I was sitting in a meeting last night where a person said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” As you might know, Jesus said this in Luke 10:2 and Matthew 9:37. Jesus spoke those words 2,000 years ago and they still have meaning today. The truth is that that has been the case since the foundation of the church. As a result, the church has had to creative about how we do ministry to reach more people.
One of the most creative methods for reaching more people was the Methodist method (pun intended). In my last post, I discussed John Wesley’s challenges and his ability to overcome those challenges. But his model and methods were significant in reaching more people with the gospel. While Wesley was an organizational genius, it appears as though his method was mainly developed through need rather than him strategically developing an elaborate plan. George G. Hunter III (The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement) talks about three things that enabled Wesley’s Methodism to create a movement:
1. Lay leadership
2. Small groups
3. Missional Christianity
Wesley’s model involved traveling to a community, preaching in open settings and calling people to a new way of living. Because Wesley could’t stay to help them, he established classes, societies, and circuits that incorporated strong lay leadership, peer accountability, and itinerant preachers like himself. This model allowed Methodist ministers to reach larger groups of people and empower indigenous leadership through the small groups, called classes.
Today, we need to find ways to be creative in multiplying leaders and creating models that allow new leaders to be equipped for mission in their local context. I think there is a lot we can learn from the methods used by John Wesley in Great Britain and later Francis Asbury in the United States. One of the ways I am seeing that happen today is through a team-ministry model, which is very similar to the Methodist circuit model.
Here’s an example of a team-ministry model: Five small churches put together their resources to hire five pastors. Each pastor oversees a respective congregation, but these five pastors will preach the same message at each one of these congregations for five weeks straight. This means that they are only writing at most 10 messages per year each. This allows these pastors to devote the other 80% of their time to equipping lay leaders. Each pastor could resource a specific ministry in the church network. For example, one pastor could resource all worship volunteers, while another could resource all youth volunteers. This model allows several smaller churches to gain some of the benefits of a larger church without completely losing the small church feel they are accustomed to.
I believe this model might be the future of more effective church planting and multiplication: I call it the parish circuit model. It’s very similar to the Methodist circuit model because it utilizes professional ministers among multiple locations, while allowing lay leaders to take a more prominent role in leadership. This combination can help the parishes in that circuit focus more on mission together than competition. While the model is not perfect, it has a great deal of benefits in helping to multiply leaders.
The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement by George G. Hunter III