Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Church Planting Movements

by Stan Parks

Jesus' last words show that we are to make disciples of all ethne (ethnic-linguistic groups) (Matthew 28); go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone (Mark 16); preach repentance to all ethne (Luke 24); and be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1).

We are painfully aware of our failure to do this. If reaching the world is the charge Jesus gave us as His disciples, then we cannot defend the vast amounts of money and time spent on ourselves while we pray and go and spend so little to reach those most in need of the gospel. 2000 years after Jesus came 28% of the people in the world have never heard the gospel and 40% of the people in the world are members of ethne with no indigenous church.

The Great Commissions mentioned above were given to the entire Body of Christ; all of us have a part to play in reaching the world. Each church has a vital role to play because each local church body is an important part of the worldwide body and each of us can and must fulfill our role. This is not just a task for professional missionaries and mission agencies. In fact, the world of the first century was turned upside down because believers realized that reaching the world was their responsibility, not that of a few leaders and/or missionaries.

In the early days of the church, disciples reproduced disciples and churches reproduced churches so that within eight years Paul could say he had "finished spreading the Good News about Christ from Jerusalem to Illyricum (modern day Albania)." Today we are seeing the same sort of explosive growth in Church Planting Movements (CPMs) around the world. CPMs could be called by a variety of terms, but in essence they are churches rapidly planting new churches that turn their people group's population segments upside down because people are being taught to obey Christ's commands and as a result they expect every believer and every church to take responsibility for going next door and to the ends of the earth.

Church Planting Movements are:

Rapid - Just like the early church in Acts, these modern day CPMs multiply rapidly. Partially this is a speed derived from a powerful movement of the spirit but partially this is due to design. For instance daily discipleship will increase a movement much more rapidly than weekly discipleship. Another key is the emphasis on "average person" leadership which avoids long training periods for "clergy". And above all it is consistent. The average church in a CPM just plants one new church a year, but that means each church is planting a new church each and every year which continue the reproductive cycle.

Multiplying - As people are discipled before and after they become believers, they are told that multiplication of individuals, families, groups, communities and churches are not only a natural expression of their faith, but a mandatory expression of their faith.

Indigenous - Unless a movement fits the socio-cultural environment, it will fail. This begins with the initial contacts into a people group, where the outsider looks for a man or woman of peace who then becomes the church planter. If the outsider is the church planter, then they will introduce a foreign pattern of faith. If the insider is the church planter then the gospel seeds planted from the outside will be given freedom to grow in a way that is natural to that culture and be more likely to rapidly multiply.

Obedience-based - All too often we have emphasized knowledge instead of following Jesus' priorities. Jesus said if we love Him we will obey Him and if we obey Him we will live in His love. In the Mathew Great Commission Jesus emphasizes that we are to teach new believers to obey all He commanded. In these CPMs, the focus on obedience is an essential element.

Churches planting Churches - Churches are taught that one of their main functions is to plant other churches as soon and as often as possible, and they have a burning desire to pass on the spiritual blessings they have received

Within a people group or other population segment - There are an estimated 6965 unreached people groups in the world that do not have access to the gospel. Additionally, there are countless cities and regions and nations that are also unreached. Most CPMs today are taking place in places where there has been little or no gospel partially because more indigenous movements can arise in places that have not been given a westernized gospel which often thwarts indigenous movements. But while CPMs are more possible in these areas, these areas are also more in need of gospel movements.

In a recent meeting, CPM trainers from around the world identified 80+ CPMs which are located on every continent around the world. Some had hundreds, some thousands, and some tens of thousands of new churches. All of these have begun in the last 20 years of work among those most gospel-neglected. For God to go from zero to such amazing gospel movements in such a short time is a testimony of a current day book of Acts.

CPMs are not a new fad or trend, but rather modern examples of what God has always done in history: bringing individuals, families and groups into relationship with Him in a powerful way which makes these new communities of faith want to reach more people with the Good News. CPM training is not focused on new methods, but rather partially focused on helping remove mindsets and traditions that hinder the natural expansion of the Gospel. CPM training also helps us re-discover Gospel truths such as Jesus' key instructions in Matthew 10 and Luke 10 to bring the Gospel to a new community by finding the "person of peace".

So, if your church is involved in missions, this is the kind of missions you need to express. The key question is not if your church should be involved, but how should your church be involved in initiating and supporting CPMs for the Glory of God.