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Church Planting Movements

BY KERRY, A PIONEERS UK MISSIONARY IN CENTRAL AFRICA

I wonder what comes to mind when you hear the phrase ‘church planting movements (CPMs)’? Maybe you imagine numerous church buildings under construction, or large gatherings of people meeting to worship Jesus. Maybe you think of Bible training facilities with pastor-production lines that then send out pastors to the ends of the earth. If this is the case, then I invite you to think again about CPMs. 

David Garrison (in Church Planting Movements, 2004) defines CPMs as ‘a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment’. Multiplication and indigenous are key words. It’s about disciples of Jesus making other disciples of Jesus as a way of life; it’s what happens when we accept Jesus’ invitation to his disciples to ‘follow and fish’ (Mark 1:17). Following Jesus AND inviting others to follow him is what leads to us bearing the lasting fruit that Jesus has planned for us (John 15:16).

CPMs and Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) are often used synonymously and there are a lot of shared strategies and principles such as simple home gatherings, discovery Bible studies and obedience-based learning. DMM is increasingly used in the missions world as the emphasis is just that – making disciples – and where there are disciples, Jesus will build his church. CPMs have the clear purpose of planting churches that plant churches, but that can only happen if you start with fruitful disciples. Whatever you call it, it is a move of the Holy Spirit and Jesus invites his people to get involved. 

‘Indigenous’ is the other key word, meaning it is owned, flavoured, pursued and carried out by local people to local people, fuelled through the power of the Holy Spirit. It has also been said that CPMs are like finding a turtle on a fence post – it didn’t just get there by itself, someone put it there! CPMs are work of the Holy Spirit but, just as Jesus trained and commissioned his disciples to go out and get on with the task of making other disciples, we too are called to intentionally go and find out where the Holy Spirit is at work and join in. It may take someone from another location to come and cast vision and get things started but once there is local involvement and multiplication of disciples then the visitor’s role changes from practitioner to trainer and encourager.

My own experience with CPM/DMM strategy has been a long journey (which I explain in Blood, Sweat and Jesus, chapter 11) and, I admit, with varying success. But after many years of intentionally sowing seeds of the gospel in Central Africa, I can testify that there is no greater joy than seeing someone you have led to Jesus go on to lead someone else to Jesus. I and my team are still not at the stage of claiming to be in the midst of a CPM/DMM but we do know that disciples making other disciples is the only way that this is going to happen. We know that the Holy Spirit is calling more and more people to come to faith in Jesus Christ and we know that at just the right time Jesus will establish his church among them. Our job is to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, keep training people to be disciples who make other disciples, keep putting turtles on fence posts and pray to the Lord of the harvest to complete what he has started.

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Kerry’s book Blood, Sweat and Jesus is available at your local Christian bookstore and in all the usual online shops.