Reproduction Beyond Belief
21 Apr 2018
The rawboned Indian man stands at the front of the room, he’s not sure where exactly to begin. He’s nervous, he knows that many of the foreigners listening have degrees, masters or even doctorates in theology. What could he possibly teach them about church planting that they didn’t already learn in bible college? He has never been to a bible college, he has actually only been a Christian for a few years. He’s been asked to speak about the 40 house churches that he helped to plant over the last few years. How did he start them? “It’s hard to explain,” he thinks to himself, “I just, hmm, I just prayed and asked God to guide me to people who would open their network to me, when He did, I started studying the Word with them, mainly asking them questions; as natural leaders within groups arose, I spent more time with those people and helped them start other study groups, all the while studying God’s Word and asking the same simple questions.”
A broad smile crosses his face, he knows where to start, at the beginning. He looks over at Ravi, the man who first spoke to him about Jesus, and mentors him today. “When Ravi first came to my village I wanted to kill him…” He is interrupted by nervous laughter, clearing his throat he continues, “I even tried to kill him a few times but there was always something to frustrate my plans.” The laughter abruptly ends. Everybody is listening now.
In 2004 David Garrison wrote a book describing the characteristics of what a number of his colleagues were seeing amongst their people groups through the 1990s. He called the phenomenon Church Planting Movements (CPMs) and described them as “rapidly multiplying indigenous churches planting churches that sweep across a people group or population segment”. The common characteristics are: focusing on groups rather than individuals, studying the Word together with simple questions, allowing people to discover their need for a saviour through a series of Bible studies rather than a single gospel presentation, the expectation that people will share what they’ve learnt with others and the expectation that everyone should apply what they’ve learnt from the Word before the next meeting.
As Garrison’s colleagues moved from guiding the various CPMs to focusing more on training others, scores of missionaries learnt about what had been done and used many of the same principles to see new CPMs start. Around 1999 there were less than 20 recognised CPM’s worldwide, most of them concentrated in Asia. According to a researcher for the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are over 150 distinct CPMs active today, throughout every region in the world. They are happening among some of the most resistant people groups but not exclusively so, there are also 5 in North America and Western Europe.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting several of these CPM’s in various places around the world. When I discuss this phenomenon, I hear comments like, “There’s no way the numbers are real!” “Of course that works in Bangladesh, everything works in Bangladesh!” “We know that kind of thing happens in other countries but it can’t happen here!” These are understandable responses, after all, in many of these places missionaries have faithfully and selflessly toiled for many years without much fruit to show for it. I encourage people to learn more about CPMs themselves. I’ve found that the people often closest to these movements are incredibly humble, prayerful people who are amazed by what God is doing in their area.
I am constantly humbled as I meet men and women of God, like the rawboned Indian man, who encourage us to keep everything simple, have a lifestyle of prayer, obeying the Word. To witness and trust God to lead us to the harvest.
To watch a short video highlighting Pioneers take on Church Planting click here [x]