Ten Common Factors
Beyond the 10 universal elements found in every
Church Planting Movement, there are at least 10 frequently, though not
universally, found characteristics. These are not listed in any particular
order of priority or frequency. In most CPMs, however, we are seeing most
if not all of these factors.
1. Worship in the heart language
There are cases in which God’s Word has not yet been
translated into the heart language of the people and worship is conducted
in a trade language. Even in those rare instances, though, the heart
language of the people emerges in their prayers, songs, sermon
illustrations and applications. Worship in the common heart language keeps
it accessible and within reach of all members of the community and allows
everyone to participate in a new church’s formation. Missionaries who
identify and embrace the heart language of the people they are trying to
reach are well positioned to stimulate a Church Planting Movement. Nothing
reveals a people group’s worldview as much as an intimate knowledge of
their heart language. Missionaries who choose to work through a trade
language begin their ministry with a curtain between themselves and the
hearts of the people they are seeking to reach.
2. Evangelism has communal implications
Unlike the predominant pattern in the West with its
emphasis on individualism and personal commitment, Church Planting
Movements typically rely on a much stronger family and social connection.
Missionaries in CPMs have recognized this and urged new believers to
follow the web of their own family relationships to draw new believers
into the community of faith (see Acts 16:31-32). In many cases, the
churches come to consist of family units and are led by the family’s
3. Rapid incorporation of new converts into the
life and ministry of the church
In most Church Planting Movements, baptism is not
delayed by lengthy discipleship requirements. On the contrary,
discipleship typically precedes conversion and continues indefinitely.
Even when baptisms are delayed, new believers are expected to become
witnesses immediately; these new disciples immediately become disciplers
of others and even church planters. One elderly man who came to Christ in
a Church Planting Movement in India planted 42 churches in his first year
as a believer. In an effort to keep the movement growing outward, CPM-oriented
missionaries typically encourage new believers to join or help start new
churches, rather than simply adding larger numbers to existing
4. Passion and fearlessness
planting Movements are characterized by passion and a sense of urgency
that attests to the importance of salvation and the necessity of
conversion. New believers exhibit a boldness in the face of opposition. A
spirit of timidity or fear quenches a CPM. Boldness may invite
persecution, but it fuels a Church Planting Movement (see Joshua 1:6).
5. A price to pay to become a Christian
Church Planting Movements often emerge in difficult
settings where conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a popular
or socially advantageous thing to do. In many cases, conversion leads to
severe persecution or even death. In the face of this persecution,
believers find strong support in the testimony of Jesus and the New
Testament church (see Matt. 10:17-25). Persecution tends to screen out the
uncommitted and ensures a highly dedicated membership.
6. Perceived leadership crisis or spiritual vacuum
A country or people group that has experienced a
loss of leadership or a spiritual void coming from war, natural disaster
or displacement may create a ripe environment for a Church Planting
Movement. Societal disintegration is becoming increasingly common in our
rapidly changing world and bodes well for Church Planting Movements. The
removal of long-held symbols of stability and security prompts individuals
to reconsider matters of eternal significance.
7. On-the-job training for church leadership
With the rapid increase in the number of churches,
effective leadership training is critical to the success of the movement.
If new church leaders have to leave their churches for extended periods
for theological training, the momentum of the movement will be diminished.
At the same time, this vital component of church growth must not be
overlooked. The most beneficial training brings education as close to the
action as possible. Theological Education by Extension, with an emphasis
on practical learning interspersed with ongoing ministry, has proven to be
a strong complement to Church Planting Movements.
The forms of this on-the-job training vary from
field to field, but typically include a series of short-term training
modules that do not impede the primary tasks of evangelism, church
planting and pastoral leadership. Missionaries also attest to the
importance of ongoing leadership training for the continued growth and
strong development of a Church Planting Movement.
8. Leadership authority is decentralized
Denominations and church structures that impose a
hierarchy of authority or require bureaucratic decision-making are
ill-suited to handle the dynamism of a Church Planting Movement. It is
important that every cell or house church leader has all the authority
required to do whatever needs to be done in terms of evangelism, ministry
and new church planting without seeking approval from a church hierarchy.
Denominations and church structures that impose a hierarchy of authority or require bureaucratic decision-making are ill-suited to handle the dynamism of a Church Planting Movement.
9. Outsiders keep a low profile
Missionaries who have been involved in Church
Planting Movements point to the importance of keeping a low personal
profile as they seek to initiate and nurture the movement. A key concern
is to minimize foreignness and encourage indigeneity. Rather than waiting
for new believers to prove themselves worthy of leadership, missionaries
begin by drawing new believers into leadership roles through participative
Bible studies and mentoring pastors from behind the scenes.
10. Missionaries suffer
A list of missionaries who have been engaged in
Church Planting Movements reads like a catalog of calamity. Many have
suffered illness, derision and shame. In some instances the suffering was
due to their own self-destructive behavior; in other cases it came at the
hands of opponents. Students of Church Planting Movements suggest that the
affliction may be related to a higher spiritual price required for rolling
back the darkness (Rev. 12:12). Whatever the cause, the disproportionate
degree of suffering by missionaries engaged in Church Planting Movements
is noteworthy. Missionaries intent on this course of action are
well-advised to be on their guard, to watch, fight and pray.