What Is A Church Planting Movement?
In 1998, the International Mission Board’s
Overseas Leadership Team adopted a vision statement: We will
facilitate the lost coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ by
beginning and nurturing Church Planting Movements among all
peoples. This vision statement guides the work of nearly 5,000
IMB missionaries serving in more than 150 countries around the
So, what is a Church Planting Movement? A simple, concise
definition of a Church Planting Movement (CPM) is a rapid and
multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches
within a given people group or population segment.
There are several key components to this definition. The first
is rapid. As a movement,
a Church Planting Movement
occurs with rapid increases in new
church starts. Saturation church planting over decades and even
centuries is good, but doesn’t qualify as a Church Planting
Secondly, there is a multiplicative
increase. This means that the increase in churches is not simply
incremental growth—adding a few churches every year or so.
Instead, it compounds with two churches becoming four, four
churches becoming eight to 10 and so forth. Multiplicative
increase is only possible when new churches are being started by
the churches themselves–rather than by professional church
planters or missionaries.
Finally, they are indigenous churches.
This means they are generated from within rather than from
without. This is not to say that the gospel is able to spring up
intuitively within a people group. The gospel always enters a
people group from the outside; this is the task of the
missionary. However, in a Church Planting Movement the momentum
quickly becomes indigenous so that the initiative and drive of
the movement comes from within the people group rather than from
If this definition isn’t enough, we
might also clarify what a Church Planting Movement is not. A
Church Planting Movement is more than “evangelism that results
in churches.” Evangelism that results in churches is a part of
a Church Planting Movement, but the “end-vision” is less
extensive. A church planter might satisfy himself with the goal
of planting a single church or even a handful of churches, but
fail to see that it will take a movement of churches planting
churches to reach an entire nation of people.
Church Planting Movement is a rapid and multiplicative increase
of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.
A Church Planting Movement is
also more than a revival of pre-existing churches. Revivals are
highly desirable, but they’re not Church Planting Movements.
Evangelistic crusades and witnessing programs may lead thousands
to Christ, and that’s wonderful, but it isn’t the same as a
Church Planting Movement. Church Planting Movements feature
churches rapidly reproducing themselves.
Finally, a Church Planting
Movement is not an end in itself. The end of all of our efforts
is for God to be glorified. This occurs whenever individuals
enter into right relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. As
they do, they are incorporated into churches which enable them
to continue to grow in grace with other like-minded believers.
Any time people come to new life in Jesus Christ, God is
glorified. Any time a church is planted—no matter who does it—there
are grounds for celebration.
So why is a Church Planting
Movement so special? Because it seems to hold forth the greatest
potential for the largest number of lost individuals glorifying
God by coming into new life in Christ and entering into
communities of faith.
However, a Church Planting
Movement is not simply an increase in the number of churches,
even though this also is positive. A Church Planting Movement
occurs when the vision of churches planting churches spreads
from the missionary and professional church planter into the
churches themselves, so that by their very nature they are
winning the lost and reproducing themselves.
Let’s review some key
points. Missionaries are capable church planters, but will
always be limited in number. Local church planters hold more
promise, simply because there is a larger pool of them
available. Church Planting Movements hold an even greater
potential, because the act of church planting is being done by
the churches themselves, leading to the greatest possible number
of new church starts.
To better understand Church
Planting Movements, let’s examine a few case studies and then
dissect them for closer analysis.