Can This Happen in America?


I love this question.

Because I love the answer. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’ve asked this same question before. Usually it comes out of the mouth of someone who’s skeptical about the viability of movements in America. And that’s been me before.

Typically it goes something like this.

The culture is different in America than in Africa & Asia where some of these movements have broken out. I’m not sure if our culture is well-suited for movements.

There are sociological concerns too. We are an individualistic culture. Those cultures are more communal. It makes sense it would happen there because people make decisions in groups, but we don’t in America. We’re not as easily influenced by our close friends and family which means a movement would be less likely to happen here.

Add ecclesiological concerns to the list. America is dominated by churches with buildings, money, and pastors who want to keep their jobs. Wouldn’t the traditional American church fight movements, making them less likely to occur? The clergy/laity divide in America is strong & probably hard to overcome. In movements you need the laity to act like the clergy & that might not be well received in our country.

Oh, and what about educational concerns? We’re a more educated country than many of these countries where movements have broken out. Since movements rely so heavily on signs & wonders, many in our country don’t even believe in that. Can a movement really thrive where science rules the day & miracles are largely written off?

I could go on & on.

I’ve raised the objections too. I’ve asked these same questions.

I LOVE the response that Stan, one of my DMM Coaches gave me.

I asked, “Can this really happen in America?”

His response, “Movements typically break out in all of the places where people said there’s no way it could happen there.”

People said there’s no way it could happen in China. Then it happened in China. People said there’s no way it could happen in India. Then it happened in India. People said there’s no way it could happen in Africa. Then it happened in Africa.

Hahaha! I love it! That sounds like God doesn’t it? He loves doing the things that we consider impossible.

1 Corinthians 1:25“This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

The fact that so many people say it could never happen in America makes America one of the most likely places it will break out next! Get ready!

There’s a part of India that was formerly known as the “graveyard of modern missions.” For generations, missionary after missionary went there seeing very little fruit. The ground was hard. The people were unresponsive.

Guess what people were saying? There’s no way something could happen there. I’m sure they had their list of reasons just like we have ours.

Guess what?

One of the greatest movements of God in history has broken out in that “graveyard” in the last 20-30 years. Millions have been baptized.

Guess the naysayers got it wrong again.

So, can this happen in America?

The real answer is, it already is happening in America!

Is California in America? I think so! Have you heard about what’s going on there in recent years through a non-profit organization called CityTeam? Our team flew out to witness it for ourselves last year & it’s truly remarkable.

I emailed Hermie, the Movements Catalyst on staff at CityTeam, to ask for an update.

In the last 6 years, they’ve seen more than 120,000 disciples made & over 11,000 groups/churches started. This started in America but it didn’t end up only in America. It has spread to quite a few other countries as people that became disciples here moved back to their home country & made disciples there. Most of the other countries impacted by this movement are in Central America.

Hermie said:

What sets these replicating disciples apart from regular believers is the ecosystem we are intentional at creating for them to germinate, develop a root system, receive water and nutrients to grow and bear fruit resulting in transformation & more disciples that do the same.

That ecosystem is the Kingdom of God that has come to their personal life, their home, their work and their neighborhood. To do this, our disciple-making teams are intentional at helping, modeling and setting expectations for those they disciple to:

1. Read the Bible regularly (daily if possible)
2. Not just learn the content, but apply what they learn
3. Share those lessons on their spiritual journey with others
4. This is done in community with other family members and/or friends who hold each other accountable to apply and share
5. They love and serve one another in practical ways
6. They actively pursue loving and serving their neighbors in practical ways also
7. With the goal to replicate this ecosystem by starting another group that starts more groups

We witnessed this first hand. We heard the stories. We went to the neighborhoods where this had broken out. It’s remarkable!

We even saw the very long diagram of the generations of this movement in their office. In some countries it’s in the 1st or 2nd generation. In other countries it’s in the 3rd, 4th or 5th generation. And in one country it has reached the 10th generation. WOW!

We don’t have to ask if this can happen in America. This is happening in America! The question is, will we join God in what he is already doing in our country?

CityTeam is not the only place in America where this is happening. A movement researcher has gathered data indicating it’s happening in 2 or even 3 places in our country. You just don’t hear these stories told as often. It’s more underground at this point.

Wouldn’t you love for it to break out in your region?

Perhaps God wants to bring a movement to your region but he’s waiting on some courageous men & women to raise the sails.

Will you raise the sails? Will you do whatever it takes to see everyone in your region & ultimately in your people group reached?

Roy Moran, one of my DMM Coaches, and author of Spent Matches, wrote:

How much do we love the mission that Jesus gave us? Is it worth the sacrifice of our lives to stop the trends we are experiencing today? Are we willing to expose our inflexible misread of the Bible and rethink our methods? Would we be willing to keep asking the question, “What needs to be done?” and not default to the cop-out, “I’ll just do what I can do”?

Pastors, will you & your church join us in raising the sails? I only know of one other church in America that is trying to raise DMM sails for movement. It’s Roy’s church. I’m sure there may be others, but it’s the only one I’m familiar with. Most of the places where they’re seeing movement activity in America are not through traditional American churches.

There’s a quote in David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements, that I read years ago & have repeated to my staff over & over again. It describes our biggest struggle with regard to these movements. He says:

If you are going to see a Church Planting Movement, you’re going to have to make some room for it. One of the toughest things for good people to do is to give up the many good things they are already doing in order to embrace the best. Perhaps this describes you. You are excited about a new vision of possibilities but hate the thought of leaving behind the many good things you are already doing. But if what you are doing now hasn’t led you to a Church Planting Movement, then perhaps it is time for a change. If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting. So, if you’re not already seeing a Church Planting Movement with what you’re doing now, you should stop, clear some space, and try something new. Remember, a good definition of insanity is to keep doing what you’ve been doing, while expecting different results.

Pastors, we’ve got to make some room for this! Clearly what we’ve been doing hasn’t led to CPM in our country. Isn’t it time for a change? Let’s heed these words of wisdom & “stop, clear some space & try something new!” We have so many people in our churches that we could mobilize to be a part of this! The more teams we send out, the more people we can reach!

Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few” (Matt 9:37).

The problem isn’t with the harvest. The problem isn’t with our people group. There are many in our people group that are prepared to become reproducing disciples of Jesus.

The problem is that the workers are few! There aren’t many people going to them. That’s definitely true in DMM. There are hardly any workers.

Typically, in America, if people won’t come to our churches, they won’t be reached. We spend most of our week planning a big Sunday event that we’re hoping our city comes to. Look around. They’re not coming!

In most places, less than 10% of the population is evangelical Christian according to the research done in The Great Evangelical Recession.

Who is chasing after the 90%? Who is working among the 90% that would never darken the doors of an American church? There are 200,000,000 in America in that 90%.

For the first 10 years, I tried to put on as attractive & powerful of a weekend service as I knew how to do. But what I found is that most of the city didn’t come. I’m expecting them to come to me & while many came, most didn’t.

Jesus didn’t say put on a worship service & invite people to come, although there’s nothing wrong with that. Jesus said GO and make disciples of all the nations! Jesus said GO & for the first 10 years, I felt like I STAYED. If they’ll come, I’ll reach them, but if they won’t come, I guess they’re out of luck.

You know what’s so disheartening? As our team is now going out among the lost in some of the most difficult parts of town, it’s apparent than NO ONE else is working in these areas. NO ONE else is GOING to these people. But many of these people are HUNGRY. Many of these people will be our “persons of peace” that will help us reach a whole neighborhood or apartment complex. But the American strategy is not primarily a GO strategy. It’s a COME strategy.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a COME strategy. Clearly, 10% might come. But what about the 90%??? Who’s going to go to them?

Jesus is saying, the workers are FEW!

Will you be a worker? Will you join us in going to the 90%?

After Jesus said that the harvest is great but the workers are few, he said, “So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matt 9:38).

What’s the solution to the worker shortage? We have to PRAY! That’s what our church is doing right now. We’re praying for YOU! We’re praying that the Lord would send you & your team out as workers into his fields. We’re praying that many other American churches would join us on this disciple-making mission. We’re praying that many American Christians would get tired of the status quo & like Paul, would say:

Acts 20:24“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”

We have a task to finish. We have a work to complete.

The harvest is ready for us.

The workers are few.

Hear the Lord of the harvest calling YOU to be a worker in his field!

Let’s raise the sails TOGETHER!

Come, Holy Spirit, and blow on our sails!