Monday, September 14, 2009

Insights from Thomas Wolf on Reproducible Movements

Today, I got to spend about 3 hours with Thom Wolf. Brother Thom as he is called served as Pastor of "The Church on Brady" which became Mosaic Church. While, serving as their pastor, Brother Thom saw the church grow from 40 people to over 400 and a church that saw at least 16% of their congregation involved in international missions. He served as a professor of missions and evangelism at Golden Gate. He is now international president and professor of global studies of University Institute, New Delhi, India, an Asia-based learning group in, servicing South and East Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. he not a theroist on missions. He has lived it and continues to live it!

One of the insights that was shared today was concerning replicating movements. The big idea in church planting is the talk of church planting movements. What is a church planting movement? According to David Garrison of International Mission Board, a church planting movement is a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment. The interest today is how do we see this happen in North America.

According to Brother Thom each replicating movement has the following:

Essential Outsider: the missionary or church planter that comes to plant within a culture

National Face: The person of peace or person of that culture who gives you credibility in that culture. They vouch for you.

Trainer not Teacher: Not just giving people information, you are training them to use and apply the lessons. In Christian life we teach not for information but for obedience.

Reproducible Pak or Package: The pattern of discipleship and doing ministry must be reproducible in any context.

Yield Lives: There must be transformation in the lives of those the movement has touched.

As I look at thse principles, I see a call for us as church planters and as church members to realize that many of the ways that we have "done" church has lend itself to structures that have stiffled the Great Commission. Let me explain.

I come from a family of church planters. My mom and dad planted churches. Not as vocational church planters but as a heating and air conditioning mechanic and a house wife. Two of my aunts and uncles planted churches. Not as "ordained" ministers but as people working for Bethleham Steel and Frito lay. They went into other context, made friends and aquaintances, taught them about Jesus and saw lives changed. Out of the churches that they planted, other churches were planted. Using the reporoducible techniques that Brother Thom spoke of.

Today if my family was to use the techniques taught by many today they would probably have to have a band, a cool webpage, small group curriculum from a major publishing company, gone to a conference and spend at least $300.00 a session for a church planting coach. Oh! lets don't forget, sometime during all this they need to pray. Usually after the coaching session.

Please don't get me wrong. All these things are good things! As long as they are tools used to be used to see lives and communities transformed. When we focus on the tools and instead of the priniciples of church planting and church reproduction we soon create a system or movement that cannot be reproduced.

Its interesting that Jesus sent his disciples out in twos. No money, no resources, no band, sound system, webpage or even a core group, yet they made an impact. The only thing that He gave them was a commission, His teaching and the power of the Holy Spirit and they turned the world upside down!

How do we see a reproducible movement happen?

Pray that the Lord will make you an essential outsider to a culture. That could be your own family, your neighbors, co workers or friends.

Look for someone to give you credibility: That national face!

Train people. Don't teach people about the gospel of Jesus. Demonstrate it, let them experience it and then let them try it. As Brother Thom says " Teach for obedience, not for information."

Everything you do with people, make sure they can do it. Reproducible: So simple even a caveman can do it. (Sorry GEICO).

Stand back and watch God transform lives!!

You see movements are going to be seen when God's people (not organizations or denominations: these are structures not organisms) do God's work. Thanks Thom for reminding me of that today! Thanks to my family who live it and who still live it.


  1. Lewis, good words. I still can see you in military uniform being such a vital part of counseling and living the word as a chaplain. Yes, you do live the planters life as does your wife.

    I needed that reminder. Thank you

  2. My mother is Maria pereida now 87 years old is looking for pastor Thomas wofe,also sister Marget sanez who is very ill needs need his address anyone that know where he is please give us his address thank you and god bless you . Frances Curiel