From every corner of the globe the reports are
coming in. Only a few at first, but now more and more frequently,
reinforcing one another with their startling accounts of hundreds,
thousands, even tens of thousands coming to faith in Christ, forming into
churches and spreading their new-found faith.
When a strategy coordinator began his assignment in
1993, there were only three churches and 85 believers among a population
of more than 7 million lost souls. Four years later there were more than
550 churches and nearly 55,000 believers.
In his weekly Friday sermon, an Arab Muslim cleric
complained that more than 10,000 Muslims living in the surrounding
mountains had apostatized from Islam and become Christians.
City in China
Over a four-year period (1993-1997), more than
20,000 people came to faith in Christ, resulting in more than 500 new
Two Baptist unions overcame significant government
persecution to grow from 235 churches in 1990 to more than 3,200 in 1998.
A strategy coordinator reports: “Around the end of
1996, we called around to the various churches in the area and got their
count on how many had come to faith in that one year. When they were all
added up, it came to 15,000 in one year. The previous year we estimated
only 200 believers altogether.”
A missionary in Europe reports: “Last year (1998),
my wife and I started 15 new church cell groups. As we left for a
six-month stateside assignment last July, we wondered what we’d find
when we returned. It’s wild! We can verify at least 30 churches now, but
I believe that it could be two or even three times that many.”
A missionary strategist commented, “It took us 30
years to plant four churches in this country. We’ve started 65 cell
churches in the last nine months.”
Every region of the world now pulsates
with some kind of Church Planting Movement. Sometimes we see only the
numbers, but often they are accompanied by lively descriptions such as
this recently received e-mail message: “All of our cell churches have
lay pastors/leaders because we turn over the work so fast that the
missionary seldom leads as many as two or three Bible studies before God
raises at least one leader. The new leader seems to be both saved and
called to lead at the same time,so we baptize him and give him a Bible. After the new
believers/leaders are baptized, they are so on fire that we simply cannot hold them back. They fan out all over the country starting Bible studies, and a few weeks later we begin to get word back how many have started. It's the craziest thing we ever saw! We did not start it, and we couldn't stop it if we tried.”
Over a four-year period (1993-1997),
more than 20,000 people came to faith in Christ, resulting in more than 500 new churches.
Beyond the passion and excitement, many
missionaries are left with questions. Most have never seen a Church
Planting Movement. But the allure of an entire people group coming to
Christ is the dream of every missionary. The thought that countless
thousands might be waiting to hear and respond to the gospel is a passion
that fires missionary hearts and minds around the world.
So what is a Church Planting Movement?
What is this phenomenon that has so captivated us? Where are these Church
Planting Movements taking place? Why are they happening now? Is this
something new or have they always been with us? What causes them? Are they
all random events or do they share some common traits? Is there anything
we can do to encourage them?
A growing number of missionaries and
strategists are asking these hard questions and seeking to understand the
nature of these Church Planting Movements. Hard questions are leading to
helpful answers. These questions and answers are the subject of this book.
To extract these insights, we asked a
number of missionaries, strategy coordinators and individuals who have had
personal experience with Church Planting Movements to reflect on their
shared experiences and then process them in a forum that invited critique
and analysis. Through their eyes, we have attempted to isolate the key
elements that make up this phenomenon as well as those impediments that
prevent a Church Planting Movement from occurring. We also tasked them
with providing practical steps for initiating and nurturing Church
Planting Movements. The author is deeply indebted to these missionary
The purpose of this book is to: 1)
define Church Planting Movements; 2) identify their universal
characteristics; 3) examine common obstacles to Church Planting Movements;
4) analyze a wide range of actual case studies; 5) provide some practical
handles for beginning and nurturing Church Planting Movements; and 6)
address some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Church Planting
Case studies and illustrations used in
this book come from all over the world. Some have been gathered from open
countries where there are few official barriers to gospel proclamation.
Others originate in places where Christianity is persecuted or even
forbidden. We dare not exclude these Church Planting Movements from our
review, but we will need to obscure the names and places in order to
protect those involved.
This book is not made up of theories
that we are trying to prove, nor is it a template that we forced over
different kinds of situations. These are descriptions of what we have seen
and learned. The principles have been deduced from actual Church Planting
Movements by those involved in them. To provide as accurate a picture as
possible, we’ll tell you which characteristics occur frequently and
which ones are unusual.
We pray that this booklet will serve as
a useful resource for missionaries and evangelical friends the world over,
as we all seek to understand what God is doing and how to position
ourselves to be on mission with Him as He unfolds Church Planting
Movements among all peoples.