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 churches.
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 colleagues.
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 Movements.
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.