Our team in South Asia started using the terms 1G, 2G, 3G, about ten years ago. We were trying to track the growth of emerging movements. It was kind of funny. At the very same time, Indian telephone companies were using those terms for their data plans! For us, 1G stood for a first-generation church. 2G for a second-generation church, etc. In the early days as we pursued movements, getting to the mark of fourth-generation growth was a huge milestone! As thrilling as it is to reach this point, 4G is not a magic number. There is not much in the Bible to support the emphasis we in the DMM world put on this particular milestone.
Rather than focusing on whether movements have hit 4G, we need instead to focus on whether movement dynamics are happening. While there is value in tracking milestones, we must not get confused. They are a beginning point – a worthy place to pause and celebrate. This is not the destination.
Our Real Aim
What is it we are aiming for? The goal is to see rapid, organic, sustained, growth of disciples making disciples, and churches starting new churches. We should see new generations spontaneously beginning, without a lot of “help” from the senior movement leaders. New leaders, with an apostolic passion, constantly rise up and are released.
Stuck and Plateauing
They were stuck and couldn’t figure out why. When the mission personnel and trainers were actively involved, new groups seemed to take off and grow. It wasn’t the same when they were less involved. Motivation and passion for outreach waned. The groups continued to meet regularly, but they weren’t reaching out to their neighbors or going to new areas to start groups. What was wrong?
The leaders prayed and asked God for help. Consulting a coach, they got input. One of the things they did was to begin to focus their efforts on the more active members. Still, getting to a place where the growth became organic seemed a distant dream. They needed a new infusion of energy and zeal into the movement.
Struggling, they asked the Lord what was needed. As they listened, the Lord highlighted two things: the need for extraordinary prayer and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. They also looked carefully at the systems they’d been using to train new disciples. Some were not really working. They would need to make changes and change was not easy!
When we read the New Testament, we find that rapid, organic growth regularly took place. Prayer, signs, and wonders seemed to create the environment for this. In Luke four we see that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. He then cast out demons and healed the sick. The result? News about Him spread through every village in the region. That’s organic, rapid growth.
“The news about Jesus spread through every village in the entire region.”Luke 4:37 NLT.
What was it about Jesus’ movement and others that led to that kind of organic growth?
Six Things to Examine When Your Growth Has Plateaued
If you are experiencing generational growth in one or more streams, ask these questions. More important than hitting the 4G goal, is how you evaluate and assess these key things.
1) Organic Growth.
Has growth become organic? Or is it needing lots of initiative by leaders and trainers?
Planning and organization are important. But they don’t drive a movement. Prayer and passion do.
If you are not seeing organic growth, look for where you might be “stuck.” Examine your disciple making systems. Are they too complex? Do they require too much training? Simplify further and empower every disciple. As every disciple in the movement is trained to pray for movement growth, passion for increase ignites and spurs on organic growth.
Passion for prayer starts with leadership and trainers. Have you given yourself to prayer for the lost? Does that passion for reaching new places and people burn within you?
2) Church Functions.
Are key functions happening within the “circles”? Or are outside leaders still performing key leadership functions? Are they baptizing, giving communion, etc.?
When making generational growth charts (gen mapping), we look at who is doing what in the groups. If important functions like baptism, Lord’s supper, and the oversight of finances are still being done by people outside the groups, take note. This needs to be addressed as you train. If those functions aren’t happening at all, that can be an issue as well.
In a rapidly growing movement, these functions quickly happen within the groups.
3) Leadership training.
Are new leaders being trained and released continually in the movement?
Leadership training is vitally important in sustaining the growth of a movement. Who is training emerging leaders? How many new leaders were added in the past year? Getting your leadership training and coaching system to work in a natural and effective way is a big part of driving the movement forward.
4) Apostolic passion.
Is there an apostolic passion that burns to reach the lost in new areas? Has this taken root in every ordinary believer, or only in senior leaders?
The apostolic gift and anointing are crucial to movement growth. This gift can be stirred up and also bestowed on new leaders through the laying on of hands. Prayer and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also part of this. Look for ways to impart this gift and zeal for taking the good news to new areas. Do you have gifted pioneer apostles? Train them to train others in the same ways. Challenge them to raise up Timothys and pass the batons to others to go to new locations.
5) Release or Control.
Is release and send the default setting for the way the movement operates?
Institutionalization kills movements. Release, release, release. Train, but keep it simple and trust the Holy Spirit to anoint new believers. Are there any restrictions or controls you need to re-examine? Do you require any qualifications for who can baptize for example?
6) Belief Barriers.
What belief barriers are hindering organic growth?
It is easy to say we believe certain things. Do our actions support those things? For example, do you believe that every believer has the Holy Spirit within them? If so, why is it so hard to trust Him to lead and guide them apart from your supervision?
When I find my stated beliefs and my actions are in contrast, I need to re-examine my beliefs. Repentance is often needed.
Celebrate & Press Forward
Remember 4G is not a magic number, what really matters is organic, rapid growth that is sustained. Celebrate reaching every benchmark, but look beyond that to the millions that remain unreached. Don’t settle for less than a full-blown, rapidly growing movement. One that sweeps through an area, bringing Kingdom transformation to thousands and thousands of lives.
Which of the six is the biggest struggle for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or on the DMMs Frontier Missions Facebook group.