October 30, 2020
by Keith Boyette
Demographers tell us that approximately 3.22 billion people globally have no access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The current world population is estimated to be 7.75 billion people. Over forty percent of the world’s people groups have no indigenous community of believing Christians able to reach the rest of their people group.
According to a 2019 Pew Research study, 65 percent of American adults described themselves as Christians (down 12 percent over the past decade). Twenty-six percent of American adults described themselves as religiously unaffiliated, consisting of people who identify as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular,” up from 17 percent a decade earlier.
Do not rush past the two preceding paragraphs. These numbers represent individuals for whom Jesus died and to whom He offers salvation and transformation. Jesus’ mission was to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10). His mission is our mission!
Recognizing the significant need for churches of every size and type to reach the unreached and unaffiliated, the 2019 Global Legislative Assembly of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) established a Church Multiplication Ministry Taskforce to develop a strategy for catalyzing a global movement of multiplying churches in the Wesleyan tradition.
Chaired by the Rev. Dr. Steve Cordle, senior pastor of Crossroads Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the task force recently delivered its report to the WCA Council which enthusiastically received and commended it for study and further action.
The WCA Council committed to a vision for planting 3,500 new churches globally in the seven years that follow the legal formation and launch of a new global theologically conservative denomination. It said it would work closely with the Transitional Leadership Council of that new church to see that goal achieved. As the taskforce stated, such a target cannot be wishful thinking; it must be achieved in order for the new denomination to grow and fulfill its mission. To start fewer churches would mean the denomination would shrink and its membership decline. The reality is that the need for new church starts around the world is great and urgent.
Underscoring the global nature of this initiative, the 3,500 new churches are projected to consist of 1,500 in the U.S. and 2,000 in other countries. To realize such a vision, the WCA Council has endorsed a multi-faceted strategy:
- Establish a denomination-wide team of intercessors who will pray for new church multiplication culminating in an annual prayer summit focused on multiplication.
- Develop a multiplication mindset that permeates the new denomination challenging each local church to multiply within five years. To seed this initiative, over the next several months a 25-person team of key leaders selected by the WCA will participate in a Multipliers Learning Community with Exponential, an organization dedicated to reproducing healthy faith communities.
- Recruit, assess, train, and prepare church planters with a goal of discovering and recruiting 750 church planters per year globally.
- Raise the necessary funding entrepreneurially to accelerate effectiveness.
- Ensure significant support and oversight so that each church plant itself becomes a multiplying community accelerating the denomination’s ability to reach those who have not yet responded to the Gospel.
- Focus especially on the start of ethnic and multi-ethnic communities globally recognizing God’s ultimate vision for the church.
- Care for those who find themselves stranded from existing United Methodist churches with whom they are not theologically aligned.
- And embrace a model of a local church or a network of local churches planting new churches so that planting occurs organically.
The commitment to church multiplication emphasizes that these new churches will be of many different types and sizes, recognizing the needs of the communities they will serve. The goal is not to establish churches which simply grow by addition. Rather, the commitment is to emerge as a multiplying movement that exponentially impacts communities, especially those where a vibrant, vital witness to the historic Christian faith in the Wesleyan tradition is needed.
Coupled with our church revitalization strategy, the WCA is working now, even prior to the launch of a new global theologically conservative Methodist denomination, to ensure that we seize this God given opportunity. We want to passionately embrace God’s vision to reach those who are unreached or underserved all around the world.
The WCA looks forward to a new church that will identify communities where new churches should be planted. It trusts God will raise up leaders for this endeavor, and that he will also challenge existing local churches to be earnest in multiplying by coming alongside former theologically conservative UM members who want to plant new churches in their communities. The WCA longs for a new church that is fully committed to the mission of sharing the Good News with people who have never heard it. Please join us in praying for and committing to this great adventure.
Keith Boyette is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.