by Roland Muller
I call the church planting method that we use the Not-So-Good method because it does not require an outstanding missionary, outstanding local leaders, or wonderful converts. Rather, anyone, even not-so-good missionaries, can use this.
Over the years, I have tried to describe the church-planting method that I and many others use, but have failed to come up with a good description until now. I have called it the Not-So-Good method because it does not require an outstanding missionary, outstanding local leaders, or wonderful converts. Rather, anyone, even not-so-good missionaries, can use this.
This method was developed because I was a not-so-good missionary. I struggled with the language, the culture, and personal issues in my life, such as timidity and uncertainty. But God kept pressing me that I should be involved in planting churches. So as a not-so-good missionary, I looked around for a local person with whom to work. In his infinite wisdom, God has never had a perfect local leader for me to work with, so I have always ended up working with not-so-good people.
I have never had wonderful tools and materials to use either, so I have had to settle for some not-so-good tools. I now recommend the Discovery Lessons and the Discipleship Lessons by Abdallah Hawatmeh, but there are other tools out there as well.
How It Works
In the Not-So-Good method, the not-so-good missionary asks the not-so-good local if he or she could teach him or her some lessons, and then the local will be available to teach others. I call this person the teacher, but for goodness sake, don’t tell him or her that he or she is a teacher, because the person may get a swelled head, especially if he or she is the not-so-good kind to which God always directs me.
In this method, the missionary teaches the local teacher the lesson and then the local teacher teaches the lesson back to the missionary to ensure that he or she knows it well and can teach others. If the person really is a not-so-good teacher, get him or her to teach other missionaries as well. Then, start looking for people to teach. God has typically led me to not-so-good people. Most have struggles and problems, sometimes really terrible issues, with which they have had to deal. But I am a not-so-good missionary, with a not-so-good teacher, so I accept not-so-good contacts.
Add in Some Crummy Evangelism
In my book, The Messenger, the Message and the Community, I share six steps to spiritual maturity. We usually start with not interested people, whom we hope will become somewhat interested people, and eventually seekers. I use stories, proverbs, incidental chats, and prayer to move them along. I like to call this crummy evangelism. It’s like catching squirrels.
First, you put out a few crumbs and stand a long ways away, hoping the squirrel takes them while you watch. The next day you do it again, only a little closer, and bit by bit, day by day, you put out the crumbs until one day, hopefully, the squirrel eats right out of your hand.
So we use crummy evangelism. We drop spiritual crumbs into our conversations, and bit by bit move people along from being not interested to somewhat interested to being seekers. Then, we ask them if they would like to have someone—a local person—really explain what Christianity is all about. This person can do it in a few hours. He or she is a teacher who can do a lot better job than we missionaries can, because our language is poor and we are foreigners.
Back to the Method…
After suggesting this several times, someone may eventually agree to meet the teacher. That is when I call in the not-so-good teacher, who by this time should have also taken the discipleship lessons and had an opportunity to teach them back to us.
After connecting the new seeker with the teacher, I step out of the situation and pray for them while they meet. I do not attend. After all, I am only a church planter and not a pastor, and since I am a not-so-good missionary, I don’t even bother to attend the first meeting, or the second, or any of the rest.
At the same time, I start gathering a few other not-so-good missionaries to help me. We meet with many people during the week, and use crummy evangelism to urge them along until they show signs of being a seeker. Then, we connect them to the teacher.
It isn’t long until the teacher is teaching some people the evangelism lessons, and some of the discipleship lessons. We continue to encourage the teacher, and pour our lives into him or her, but we don’t bother to attend the new church.
By this time, the teacher is very busy. He or she has led a number of people to the Lord, and we encourage him or her to start meeting with them regularly in order to figure out which ones he or she should baptize, and to start breaking bread with them. Without knowing it, our not-so-good teacher has just graduated to not-so-good pastor.
When the teacher gets overloaded with people and ministry, we encourage him or her to choose one of the new believers and get that person to help teach the lessons. This person doesn’t have to be perfect—he or she can be not-so-good just like the rest of us.
Once we have a second teacher, we start to send seekers to him or her. Soon, we have two groups, then three, and so on. Since we are not-so-good foreign church planters, we all end up leaving at some point, and the groups continue on their own, without missing us, since we never bothered to come to any of the meetings.
The amazing thing is this: God seems to enjoy transforming not-so-good teachers and not-so-good converts. Our only fear is that someday they may think they are really good teachers, and stop training not-so-good people to teach the lessons. That would be terrible, because good missionaries and good pastors always look for good leaders, and good unbelievers to witness to, and these are very hard to find. So if you cannot find good leaders, just settle for not-so-good people and get them doing crummy evangelism and using the Not-So-Good church-planting method and see what happens.
Roland Muller (pseudonym) is a church planter who has authored several not-so-good books on ministry. He is with a mission agency called WEC International, which ministers among 1,000 unreached people groups. His personal website is http://rmuller.com.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 6-8. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.