Strategies for Tomorrow’s Church


Martin Robinson & Dwight Smith

Monarch, 2003, 221 pp.  ISBN 0-8254-6050-6


Robinson is the director of Together in Mission, an organization that facilitates saturation church planting in the United Kingdom and worldwide.  Dwight Smith is the founder and president of Saturation Church Planting International.  Both authors have a passion for church planting.  The book represents primarily, but not exclusively, a British orientation.


The book “begins with the missionary context of the church and moves towards a discussion of the nature and purpose of the church.  Out of that flows an extended reflection on the nature of leadership and its intended outcomes.  The final two chapters address both church planting and the consequent people movement that church planting on a significant scale hopefully produces.” (12) 


The mission field of the West “has been dominated over the last several hundred years by the framework of the Enlightenment which constantly seeks to separate the sacred and secular realms, consigning the sacred to the realm of the private and so the unimportant.” (12)


The church in the West is in deep crisis.  It must rediscover its life and witness around the centrality of its call to mission.  (15)


By contrast, “the worldwide church has demonstrated astonishing life and vigour in precisely the same period that the Western church has suffered reversal and decline.” (17) 


“Christian values and teaching no longer impact the public life of many Western nations today.  Indeed it is possible to argue that there is a deeply ingrained prejudice against Christianity on the part of many policy makers in public life of the West.  Christianity is scorned, derided and ridiculed.”  “Why are church leaders not entirely occupied with asking how such a situation can be reversed?” (21)


“Unfortunately, most pastors and church leaders have had no missiological training.  Consequently, pastors in North America resort to marketing strategies....” (24, quoting Eddie Gibbs, ChurchNext, p. 41)


“The transmission of a missionary DNA is more biological than technological.  It has more to do with life and vision, with community and authentic lifestyle, than with techniques and methods alone.”  (31)


“The secret question on the minds of many leaders is the very simple issue: ‘How do I grow my church?’”  (31)  “A better question would be: ‘How can I ignite a movement round here?’”  “Igniting movements happens primarily through the Christians we mobilize in their spheres of influence.” (32)


“The primary focus for many ministers is to organize the gathering of Christians.”  “However, somewhere along the way we have lost sight of the reason for gathering.” (33)   “ do we encourage the church to discover how to live the story?  If we can succeed in leading our people down such a road then we are on the way to producing a movement....”  (34)


In the first few centuries the church thought only of mission; spreading the faith was urgent.  The church was shaped by mission.  After the church achieved social status mission became one of its many functions and not its sole activity.  “The nature of the church began to shape the mission..., a subtle but crucial change.” (46)


The Reformation resulted in a series of religious wars and power shifted from church to state in what may be the origins of the modern secular state. (54)


“For evangelicals there came a separation in their thinking between evangelism which was to be conducted in the hinterlands of Christian Europe and North America and mission which was to be conducted outside of Christendom.”  “Mission was seen as a means of growing the church overseas and evangelism as a means of strengthening the church at home.”  “Expansion of the church tended to become the chief end....” (55)  “Evangelicals did have a vision of a changed society but that tended to be an outcome of a strengthened church and not a part of mission as such.  For evangelicals evangelism and mission were essentially programmes of the church, something that faithful churches did.”  (56)


“The challenge for the church now reconsider the basic purpose and call of the church.  To return to mission as the core raison d’etre of the church will inevitably mean that the shape of the church will change.”  “What flows from mission will still be the church but it will be a very different kind of church.” (56)


The core interaction with the culture must be changed.  (59)  The church needs to be well regarded by the surrounding community in order to grow. (60)  In the early 19th century the interactions of the church and social environment changed so that the church lost perceived value to the culture. (72)  During the revivals, the church shaped itself around mission and transformed both individuals and society.  (73)


The authors suggest three elements to move the church to where it should be:

1.     substantial church planting (church planting skills are also church renewing skills!),

2.     intentional leadership development focusing on missional leadership including all the gifts described in Ephesians 4.  The church has focused on pastor and teacher and ignored the gifts required for pioneering: apostle, prophet, and evangelist.

3.     local coalitions of churches cooperating for evangelistic purposes  (80-88)

It is easy to confuse the growth of numbers in the pew with the success of the mission of the church. (93)


The early Christians believed their purpose was the same as Israel’s, “not to exist for themselves but to be a light to the nations.”  (93)  


The five marks of mission from the Lambeth conference of 1988.

·        To proclaim the good news of the gospel

·        To teach, baptize and nurture new believers

·        To respond to human need by loving service

·        To seek to transform unjust structures of society

·        To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, to sustain and renew the life of the earth. (94)


“The emphasis on mission began to shift towards the preservation of emerging structures and so to maintenance.  With this transference, the significance of God released in and through each of Christ’s people is lost.  The world is asked to come and see, rather than the church going, living and telling in and through all of its normal daily activities and relationships.” (99)


“How can we then prevent ourselves and each other from slipping so easily from a concern for mission (ends) to a preoccupation with church (the means)?”  (99)


The unchanging central purpose of God is for human beings to reflect his image and be known personally and know him personally.  “For this time and place, the church is God’s chosen instrument.” (100)


“The goal of good leaders is to bring the whole membership of the body of Christ to the maturity of its purpose.” (Ephesians 4:12,13)  “The success or otherwise of leaders in mobilizing the giftedness of the whole church is the single biggest factor in determining the effectiveness of the church in mission.” (103)


“No matter where in the world you look, those who have become Christians have overwhelmingly made such a decision because of the actions of ordinary people in their circle of influence.”  (105)


In the existing paradigm the growth of the local church is the focus of our concern and activity.  Those drawn to the church become active participants.  The new paradigm requires us to shift “from institution to movement, from structures that invite people into sacred space to an infectious spirituality that invades secular space.” (109)


What is required to produce the new paradigm?

1.     Personal Transformation.  Lively worship provides more transfusion than transformation.  The worship experience can function as a substitute for a well-developed spirituality and may tend toward dependency and a consumerist approach to worship.  It may provide a refuge from the secular rather than a resource to inhabit the secular.  (110-11)

”Weekly worship and teaching are not effective at personal transformation.  The intimacy of a small group with intentional mentoring is required.

Personal transformation has at least four indicators:

a.     Knowledge of God through the Scriptures

b.     Listening to God

c.      Personal relationships

d.     Using our giftedness  (110-115)

2.     Genuine diversity in Leadership

3.     Creating Organic Movement
”Once an organization has reached the point of plateau, the tendency is for the means to become confused with the ends.  The organisation and its survival is seen by the leaders as more important than the mission.  The greater the organizational crisis, the less attention is paid to the original purpose or mission.”  “But if the church is to be renewed, it is essential for it to recover both a vision for its original purpose and a degree of spontaneous and organic growth.” (120)  “Discipling, equipping and releasing those who have had significant grace experiences and who have the desire and ability to communicate needs to be the priority for the moment.” (121)

4.     The Church as a Dispersed Presence

The New Testament picture of leadership is painted in Ephesians 4:11-12 (purpose), I Corinthians 12 (descriptions), and Matthew 20 (essence).  (127)


“Leadership that does not result in empowerment is severely lacking.” (128)


“I have rarely if ever found a megachurch in a non-Western context that was not systematically planting daughter churches.  Most of them could point to hundreds...”  “They did not exist to build a megachurch, but to extend the gospel into a people, nation, state, city or neighbourhood.  They did not have to be taught to plant new churches: for them, planting new churches, by the releasing of new leaders, was like breathing.” (130)


“The average Western church is led by a pastor or a teacher,...(and) they focus on caring for truth and people.”  “Leaders in such non-Western churches are not pastors or teachers in function, but apostles.”  (131)


Principles of leadership: (135)

1.     Leadership is widely distributed in the church

2.     Primary leaders model and create a culture in which everyone naturally expects to find and use their gift.

3.     The shape of the church responds to the gifts rather than forcing people into structures.

4.     Mobilization occurs when people use their gifts.


“True leadership is first and foremost relational and influential.” (141)


Descriptors of the art of leadership:

1.     Seeing differently and expecting God to be active in and through them daily.

2.     Living with vision, not necessarily the author but the carrier of the vision.

3.     The confidence of conviction that God is going to do something and that people will be led.

4.     Making the Christian message accessible to people where they are, i.e. taking it to the people rather than inviting the people to us.

5.     Releasing responsibility to as many as possible

6.     Finding a way to continue among the many obstacles

7.     Staying the course and being persistent.

8.     Being inspired by God’s previous actions in history.

9.     Having generous hearts, giving away more than is humanly reasonable.

10.  Practicing authenticity first

11.  Burning the rule book and keeping the ends the ends and the means the means.

12.  Starting a fire and fanning the flames  (149-159)


“We should be encouraging the people of God to speak about the actions of God in ways that allow a significant multiplication of witness to take place.”  “The principle of multiplication needs to be embedded in all that we do....” (165)


Principles of Multiplication (165-

1.     The church is intended to multiply and grow.  We need to find a way to make it happen.

2.     God uses ALL of Christ’s people.

3.     He works primarily through a decentralized structure.

4.     Multiplication begins with prayer – visionary, targeted, expectant prayer

5.     Do good research.  Research focuses prayer by presenting real people.

6.     Broad-spread, proactive evangelism is required.

7.     Organize people into small groups for harvesting, discipleship, sharing the good news, and initiating more leadership.

8.     Train new leaders to spread the responsibility.

9.     Organize around purpose, vision, and values.

10.  Build in every church the vision to multiply itself.  (165-179)


“The number of churches in India has grown from 150,000 20 years ago to some 400,000 today.  That vast expansion means that there are more churches in India today than in the United States of America.” (204)