Alan Hirsch begins his book, The Forgotten Ways, with a question. He claims that in AD 100 there were as few as 25,000 Christians and in AD 310 up to 20 million. His question is: ‘How did they do this?’
Perhaps it was a fluke of history. So Hirsch asks the same question of twentieth century China. In 1949 Mao Zedong took over China and in 1952 expelled all foreign missionaries. At the time there were about 700,000 Protestant Christians. Mao then set about trying to eradicate all traces of Christianity. In the early 1980s China began to open up again and Westerners wondered what would remain of the church. They discovered it had not only survived, but flourished. There were then an estimated 60 million believers. ‘How did they do this?’
How can we start a church planting movement?
It often said that both the early church and the Chinese church grew despite the following factors:
– a lack of buildings and professional clergy
– a lack of Bibles
The spread of the early church and the Chinese church is often said to be ‘despite’ these factors. But what is it was ‘because’ of these factors? I was already disposed to think that meeting in homes was a theological and missiological choice rather than an historical contingency. What if this was true of the other factors? What if these were not ‘despites’ at all, but ‘becauses’! So let me therefore restate them as positive principles:
In church planting movements:
– the pattern for living is martyrdom
– the pattern for church is reproducible
– the pattern for disciple-making is non-literate
I want to add one more:
– the pattern for mission is supernatural
Over the coming weeks I want to blog a few thoughts on some of these.
 Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (Brazos Press, 1986), 18.
 Tony Lambert, China’s Christian Millions (Monarch, Rev. Ed., 2006), 19, 26-27.