Tips For Fine-Tuning A CPM
Alongside the models of Church Planting Movements we have examined, many others could
be described as near misses. A number of these show many of the characteristics we’ve come to identify with Church
Planting Movements, but lack some essential components and thus may result in aborted movements.
An example of this is a Turkic Muslim people who have been turning to Christ by the
tens of thousands over the past five years. As recently as 1992 there were no more than 50 known believers among this population
of several million. Beginning in 1989, a strategy built on prayer, evangelism and ministry was initiated among them. Work was slow at first, but in late 1995 the turn to Christ began. By the
end of the following year, local churches in the area reported baptizing more than 15,000 of these Turkic Muslims.
Today, the swell of new believers has subsided somewhat, but still features somewhere
between 20,000 and 30,000 adult converts. The troubling factor is the relative lack of new churches to assimilate the growth.
While convert growth has exploded, there has been little increase in the number of church starts, threatening to leave thousands
of churchless orphans to fend for themselves.
Perhaps it is not too late for missionaries to implement a strategy of planting indigenously
reproducing cell or house churches among this people group. Training lay believers to plant new cell churches could redeem
A similar situation has taken place among a Muslim people group in Africa. As a result
of widespread gospel radio broadcast and video evangelism, conservative reports estimate more than 15,000 Muslim converts
to Christianity. Despite these encouraging numbers, only 30 known churches exist in the region. Unless a more effective and
indigenously reproducible model of church can be introduced, there will likely be a great loss of new believers.
More common types of “near misses” are the many places around the world
where missionaries have experienced moderate growth when much greater growth may be possible. In these instances, missionaries have been faithfully evangelizing and planting churches among their people group for decades. People
are responding to the gospel and the kingdom is slowly growing. While church growth is steady, it is far from explosive. No
one would confuse this with a Church Planting Movement. In this pattern of incremental church growth, church starts are not
even able to keep pace with the population growth rate.
Are Church Planting Movements possible in these kinds of settings? Only God can say
for sure, but CPM practitioners suggest that some fine-tuning steps might be taken that could help tip the scales in favor
of a Church Planting Movement. In some cases, the gestation period for church starts is just too lengthy. In these instances,
it may be possible to shorten the reproductive cycle of a church plant. Here are some tips that may help to speed the process:
If you’re using chronological storying to communicate the gospel, remember
that storying is a method, not an end in itself. As a method, it can be adapted and modified. Consider using five to 10 stories
to provide a panorama overview of the Bible leading to a gospel presentation and a call to commitment. You can then follow
up the panorama presentation with a lengthier walk through the Bible aimed at discipleship and additional presentations of
You might also try shortening the chronological storying approach. Some storiers
spend as much as 110 weeks working through the Bible from creation to the consummation of the ages. Could this be reduced
either by choosing fewer stories or by offering the stories more frequently? Perhaps both methods could be implemented.
This might reduce the time required for a church start from two years to a few weeks!
In the same manner, consider compressing a 12-week evangelistic Bible study into
a 12-night Bible study. You get the picture. Remember, speed of reproduction is one of the universal characteristics of a
Church Planting Movement. Resist the assumption that greater speed equals diminished quality. The notion that slower is better
isn’t necessarily true.
You also can accelerate church planting by raising the expectations and church-planting
responsibilities of new believers. In a Church Planting Movement, discipleship and leadership development are ongoing processes
rather than stages in a linear progression that individuals must pass through before they can begin planting churches themselves.
Remember, in a Church Planting Movement in India, one new believer planted 42 churches in a single year. No one told him he
was too spiritually immature for such behavior!
Finally, some missionaries may find themselves in a situation that does not appear
to have any of the elements that indicate potential for a Church Planting Movement. What do you do then?
Many of those factors that contribute to—or hinder—a Church Planting
Movement take years to develop or change. Like a toy boat floating on a pond, if we gradually stack pebbles on top of it,
one by one, the weight will eventually become too much and the vessel will submerge. So it is with Church Planting Movements.
Working steadily to add elements that contribute to a Church Planting Movement and removing known obstacles may someday result
in a critical mass that transforms the situation from a hard, dry, unproductive field into a dynamic Church Planting Movement.
The beginning point for this change is a spiritual renewal, a passionate desire in
the heart of every missionary to see all the peoples of the world come to saving faith. Only when our vision is revived and
we hunger for a Church Planting Movement are we willing to take any and every action necessary to pursue this goal.