Connection Pointe Church - Indianapolis, IN
APII Trip Report
Submitted by Chuck Rapp, trip leader and APII “Champion” at Connection Pointe
As trip leader, my objectives were to see the Community Learning Centers (CLC) first hand, interact with as many CLC leaders and church leaders as possible, and to visit a good variety of access ministries. All of these goals were accomplished, and as a result I feel like I have a thorough understanding of the strategy behind the APII Church Planting Movement (CPM).
CLCs are the engine that drives this CPM. Local CLCs have the flexibility to tailor services and ministries offered to local needs, and this provides access to communities. The “person of peace” (Luke 10) strategy is biblically sound and hugely successful. By first building community relationships, then finding and winning persons of peace to Christ and subsequently engaging these persons in local evangelism, APII mitigates cultural prejudices against Christianity and significantly improves their local acceptance to the Message of Christ.
One of the subtleties I picked up on this trip is that local CLC leaders are very careful to not directly engage in evangelism – or even church leadership - in the local village. In this way they obviate objections about “outsiders” bringing the Christian religion into the community.
The following appear to be some of the tactical keys (in my opinion) and significant observations related to the significant success of this CPM. APII's local leaders, top to bottom, are very relational, and this fits in their cultureThe church planters are a passionate, committed, and hard working group. We met with leaders in three cities, and I’d estimate that on the average each church leader has 15-20 house churches for which they exercise oversight.Signs and wonders are part of their DNA. They don’t “advertise” this or seem to make it a big point of emphasis, but we heard so many anecdotal stories of signs and wonders accompanying (validating) their ministry. The two most frequent seemed to be miraculous healings and deliverance from demon possession. APII is all about multiplicative growth (as opposed to additive growth in US church models). They do this by making every convert an evangelist from day #1. I have to admit I had some concerns going in about the level of biblical knowledge that we might find. During our interaction and training times with church leaders (this is one step above the house church leaders) I was very pleasantly surprised at the level of Bible knowledge and their adeptness at applying scripture passages. When looking up Bible passages they were very quick to find things.APII has a nice combination of structure and flexibility. Organizationally, everyone knows who’s in charge, but I got no sense that anyone is hung up (or overly impressed) with titles. Also, CLCs have structure, but they also have flexibility on what services / ministries will be offered locally. The local leaders do not come across as being parochial. Their methods and training are available to the Body. They aren’t hoarders; their desire seems to be Kingdom growth and maturity regardless of “who gets the credit”. They have a solid leadership model. They recognize the imperative of raising up and multiplying leaders. We heard Prakash say more than once that “In order to reach out to multitudes you need to focus on a few.”Working in a culture where Christianity is a minority religion with a history of persecution, they are very cognizant of the importance of working with local leaders, authorities, and government officials. That’s a major driver for the strategy (and success) of CLCs. In some cases local leaders / officials actually offer space free of charge because they so appreciate the community service provided by APII.While all the access ministries (about 20 in their portfolio) might raise concerns that they distract from the core CPM mission, taken holistically they all fit together to provide the access and acceptance described above. We had a very good conversation with Victor John and Prakash James about this topic. They weren’t defensive and did an excellent job explaining the big picture.
I returned from the trip somewhat conflicted. One of my observations over the years when traveling overseas is that one generally either develops a greater appreciation for the way things operate at home or we can become very critical of the excesses, hyper-individualism, and consumer culture (including in the church) of the US. Not surprisingly, I had both responses.
The squalor, population density, inefficiency, and apparent chaos of India were very difficult for me. But, the people with whom we interacted were kind, gracious, and appreciative. I feel we made some friends for life.
On the other hand, I found (and still find) myself somewhat ashamed and embarrassed at how we “do church” here and how the Indians accomplish far, far more for the Kingdom with just a small fraction of the resources.