GupBrea 08-10-138 

Breaking Tradition to Accomplish Vision

Training Leaders for a Church-Planting Movement


Paul R. Gupta and Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

BMH Books, Winona Lake, IN, 2006, 244 pp., ISBN 0-88469-305-8



Paul (Bobby) Gupta is President and Director of the Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI) and College in Chennai, India.  He also pastors New Calvary Bible Church and he is the founder of the Indian National Evangelical Fellowship.  Lingenfelter is Professor and Provost and Sr. Vice President at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Gupta has been a primary motivating force behind a vision to see the Great Commission fulfilled in India through saturation church planting.  The book tells how God is working to mobilize the whole church in India for church planting and about how leaders are being trained to support the movement. 


1. God Restores a Vision for HIB

An organization can lose its focus.  Bobby's father was the founder of HBI and after he died, "The priority to develop godly, mature individuals, skilled in sharing their faith and proclaiming God's Word to the unreached, took second place to the development of individuals of knowledge who could serve in the professional ministries of the church." (15)  The re-established foundation of HBI is pastoral leadership, missions, and biblical theology. (22)


"I have concluded that formal education is ill suited and cannot effectively equip evangelists, church planters, and apostolic leaders for ministry."  "The skills…can be understood and mastered only through practice." (23)


2. A New Paradigm: Non-Formal Training

To produce evangelists requires students who have a passion for evangelism and church planting.  Training must include much repetition, immediate application, and the teaching of others what they are learning. (28-9)  Church planting requires additional skills which are imparted through two years of on-the-job and field-based training. (34)  By 2003 the average was 4.5 churches started per year per missionary. (38)


3. Assessing Impact: Mid-Course Corrections

Progress requires changing course based on experience.  Church planters had little time to study and interpret Scripture so a non-formal process of advanced training for biblical and systematic theology was developed and conducted in 5-day sessions six times a year. (44)


"The only way a church will grow is when the church planter takes time to make disciples and empower others intentionally to help him in the process."  The four-stage process: "Come and see," "Follow me,"  "Learn from me," and "Remain with me." 


The INEC [India National Evangelical Fellowship] has set a goal to develop 2000 pastors in the movement by 2020, and to encourage each pastor to plant five churches and train five leaders." (50)


"One of the significant strengths of Bobby's leadership of this training and church-planting movement is his commitment to continuous assessment of outcomes in reference to their clearly defined 'ends.'  They collect and analyze data in each training cycle to discern how well each individual is performing, and to discern the impact of the movement." (53, Lingenfelter)


4. Developing Cross-Cultural Missionaries

"Planting churches outside their own language area proved far more challenging than anyone imagined."  "To meet this challenge, they had to develop a completely new training program and recruit more highly educated couples to equip for this task." (57)


India has more than 600,000 villages and more than 4693 people groups. (27)  Only 10% have any significant Christian witness. (59)  "To reach these distinct groups, India must equip and mobilize a large number of cross-culturally trained missionaries." (59)  "Missionaries must be equipped to face resistance, to accept a slow response, and to overcome the temptation of losing sight of the targeted group." (59)  Without proper skills the church will not be contextualized and become indigenous.  Further the church planter must not plant churches but enable the people being discipled to develop the church. (60)  "When the missionary becomes the church planter and not the facilitator of a church-planting movement, he will attract individuals who are deviants from the local culture and are, most likely, more comfortable with the missionary's culture." (60)


"Listening to one another has become one of our most powerful training techniques.  When they can get out of the ministry environment, discuss with others objectively, and make decisions with the counsel of many, it reduces the risk of making cultural blunders and provides wisdom for effective ministry decisions." (65)


"The very next step is developing leaders in the church.  We cannot wait for more materials or training.  If the church is going to be a Great Commission church, the very next step is to teach people to share their faith with others and make disciples, using what they have learned." (73)  "The goal is to empower new disciples to define the vision and mission of their local church." (73) 


5. Equipping Local Churches for Church Planting

"Pastors fail to glorify God when they do not enable every member to fulfill his or her ministry of witness." (80)


To disciple all people groups in India requires pastors, apostles, teachers, evangelists and prophets.


"For God's work in India, the pastor must have a vision for the unreached in his town and beyond, and mobilize his people to fulfill God's mission for His church." (82)  Apostles, like Paul, equip others to serve as pastors and teachers.  He must "be a visionary leader who brings evangelists, pastors, and missionaries together to envision God's purpose and mission for the church…."  He evangelizes and preaches but even more, trains others.  (83)  "Among the evangelical churches in India we understand prophets as those whom God has given the church to keep it from compromise with the world and sin."  "But more importantly, he leads us to uphold our values, maintain our vision, stay with our purpose, and properly select the strategies consistent with our understanding of the Word of God." (87)


"The goal to plant a church in every village or a church for every 1,000 people in India demands hundreds of thousands of workers."  The answer is not more educational institutions, but rather to mobilize thousands of leaders in local churches…." (92)


"The transformation of local churches to become Great Commission churches is not a simple task."  "We taught our people to look at the world through the compassionate eyes of Jesus, and challenged them to give financially and to be personally committed and involved.  As a result they prayed, gave, sent, and went.  We first committed to give 50 percent of all we received in offering to missions.  But God led us to do more." (94)  "By the end of 2004, the church supported 30 national missionaries, 28 of whom are working in India and two others outside of India." (95)  "Mission must be the heartbeat of every church." (95)


Part II. The Birth of a National Church-Planting Movement

6.  Understanding the Task

Key Question from Jim Montgomery: "What will India look like when we have fulfilled the Great Commission in India?" (107)  "To disciple the whole nation, we, the leaders, had to challenge the whole church to take the whole gospel to the whole nation." (108)


"By 1995 the Lord had moved in the churches of India to plant 50,000 new churches (Johnstone 1991), and to commit to 500,000 more." (118)


7. Refocusing Strategy - Mobilizing District Leaders

The scale of the task in each state was so enormous that participants could not imagine how to achieve it.  Therefore we refocused on developing church-planting movements for every district of each state.  (124)  We then examined which villages had the largest number of Christians to mobilize to disciple their district. (125)  We needed a John Knox in each district, one who would say 'give me the district or I die.'  (130) 


8.  Equipping Leaders - Mobilizing Local Churches

"The magnitude of the task required a wholly new approach to leadership training." (137)  "Our biggest challenge then lay in 'the mobilization of the national church to do the work of evangelism…'" (140) 


"Each believer has a birthright to participate in fulfilling the Great Commission." (153)


Part III.  Challenges to Accomplish the Vision

9.  Regional Contextualized Training

Who will train pastors for 500,000 churches?  HBI envisions ten regional extensions. (159) There are currently four. (164) 


"The centers have eliminated the interruptions in ministry and have improved the student return rate for the training. Contextualizing the training has enhanced the impact locally without losing the vision of the movement." (167)


10. Developing Master Trainers

"How do teachers teach a class in which students speak ten or more different languages?  It requires master trainers and trainers of trainers. (173)


"Our experience at HBI shows us that we need to provide at least 50 percent of the support needs of our evangelists and church planters.  Our core faculty, the master trainers, all receive full-time financial support from HBI." (181)  "The opportunity and challenge for the western church is to invest in the equipping of leaders in India, Africa, and the poorest nations of Asia."  "The Lord is waiting for the rich to partner with the poor to make disciples of the nations." (182)


11. Partnership for Mission in the 21st Century

We must rethink how western and world Christians may work together.  (187) Most of the fastest-growing churches are in the poorest nations.  The growing edge of mission is strategic partnership, working together to reach the unreached. (188)  "By working alongside nationals, expatriate missionaries can multiply their impact one hundred fold." (188)


"Equipping Indians for cross-cultural ministry has proven just as challenging as equipping westerners.  Because western missionaries have already struggled for two hundred years with these issues, they have gained knowledge, theoretical and practical skills, and training methods of immense value for training Indian cross-cultural workers and teams.  Westerners also have extensive training and experience in the academic and technical aspects of quipping leaders for a wide range of church and service ministries." (188-89)


Bringing short-term workers "had the unanticipated consequence of helping the average church member to understand missions in a whole new way." (189)


"There is a synergism in these international partnerships that empowers the ministry and leads the partners to support, enhance, and love one another, and thus expand the kingdom of God." (192)



"Work must never substitute for a deep relationship together that is focused upon the Lord Jesus Christ." (200)

"The partner with money will be tempted to use the control of money to dominate the partner who does not have money." (200)

"Differences about organizational culture may become more important that mission." (201)

"The urgency of the task may replace the critical priority for relationships, and when relationships are broken, God refuses to bless the work." (201)


12. Training Leaders for a Church-Planting Movement

The authors suggest several lessons.  Here are a few:

"Mission is more than proclamation; it is about making disciples!" (206)

"The church is God's most powerful instrument in fulfilling His mission." (208)

"The local church and pastor are the front line of leadership training." (209)

"We must develop leaders in the context of their own cultures to meet the need of thousands of new churches."


In regard to training leaders, it's not about the curriculum, it's about mobilizing and equipping people and about character and commitment.  It requires financial support, contextualization, and trainers of trainers.


Some challenges facing the church:

"If churches plant more churches, but the people bring little or no transformation into society, then the mission of making disciples will not succeed.  Leaders must be intentional in their efforts to make disciples of the lost, inviting people into a powerfully transforming relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and forming new missional communities that bring spiritual, social, economic, and political transformation into their villages and towns." (216)


"Church leaders must be vigilant in these times, and through a biblical theology of suffering prepare their people for a time of possible severe persecution." (217)



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