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What’s next?

November 2001 | by Kent Philpott

After nearly twenty years of the church growth movement I had been wondering when it would wind down and what might replace it. A year or so ago I wrote a little piece on ‘spiritual mapping’. This refers to the effort to identify the so-called demonic powers that controlled cities, counties, even nations, and then through united prayer topple these evil strongholds so that revival will break out.

That was the end of it; I did my article and did not track new developments. I should have been paying more attention.

Best show in town

Here is an update. The church growth movement is yet spluttering along, but the statistics have not been encouraging. It seems that there has been no net growth in the USA among Christians.

There has been some shuffling around, a recycling if you will, but no true net growth despite the sudden appearance of a couple of dozen ‘mega churches’.

Technocrats, or perhaps more precisely, spiritual marketing engineers, have now got into the act. The answer, they say, is to put ‘integrated’ media systems into place (synchronised video, audio, and lighting systems) to give the audiences the kind of entertainment they expect.

You can read all about it in Your Church published by Christianity Today. Simply log on to www.your church.net and learn how your church can become ‘the best show in town’.

Something new

The above is only the logical place for the church growth movement to go. However, there is something I certainly did not anticipate.

Spiritual mapping is becoming a really big deal especially with C. Peter Wagner (of Fuller Theological Seminary fame and one of the founders of the Church Growth Movement) on board.

It could be argued that Dr Wagner is the fountainhead of the whole church growth movement. Now he has embraced George Otis Jr and spiritual mapping. You can discover all this yourself by logging onto www.sentinelgroup.org (Otis’ organisation) and www.globalharvest ministries.org (Wagner’s).

It is a natural for Peter Wagner since it answers the nagging question: ‘What happened to the church growth movement?’ Satan hindered it, of course, preventing revival and the growth that the ecclesiastical engineers promised. Otis’ spiritual mapping strategy promises to recover the initiative.

Exposed?

Do you see it? Once the demonic strongholds were identified then, with accurate and specific praying, the strongholds could be torn down and revival would come.

Using demographic tools, both ordinary and spiritual, the demonic powers ruling cities, towns, neighbourhoods, counties and even states, could be mapped, exposed, and eventually rendered powerless.

So, step one: identify (map) the principalities and powers. Then, step two: bring all the ‘spiritual leaders’ of the community together in united prayer, and the evil kingdoms would fall.

This plan is being implemented in dozens, if not hundreds, of places across America. It is the in-thing, and it is big. It has arrived in my own county, entitled ‘Mission Marin’, and now they have twenty churches on board.

Apostles and prophets

But I am resisting. An effort was made to sign me up but, as politely as I could, I declined. It was a blow to the unity so necessary for the success of Mission Marin. And I have heard that I am being blamed, to some degree, for the lack of success of the gospel around here.

No unity among the spiritual leaders means no revival; so ‘unity’ has become a key concept.

There is talk now of ‘one church’ per entity, usually one per city or one per county. Although the participating churches are to remain independent, there is talk of titles like ‘metropolitan’, ‘archbishop’, ‘patriarch’, and so on, but at this stage it is only talk. (One of the early pastors on the bandwagon fancied ‘metropolitan’, but he has moved on to a church in Idaho).

Now, however, both Wagner and Otis agree that the offices of apostle and prophet are being restored by God in these last days. No biblical support is given for this, only the word of some modern-day ‘prophets’.

Some of us are surprised that these offices needed to be restored, since men have been sent out regularly during the last twenty centuries to proclaim the Word of God, whether as ‘apostles’ to non-believers or ‘prophets’ to believers.

However, we are told, these apostles and prophets are being raised up now to lead the church into the last great revival. I can hardly wait to see how this is going to work out locally!

What comes next?

What is surprising is that both non-Charismatic and Pentecostal churches are going for this. Two churches in my own mainstream Evangelical denomination are on board. But they needed the infusion of the Alpha Course before they were fully accepted on the programme.

They did not all start speaking in tongues, because the course was modified to accommodate those churches that are resistant to tongue-speaking. So that hurdle was overcome.

Now more and more churches are into spiritual mapping, apostles, prophets, and all the ‘unity’ necessary to unleash the powers of heaven. They are ready for what comes next. I wonder what that will be