Today is quite possibly the most exciting era of Christianity since the book of Acts. The global church is growing at a rapid pace as disciples are going from everywhere to everywhere to preach the gospel and fulfill the great commission. This environment has produced a climate that places an all time premium on collaborative efforts. Consequently, strategic alliances, partnerships, and mergers have come to be the preferred method of strategic growth and achieving targeted results.
Another key distinctive of the day is the prominence towards a kingdom mindset among churches and organizational leaders. Bringing leaders together who have historically operated independently has brought about a heightened urgency to finish the task. Thus, this white paper looks to reflect and identify the best possible collective step forward for those who desire a truly global alliance for church multiplication.
A Global Alliance for Church Multiplication (GACX)
GACX emerged out of a group of churches and church planting organizations that desire to see the Kingdom of God filled with disciples from every corner of the globe. Built on the premise that more can be accomplished together than apart, the GACX has the vision (BHAG) to see five million churches planted by the close of 2020. Five million churches would theoretically supply the world with one church for every 1,000 people.
As partnering churches and church planting organizations come together for such a task, it is necessary to remember what GACX stands for and what is ultimately at stake.
GLOBAL: Involving the entire world
A truly global perspective, by definition, implies cross-cultural representation. The advancements in technology, connectivity, and innovation have contributed greatly to the flattening of many obstacles in this regard. However, one of the challenges leaders face in today’s globalized context is the multilayered impact culture has on everyday life. In fact, cultural differences are one of the most commonly identified reasons for failure when organizations come together. As a result, a heightened sense of self and situational awareness is necessary.
Another factor that adds to the complexities of a flattened world is the varying perspectives and theories of effective leadership. Those in the global north have unofficially stewarded the position of leadership and authority across Christendom for hundreds of years. As a result, there has been a distinctly western feel to the modus operandi in leadership. However, the global south now holds the majority of the world’s Christian population and equally deserves a seat at the table. The result of these developments will create a new normal.
A global strategy needs to address how a global perspective and cross-cultural representation can take place. Part of this needs to address how global south led ministries and churches from around the world can comfortably voice ideas, concerns and contribute towards a global strategy. A Spirit-infused, unified global strategy is required to sustain commitment over the long haul.
Ultimately, cooperation in the midst of diversity is necessary for the fulfillment of the vision of five million churches. Whoever holds the baton is of little consequence when the finish line is crossed. Leaders from around the globe serve a unified purpose toward Kingdom expansion and must recognize their role in this time of transition. Plueddemann helpfully sets the stage,
“When one part is missing, it is as if part of a great orchestra is silent. In the divine symphony, the West has played a leading part for several hundred years…but now in these days, the Divine Conductor is turning to all parts of his orchestra and bringing it all into one grand finale. As the last score is being played, every part of the orchestra is required to play passionately, at maximum strength.”
ALLIANCE: The state of being joined together in some activity or effort
In the high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Perhaps such an alliance is exactly what Christ had in mind in this prayer. To see a group of leaders fused in partnership for the sake of the King and His Kingdom is truly a remarkable sight.
That being said, holding all things in common to catalyze a movement of churches comes with innate challenges. Every organization that is part of the alliance has its unique way of operating. This involves unique organizational cultures with manifold layers of depth and complexity. Furthermore, the way decisions are made, or problems are regularly solved tends to go without being said. However, that which goes without saying usually involves the most important aspects of both national and organizational culture.
As a result, when it comes to strategy making, it is important to consider the role learning plays, as most unwanted behavior and performance comes from ignorance. Global leaders must understand that culture is not the enemy. Culture will always exist at varying levels of complexity, just as there will always be differing perspectives about what followers need and want in their leaders. The fact that leaders are influencers does not detract from the need for ongoing learning, the courage to grow continually, and the audacity to abandon the status quo.
For a global alliance to thrive, it will be helpful to avoid linear or sequential goals in favor of interlinking. Interlinking goals helps convey a strategy with built-in flexibility all the while anticipating uncertainty. This is especially imperative for today’s context, as strategy must always focus on continuous adaptation and improvement. Often the most successful strategies are not what was originally intended, but what emerged as part of a pattern in a stream of actions.
CHURCH: The body of Christ
The Lausanne Covenant articulates the way forward effectively: “The whole church is called to take the whole gospel to the whole world, proclaiming Christ until he comes, with all necessary urgency, unity, and sacrifice.” Undoubtedly, the local church is the hope of the world. But what is a church? When it comes to an alliance that seeks to multiply churches a practical starting point is terminology a global community can unify behind. In so doing, when the word ‘church’ is said, perspectives may vary but the meaning remains constant.
While making strategy is necessary, pragmatism can lead one astray. Thus, when considering the strategic role of the GACX, we must remember new disciples should be formed within churches, not without. The church, big or small, is fully equipped with all spiritual authority to multiply without reliance or dependence on outside aid or support. While the GACX may assist, serve, or advise, it should never overstep, infringe, or be necessary to the completeness of the church or its power of unlimited expansion.
Ultimately, the spontaneous expansion of the body hinges on complete and utter dependence upon the Spirit of God. The church grows by following rather than attracting. No strategy, plan or scheme will ever replace this truth. May we always remember: Paul planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the growth.
MULTIPLICATION: To make many rapidly
One of the foundational aspects of being a disciple is to multiply. In essence, every believer is a disciple, and every disciple is called to be a disciple maker. In fact, the expansion of the Church involves not only the multiplication of Christians but also the multiplication of Churches. This idea builds on the premise that the body of Christ grows as God’s people multiply. Churches unsurprisingly multiply as a result of this growth. It is of the utmost importance that Christian leaders understand how peoples, and not solely individuals become Christian. For, until Christians understand their necessary role in winning other peoples, a multiplying movement will be hindered.
As every believer looks to become a disciple maker, we must not make the mistake of seeking to teach merely the experiences of the apostles, but rather seek to experience their teachings. The New Testament shows many effective patterns for effective ministry. However, we must pursue dynamic equivalence powered by the Holy Spirit, as opposed to precise formal replication. The impact of multiplication is realized in the life of every believer today. Without the faithful obedience of disciple makers in the past, how would we have come to know Christ in the present?
The leader-follower dynamic here is critical as it necessitates leaders release control by empowering followers. Such DNA is foundational for the transfer of healthy disciple makers. In this paradigm, power-giving leadership is relational, rather than positional, which elevates people over authority and control. In its fruition are quality and sustainable next generation leaders.
A global body of Christ joined together rapidly making disciples who make disciples.
As an alliance for church multiplication steps up to the global stage, it is important to remember the foundation for Christian unity begins not with our similarity but our diversity. The world will not be changed by a few of us or in one particular way. For the world to be won for Christ it requires disciples to be disciples: everyone, every day and everywhere. In fact, one of the most exciting things about a global alliance coming together is how it beautifully fits into God’s plan for the world. Technology, connectivity and development are simply the means God established long ago to unite those from every nation, tribe and tongue in the praise of his great name. May we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:17)
Existing & Established Leaders: Significant opportunities should intentionally happen where existing leaders and next generation leaders interact and learn from each other. Multigenerational and multicultural diversity in ministry and the workplace is a key-defining element of the twenty-first century, and strategic cross-generational/cross-cultural fertilization helps to maximize collective synergy and effectiveness in organizations today. Established leaders can do a lot to help those who will soon take their place by:
Allowing next generation leaders to “rub shoulders” with more experienced and senior leaders.
Providing public recognition, empowerment and support.
One-on-one and one-on-few mentoring relationships.
Modeling good practices, both public behaviors and private spiritual disciplines.
Real-world problem-solving opportunities are critical and the best way to do this is by allowing leaders to solve real problems.
Future Leaders: There is something to be said about the benefit of mixing age and experience with youth and creativity. Finely honed leadership skills are learned over a lifetime. As a result, they endure over the long haul. However, as Kouzes and Posner have warned, “you can’t do what you say if you can’t say what you believe. And you can’t do what you say if you don’t believe in what you are saying.”
Future leaders must recognize that the most strategic way forward is by learning. Clarifying values by finding one’s voice is the first step towards a lifetime of leadership.
Strategic Learning should include a holistic approach with substantial contributions from varying instructors that address the head, heart, and hands.
Investment in training, personal development plans, accountability that involves feedback and 360-degree assessments.
Reflect on what really defines a Christ follower, a leader, a spouse, parent, etc.
Begin forming a personal leadership philosophy by articulating deeply held beliefs, values, standards, ethics, and ideals that drive one’s actions.