Fruitful Practices: What Does the Research Suggest?

The International Journal of Frontier Missions published an article discussing seven practices that were shown to produce fruit in church planting among Muslims.  Their information came from surveys and interviews with 300 church planters in the Muslim world, representing 34 different agencies.  They identified the seven practices by looking at what those workers who had planted the most churches were doing.  Though we are not working among Muslims, I found much of the information in the article pertinent to our ministry as well.

Here are the seven practices:

  1. Ministering in the heart language of the people, rather than in a trade language.  Having at least one team member who is highly fluent in that language.
    These were the two strongest associations with fruitfulness.  Much of the world speaks two or more languages.  This is true in our area, where the indigenous people speak their tribal languages as a first (heart) language, and their second language is the trade language (Spanish).

  2. Sharing the gospel orally through Bible stories.
    Much of the world also learn things and transmit information far more effectively orally than in written form.  Storying is something I’m trying to move into doing more of.

  3. Living out the gospel through an exemplary lifestyle adapted to the cultural values of those one is trying to reach.  Living in a way that shows obvious love and respect for their culture.
    In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, Paul says he became like whoever he was trying to reach.

  4. Using a transformational rather than an attractional model.  In other words, not trying to gather scattered people who have no prior relationship or trust with one another into a church.  Instead, working through already-existing networks of relationships.  When a person/family accepts Christ, help them then reach their family members and friends.
    Does anyone think the transformational model would result in healthier, more reproductive churches in the West, as well?

  5. Using a variety of creative means to communicate Scripture.
    Examples in the article included culturally relevant storying, radio and video dramas, oral and literate inductive studies, incorporating Scripture presentations in festivals, lifecycle celebrations, everyday use of proverbs, interactive websites, and phone texting.  What did NOT work were most of the Bible study packages from the West, which were culture bound and not relevant to local believers.

  6. Intentional reproduction.  Making spreading the gospel to other people part of new believers’ DNA from the very beginning.
    This is one of the main reasons we’re currently trying to win new believers more than we’re trying to work through existing churches.  We need new DNA in believers here, DNA that includes winning others to Christ.

  7. Fruitful workers are known as people of prayer, individually and corporately.
    Need I say more?

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