 Greenhouse Organic Church Planting Retreats in 15 different nations and all across the US. We averaged a training every week! The average attendance has been over 40. We are estimating that we are starting between one and two churches a day just from the Greenhouse trainings alone. But the number of churches we started this year as a movement would be far higher because you would have to count all the daughter churches and grand-daughter churches (and so on) of those who were started before this year (my own church family started five this year alone and would not be included in the above estimate). This is a task we are not capable of undertaking, and, frankly, we do not feel the need to investigate. A decentralized, multiplicative movement must, by its very nature, go beyond one's ability to count.
The organic church I am a part of has started five new churches this past year alone. That would raise the number of church planters sent from this small church alone to about 30 in seven years. Last week I saw two of my disciples baptize two of their disciples. Josh came to Christ in a coffee house a few years ago. Today he leads a couple of churches and went to India and Chicago to conduct Greenhouse trainings and was one of the disciples baptizing last Wednesday night in my spa. We still have two more disciples to baptize in the coming days.
There are missional churches that are doing the work if you know where to look. My prayer is that they continue to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.
The problem is that some of what Dan was saying is true. There are a lot of people calling their work missional and are not truly making disciples who multiply (even within CMA). So, while I can refute Dan’s facts, I will not refute his overall sentiment—we need to see more fruit! Thank you Dan.