WHAT'S NEXT?
(In the Church Growth Movement)

After nearly twenty years of the church growth movement I had been wondering when it would wind down and what might replace it. A year or so ago I did a little piece on 'spiritual mapping', which is the effort to identify the demonic powers that supposedly control cities, counties, even nations, and then through united prayer these evil strongholds are toppled so that revival would break out.

That was the end of it; I did my article and did not track new developments. I should have been paying more attention.

Here is an update.

The church growth movement is yet sputtering along, but the statistics have not been encouraging. It seems that there has been no net growth among Christians in the U.S. There has been some shuffling around, a recycling if you will, but no true net growth despite the sudden appearance of a couple dozen 'mega churches'.

Recently technocrats, spiritual marketing engineers, sometimes known as 'media ministers' have begun putting 'integrated' media systems into place, that is, video, audio, and lighting systems, synchronized, to give audiences the kind of entertainment they expect and deserve. Apparently the lack of results from the modern church growth movement had to do with the quality of presentation of the product--the presentation needed a sprucing-up. You can read all about it in Your Church published by Christianity Today, especially see issues March-April and May-June 2001.

(Simply log on to http://www.christianitytoday.com/cbg/ and learn how your church can become 'the best show in town'.)

The above is a logical place the church growth movement might go. However, there is something entirely new, something I certainly did not anticipate.

Spiritual mapping is becoming a really big deal especially now that C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary fame and one of the founders of the Church Growth Movement has gotten on board. It may be argued that Dr. Wagner is the fountainhead of the whole church growth movement. Now, he has embraced spiritual mapping and George Otis, Jr. (You can discover all this yourself by logging onto, one, www.sentinelgroup.org (Otis' organization), and two, www.globalharvestministries.org (Wagner's organization).

Let me be clear that I respect both these Christian gentlemen. They are sincere, honest, hard working men of God. They are well education, somewhat famous, and write much better than I do. I really do feel this way. Yet, since they offer their views publicly, I am also free to, as a fellow member of the Body of Christ to express my critique publicly as well.

Teaming up with George Otis Jr. and the spiritual mapping project was a natural for C. Peter Wagner; it also helps answer the question 'What happened to the church growth movement?' Their answer: Satan did it, Satan hindered, and Satan prevented revival and the numerical growth that the ecclesiastical engineers promised. But Otis' spiritual mapping strategy, if properly implemented would yet win the battle and revival would break out.

Do you see it? Once the demonic strongholds were identified, then with accurate and specific praying, the strongholds would crumble and revival would come. Using demographical tools, both ordinary and spiritual, the demonic powers ruling over cities, towns, neighborhoods, counties, states even, etc., could be mapped, thus exposed, and eventually rendered powerless.

So step one, identify, map, the principalities and powers. Then, step two, bring all the spiritual leaders of the county, city, town, neighborhood, etc., together in united prayer, and the evil kingdoms would fall. (The total plan is far more complex than this, but the process simply described above does summarize the basics.)

This plan is being implemented in dozens, if not hundreds, of places across America. It is the new big in-thing, and I do mean big. It is in my own county, it is called Mission Marin, and now they have twenty churches on board but I am resisting. There was an effort made to sign me up, but as politely as I could, I declined. It was a blow to the unification so necessary for the success of Mission Marin. And I have heard I am being blamed, to some degree, for the lack of success of the Gospel around here. No revival means there had been no unity among the spiritual leaders--it is clear how important this is. So 'unity' has become a key concept.

There is talk now of 'one church' per entity, usually one per city or one per county (it is county wide here in Marin), though the participating churches are to remain independent. And there is talk of titles like 'metropolitan', 'archbishop', 'patriarch', and so on, but at this stage it is only talk. (One pastor, who was on the bandwagon at the outset, liked 'metropolitan', but I see he has moved on to a church in Idaho.)

Now though, both Wagner and Otis agree, and you can check it out on their websites, the offices of apostle and prophet are being restored by God in these 'last days'. Wagner seems to be simply identifying people who have successfully built large congregations as apostles, and/or, prophets. This is one point I am not clear on. But little or no biblical support is given for this dramatic development, only the word of some modern day 'prophets'. (Some of us are surprised that these offices needed to be restored, some of us thought people were being sent our regularly during the last twenty centuries to proclaim the Word of God to both non-believers (apostles) and believers (prophets) alike. However, we are told, these apostles and prophets are being raised up now to lead the church into the last great revival. I can hardly wait to see how this is going to work out locally.

What is surprising is that non-charismatic and Pentecostal churches are going for this. Two churches within my own mainstream evangelical denomination are on board locally, but they needed the infusion of the Alpha Course, especially the retreat aspect of the Alpha Course, before they were able to get clear on the total program. They did not all-of-a-sudden start speaking in tongues either because the course can be modified to appease and accommodate those churches that are resistant to tongue speaking. So that hurdle was overcome, and now more and more churches can be on board, ready for what comes next, that is, spiritual mapping, apostles, prophets, and all the unity necessary to unleash the powers of heaven.

(Do you believe in magic, too?)

Kent Philpott
July 2001

 

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