Thursday, October 27, 2005

Campus Church Networks

Yesterday I was up in Estes Park, CO at our regional Local Leaders mtg. It's a great time each fall to share the wealth and learn from one another. We often invite a guest to help us think anew about launching movements everywhere. Yesterday morning, we heard from Jaeson Ma who leads a ministry that is seeing incredible things happen. It's called Campus Church Networks. Their mission is to see the Great Commandment and Great Commission fulfilled in this generation through catalyzing and cultivating Church Planting movements on every campus around the world.

Jaeson defines church as 'a group of believers of any size, committed to one another to obey Jesus' commands.' In other words, they are about what we are about in launching movements everywhere. Even though Jaeson himself is a member of a mega church in LA, he is passionate about seeing the great commission fulfilled by reaching the unchurched students in a new way. As I listened to him, it sounded no different than when we talk of Learning a New World, using the Person of Peace and Oikos evangelism strategy (see the article in the playbook ) and seeing mvts launched everywhere so everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus. Even the way these simple churches teach the Word is exactly like Jay showed us this summer where the subject is in the center not the teacher.

Jaeson Ma’s Story…. Campus Church Networks started in 1998 on the campus of San Jose State University. Jaeson was then a new believer and a college freshman. In his philosophy 101 class of about a 100 one day his professor asked, "Who here believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God?" Jaeson and one other friend were the only students to raise their hands. Jaeson, distressed with the realization that most of his college campus did not know the love of Jesus Christ, started gathering all the believers in all the Christian groups like CCC to began to prayer walk the campus at San Jose State. Before he knew it, God opened doors by actually allowing the Student Gov’t to sponsor Jaeson to speak at a couple of evangelistic rallies on campus. Jaeson realized thousand were exposed to Christ and many made decisions for Him, but after follow-up few were integrated into a healthy local church family or Christian fellowship on-campus. He began to pray about how he could bring the church to the students instead of the students to the church. After much study in missionary church planting models such as the underground house churches in China, Jaeson was convinced that simple relationship-based churches would meet the most practical needs of students. He read how 18-year-old Chinese girls were planting over 100 churches in China a year after only being a Christian for a few years. Jaeson so much he began to wonder, "If an untrained, uneducated 18 year old Chinese girl can plant 100 churches in a year in China, why can’t a college freshman plant a few churches on a college campus?"

Jaeson decided to follow the same model of having a trained missionary pray and win a student of Peace for Christ. The missionary would then teach the student leader to win his Oikos and from that network of friends start a church. Once started, the missionary would then model for and disciple the natural student leader of the group on how to pastor the church with the goal of one day releasing him/her to actually be the pastor and train him/her to raise up their own student leaders to start other churches. Jaeson realized student leaders would need to train other students to start more churches on campus because one church on a campus would not be enough because of all the different Oikoses. He also used the model of the house churches where the norm would be about 15-20 students meeting anywhere on or near campus. Once the church on campus would outgrow its meeting place, instead of going to look for a bigger meeting place to rent, the church would just multiply and train up another student leader to start another church somewhere else on campus! These relationship based churches would never be hindered in getting started by needing to pay for a church building because they could meet anywhere like a dorm, apartment, student union, the lawn in front of building, a classroom or even Starbucks! Pretty soon, the whole college community could be saturated with churches and every student would be reached for Christ.

Since starting the first campus church at San Jose State, his team has sent out other missionaries to other university campuses to do the same. He has gone to places like Univ of Texas or Hong Kong and trained all the Christian groups and local churches to do the same. As a result, evangelism has been explosive and there are all of these churches all over campus being launched among students no one was reaching.

Jaeson showed us a video of the IMB’s church planting movement. I can’t recall all of it. But one story that stuck out to me was this couple that went to Cambodia with the goal not to plant a church but to find three persons of peace who they could train to plant churches in their Oikos and then follow this same multiplication principle. In like 4-5 years, they went to seeing 1000’s of churches planted and countless lives changed. And they are seeing similar things in China and India and all over. I can’t really capture all that was said but basically the idea is that local believers were the ones leading this explosion and often all the training they had was a bible and the Holy Spirit.

Stuff to consider… It might be a good exercise to lead your team to think through all the concepts that come into our minds when we hear the word church or a campus movement. Then look together at Acts and write down all that the early church did. Then go through and decide what is necessary / biblical and what might just be our Western culture. Strip it down to the basics. As Jaeson says, 'lower the bar on church, but raise the bar on making disciples."

If we could somehow simply what we are hoping to launch, it will more likely be reproducible and able for nationals to lead it once you are gone. Could a week-old believer in your country share his or her faith, lead a bible study or a believers meeting the way you do it? Then why do it that way? What if we put it in their DNA right from the start to launch a church (or movement) in their Oikos? What if your team brainstormed of what it would be like if no American team followed them. What would you leave behind?

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