This is an article from the March-April 2011 issue: Church Planting Movements

Church Planting Movements: What Have We Learned?

Church Planting Movements: What Have We Learned?

Note by Rick Wood: In the April 2000 issue of Mission Frontiers we reprinted the booklet, Church Planting Movements by David Garrison because of the key insights it held for the rapid multiplication of church fellowships in diverse regions of the world. You can read this booklet by going to David Garrison and his colleagues have had an additional 10 years to study and learn what makes these Church Planting Movements possible. We present the fruits of their research and experience in this issue in the hope that missionaries all over the world can apply these principles of rapid church multiplication so that every person on earth may have the opportunity to follow Jesus through a biblical fellowship of believers near his home. I want to express my thanks to David Garrison for his help in gathering the articles for this issue from his extensive network of experienced CPM practitioners.

Introduction by David Garrison

IYKDWYBDYKGWYBG – If You Keep Doing What You’ve Been Doing, You’ll Keep Getting What You’ve Been Getting. These are the words on a poster that greets many missionaries as they commence Church Planting Movements training. It has become something of a mantra that renowned CPM trainers, Bill Smith and Neill Mims, have used to jolt frustrated missionaries out of their fruitless patterns and into new ways of looking at their community and ministry.

Bill Smith, the veteran of CPM trainers, is famous for telling people what they don’t want to hear, but need to hear. Someone described Smith as the rock that others break themselves on, but it is a happy breaking that has left in its wake thousands of new churches among the world’s least-reached peoples.
Smith and Mims are unapologetic about their view that God does want to see untold millions come to faith in Jesus Christ, and that business as usual is simply not an option. As much as we may wish that God would bend to our methods or that the lost would leap up and demand, “What must I do to be saved?” more often than not, it is we – rather than God or the lost – who need to change.

I asked Smith and Mims to share with us what they have learned in their study and training of CPM practitioners over the past two decades.

Over the years we have seen dozens of church-planting movements in a variety of contexts all around the world. There are consistent patterns and themes that we see in these movements.

Five elements. In every CPM we continue to see five reproducing elements:

  • Effective, reproducing bridges that lead to massive gospel witness
  • Effective, reproducing gospel presentations
  • Reproducing discipleship that turns new believers into CPM partners
  • Rapidly reproducing churches
  • Reproducing leadership development


Very large numbers of lost hear the gospel from believers. CPMs always have a massive number of ordinary believers personally sharing the gospel, what we call M2E – Mouth to Ear.

Rapid conversion of new believers to partners. Fear that people are not ready is a lack of trust in God’s ability. CPM practitioners quickly incorporate new believers into the movement through baptism, training in such doctrines as “the priesthood of the believer,” and accountability-based discipleship such as the T4T 1/3 x 1/3 x 1/3 meetings.1

Incredible boldness. In CPMs local believers die to self and become bold witnesses, especially in the face of persecution.

Church, Church, Church

Planting churches is top priority. Whatever ministry or witness generated must lead to church formation and multiplication. The gates of hell may prevail against every other ministry and institution, but not against the Church. The Church must be viewed as people, not facilities, organization or a place of worship.

There is more to life than the Spirit. Material and social needs are a part of life. If you ignore the felt needs of the people, don’t expect a warm reception for the gospel. At the same time, it is imperative that ministries to widows, orphans, the poor and those who are in need be intimately tied to the church and church planting.

Leaders, Leaders, Leaders

Build reproducing leaders. Build and empower local leaders. Everyday think about this: What if I have to leave? Who will take over? At the same time, don’t over-train. Find nationals with apostolic gifting and put them to work. Trust God and expect to find anointed people who will rise up and far exceed you in giftedness. Use them!

Intentional personal and intensive leadership training. CPM practitioners offer frequent and intense training events, pouring lots of Bible and practical training into the emerging leaders of movements. Never go anywhere without taking young leaders with you. Teach by example and make them do the work. If you don’t have a lot of foreign workers to help you, rejoice! Train locals for the work.

Vision casting with accountability. In most CPMs the role of the expat is not the out-front leader, but the one who models, encourages, challenges, mentors, equips and holds national partners accountable to implement the CPM vision.

Provide inspired leadership! Celebrate the victories! Make sure you recognize and reward behavior you want repeated. Build a system of leadership that puts those who have performed well into positions of authority.


Restore others’ discards. It is worth remembering that national CPM leaders don’t drop down out of heaven, they climb up out of hell. People who make mistakes, commit sins, and are sometimes branded as “no good” may be the instruments of a movement. Don’t be afraid to take a chance on them. Sure, you will get “burned,” but you will also find some gems.

More important than contextualization. Foreigners will remain foreign no matter how contextualized they become. Contextualization has an important role to play, but there are even more important things that you can do such as loving the people, training the people, and faithfully casting a passionate vision for seeing them come to Christ.

Don’t let the critics get you down. The more successful you are, the more Satan will send detractors against you. Don’t let it distract you from the main thing. Learn from the legitimate complaints and forget the “sour grapes.”

Personal Disciplines

Pray! Pray! Pray! CPM practitioners are persons of prayer, but remember that Spirit-led action is simply prayer in motion. Keep moving!

Remember who you are. Remember how vulnerable, prone to mistakes, easily deceived, and sinful you are, and will continue to be. Grace is the only hope for your people, and it is the only hope for sinners like yourself (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Servant leadership. Avoid the superiority complex that sometimes besets missionaries. Insist upon and model servant leadership as the Christian norm.
Avoid the glory. When you do succeed, people will want to celebrate you and make more of you than you are. There comes a time when you just have to say, “No.” Like your salvation, your opportunity to be part of a movement is a gift from God. Be thankful!

Be desperate for God and for His kingdom! Expect God to be your source, and proceed with that in mind. Never let lack of resources limit you. The resources are in the harvest.

At the end of the day, it is the man and woman of God and not the method that God blesses. The final two items in this list describe the life of one of the most prolific and effective CPM practitioners we have known.

He is significantly different from most other missionaries. He stays narrowly focused on those activities that lead to more new believers, more trainers, and more new groups. On the flip side of this, he rarely does many of the traditional things that “normal” missionaries fill their time with: email, surfing the internet, prayer letters, newsletters, administration and bureaucratic reports. He avoids email and says no to a massive number of invitations and requests that would divert his energy to low-priority meetings or activities. He even shies away from spiritual and staff development retreats, family life conferences, and the myriad other good things that suck away time and impose themselves on missionaries.

Pray, witness, train. He and his wife are persons of prayer and consequently those he trains are also. He witnesses incessantly to the majority of lost people he meets and so do his trainees. He trains several times a day and many times a week and insists that new believers immediately witness and begin training their newer believers to do the same. He has a very simple set of materials, but the secret is not the materials, it is the process. He is high-energy; low-energy people simply do not see these kinds of movements. Vacations, days off, margin and balance are not part of his vocabulary.

  1. See Steve Smith’s “T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution” in the January-February 2011 edition of Mission Frontiers, p. 13.


A great big hooray for this article. I need to have read this one years ago. My life has been bean out on the anvil of God´s GRACE.

And here I am today. The last five cars were low riders given to me. Never owned a house. Owned a camper once, lived in it traveling to the mission field. Worked and paid my own way into the mission field. Tired of this life style Bought a camper, had a car, and even had a job to return too. Tree fell on the trailer, car destroyed, job ended and broke my foot and then started a new life of total dependency. Cound not even work. And never sent out news letters. But reached an island of one million with the gospel in Asia in fifteen years.

Today, came to El Salvador by GRACE. And if God does not feed me by His GRACE then I will starve in El Salvador. Been here three months. Have been taken to different villages to HEAL the sick, not to pray for the sick. Seeing close to 100% healed and that include cancer.

Last week, started six new groups which I call OIOKO´s or home fellowships. Will start one new one Monday and One new one Wednesday night for I have been asked to go to one more village and heal the sick.

Last week in one home, I was invited to go over and pray for a cancer patient. And in the process led the entire family to the Lord. Nine in all. A visitor to the family and a sister in law to the cancer patient, claimed to be the only believer. She was prayed for and a demon cast out of her. And she said, I felt like I was going to die. And then she wanted someone to take a picture of her for it is the happiest that she has ever remember being.

Out of that Group, through the prophetic word, and healing ministry, three new groups will come. One was a house keeper, another was the sister in law and the other is the family of the sick lady who said she was healed.

Goo article O, and I do not speak the language.

God bless,

Michael Bailey

I question the health and long-term survivability of the person who meets the profile of an effective CPM practioner that you mention at the end of the article.


Hello and God bless,
I have been Church Planting for a long time. Since The Word CHURCH is not in the Bible I no longer use it. The word to use is Disciples. This is the number one way to do Evangelism. And what one is up against is Demons. One will contend for the Open Heaven and get it there will be a great harvest of souls. And if you do not contend then stay at home there will be not fruit. Or only a trickle. Today I am seeing 99% of all who are prayed for healed. And we are to preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and not the gospel with words. And as a result doing ministry in the HUMAN EFFORT. (Galatins 3:3).  I only preach two things The Kingdom of Heaven and GRACE. And that is not in words but With a demonstration of the Spirits Power so that our faith will not stand on HUMAN Wisdom or Humanism but the POWER OF GOD. LUKE 24:49 Says TARRY UNTIL you are endued with Spiritual Power, then go preach the gospel. It would be good for American preacher to trade in their Italian shoes for sack cloth and ashes. Let us fast, for the Power comes from here. Luke 4:14

I’m late to the party, but I have to agree with the second comment as an IMB Member Care consultant. These last two paragraphs just aren’t biblical nor is it conducive to most M’s being able to stay the course over the long haul or have healthy families. Jesus is the ultimate model and he was never in a hurry. “But Jesus often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16. Looking after one’s family is a prerequisite for qualification for ministry. See both 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. Even Elijah himself suffered from burnout and God himself provided his Member Care. See 1 Kings 19. Paul had to get to the end of himself in ministry so that he would learn to depend on God. See 2 Cor 1:8-10. Our goal is to make disciples for Christ, not merely converts, and to plant New Testament Churches. We will reproduce what we are—what we model—and the goal must be both Ecceesia and Koinonia.

I agree with David and Jeff: the attitude of the last two paragraphs shows a lack of faith and trust in the God you keep advising we pray to.

Show me the man that lives those two paragraphs and I’ll show you a man that is sacrificing himself or someone he loves at the altar of missionary “success”. The message Mark Driscoll gave on the biographies of the great missionaries is really telling.

Leave A Comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.