Ten Practical Handles
Church Planting Movements are sovereign acts of God,
but in His sovereign grace and mercy He has chosen to partner with us.
There are some practical things that missionaries can do to help initiate
or nurture a Church Planting Movement. These are not sequential steps.
Some of them are more important than others, but each of them has been
used in the formation of Church Planting Movements somewhere in the world.
Each missionary must determine which ones fit his or her situation and how
best to adapt them for maximum benefit.
1. Pursue a CPM orientation from the beginning
This is a key point: Church Planting Movements begin
the day the work begins. The end-vision is being "realized" from
the beginning. Thus, missionaries who want to start a Church Planting
Movement must begin by "modeling a CPM-type church" complete
with evangelism, discipleship and multiplication training within a
cell-group setting. This defies the sequential model that begins with
pre-evangelism, then evangelism, then discipleship, church planting,
2. Develop and implement comprehensive strategies
Missionaries who address the scope of all that is
required for initiating and nurturing a Church Planting Movement quickly
realize that the job is far beyond their personal limitations of time,
talent and resources. However, as they look to the broader resource pool
of Great Commission Christians and continually ask the question, “What’s
it going to take to launch a Church Planting Movement?” they find that a
comprehensive strategy is required.
A comprehensive strategy stands on at least four
pillars: 1) prayer, 2) God’s Word, 3) evangelism and 4) church planting.
These four pillars are complemented by a matrix of ministries including
human needs ministries, communications strategies, mobilization and other
efforts. When combined, these comprehensive strategies free the ministry
from the limitations of a single missionary or even a single mission
agency and maximize the possibilities for initiating and nurturing a
Church Planting Movement.
effective strategy coordinator is ruthless in evaluating all he or she
does in light of the end-vision—a Church Planting Movement—discarding those things that do not or will
not lead to it.
3. Evaluate everything to achieve the end-vision
A missionary once commented, “You can tell a
good strategy coordinator from a bad one by what he says ’no’ to.“
This should not be interpreted to mean that widespread experimentation is
inappropriate, but the effective strategy coordinator is ruthless in
evaluating all he or she does in light of the end-vision—a Church
Planting Movement—discarding those things that do not or will not lead
4. Employ precision harvesting
Rather than randomly sowing gospel seeds and
awaiting a harvest, a growing number of missionaries have learned the
wisdom of precision harvesting. Precision harvesting uses “response
filtering” to identify and locate individuals who have already made a
positive response to the gospel and then places longer-term workers in
direct contact with them for discipleship follow-up and church planting.
This model recognizes that a missionary who settles onto the mission field
may succeed in learning the language, sharing his faith, discipling a
group of believers and planting a church, but that there may be a more
efficient way to accomplish the same end.
Working with radio broadcasters or other agents of
mass evangelism, the missionary church planter is able to glean the names
and addresses of respondents to another’s sowing ministry. Then,
positioning himself in the midst of these new believers or seekers, he is
able to begin a discipling and church planting ministry. This ministry of
precision harvesting can save years in the process of starting a church or
5. Prepare new believers for persecution
New believers must understand that a call to Christ
is a call to the cross. Harassment, persecution and even martyrdom may
come, but they should not be a surprise to new believers. Since New
Testament times, persecution has come to those who follow Christ.
Preparation for harassment doesn’t wait until after conversion; it
begins in the evangelization process itself. Believers are taught to
expect hardships from the beginning as the price of their conversion (see
6. Gather them, then win them
A logical progression in church planting is: Win
them, disciple them, congregationalize them, then organize them into a
church. But this isn’t the only way to get the job done. Many effective
church planters who have participated in Church Planting Movements have
learned to gather a group of lost seekers into evangelistic worship and
Bible study groups. These “not-yet Christians” are brought into the
vision for a Church Planting Movement even as they are brought into the
family of faith.
7. Try a POUCH methodology
The POUCH methodology, described in the case study
of the Yanyin people, contains core elements that should be applicable in
virtually any church planting context. A POUCH church utilizes Participative Bible study and worship groups, affirms
Obedience to the
Bible as the sole measure of success, uses Unpaid and non-hierarchical
leadership and meets in Cell groups or House churches.
8. Develop multiple leaders within each cell church
Avoid the trap of inadequate leadership required to
meet growth needs by starting the work with multiple leaders. Remember the
Cambodia Church Planting Movement, which began every new cell church with
a seven-person “Central Committee”? This type of multiple leadership
is common in Church Planting Movements and ensures an abundance of
potential leaders for the cell church itself and for starting new
9. Use on-the-job training
Avoid the temptation to pull new local church
leaders away from their churches for years of training in an institution.
A decentralized theological education which is punctuated by practical
experience is preferable. This approach might include one month of
training with two months of pastoral work, or eight sessions of training
for two weeks at a time stretched over a couple of years, with ongoing
discipleship and skill upgrades that may last a lifetime. Higher education
may benefit church leaders at some point, but it can hinder a Church
Planting Movement in its early stages.
10. Model, Assist, Watch & Leave (MAWL)
Missionaries who are competent church planters face
as much challenge from themselves as they do from the people group they
are trying to reach. There is always a temptation to “do it myself”
rather than turn the work over to the emerging local leadership. This
transfer of responsibilities is complicated by the fact that many, if not
most, missionaries enjoy pastoring and ministering to people.
This crisis of transferring responsibility can be
minimized when the missionary shares responsibility from the beginning
with those he is leading. A church-planting pattern of modeling new church
planting and worship, then assisting the church members in the process of
doing the same themselves, helps to pass on the missionary’s expertise
to the next generation of local church planters (see 2 Tim. 2:2).
Only when the missionary has actually stepped away
from the work is the cycle of MAWL completed. Only then is a passionate
renewal of indigenous church planting assured.