Four Stages to “No Place Left” in Our Generation
The theme of the previous issues has been a growing global movement to get to No Place Left for Christ to be named (Rom. 15:23). Our deep aspiration is to launch kingdom movements in which disciples and churches can multiply throughout an unreached people group (UPG), region or city. Our longing is to see Matthew 24:14 fulfilled in our generation—the gospel going to every remaining UPG or UUPG (unengaged UPG).
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (lit. ethne), and then the end will come.
(Matt. 24:14, ESV)
Yet a people group or city will not be reached without a Spirit-empowered movement that can exceed population growth.
Church-Planting Movements (CPMs; also called Disciple-Making Movements (DMMs)) are kingdom movements in which disciples, churches and leaders multiply many generations throughout a place or people group. Such movements are not uncommon around the world now, but may be uncommon to most of us in our personal experiences. Practically how can our generation implement a comprehensive plan to catalyze God-movements that will get to No Place Left among the ethne of the world? With the majority of us lacking personal experiences in kingdom movements, how can we move toward this vision?
Four Stages to No Place Left (or fulfillment of Matt. 24:14)
A model is emerging which provides hope that we can greatly increase the frequency of CPMs among the unreached of the world. Over the last 20 plus years, the number of these movements has grown among groups from various worldviews and on every continent. But for a person or team that has never experienced a movement in a home context to see a movement start by the power of the Spirit in a people group that has no gospel witness is a huge jump. By taking steps toward this in smaller stages, we are getting to be more successful when a missionary team arrives in an unreached place.
That process is summarized as follows:
Home hub: A team (or individual) in a home culture finds a hub in their home culture to live out CPM practices among both the majority and minority/ethne populations of their context.
Field hub: As the team develops proficiency at home and begins to make forays into unreached areas, they move to a field hub among the unreached where a fruitful CPM team can mentor them for a year or more. The new team sees CPM principles in action in an affinity similar to the UPG on their hearts.
Unreached People Group (UPG) hub: The team then moves to a UPG in that affinity bloc, able to use the tools, or slightly adapted tools, seeking to launch a CPM/DMM there.
Multiplying Movements: Once a CPM emerges in that people group, rather than exit, they take the hot coals from the fire of that movement and help expand the movement to other nearby UPGs. At this stage, movements are multiplying movements.
Remember one important truth about launching missionaries from home hubs: This is a global task and home hubs should emerge in any country which has the church of Jesus Christ. A home hub can emerge in Manila, London, Rio, Delhi, Shanghai, Houston, Nairobi or Prague. Antioch sending bases should emerge wherever the church exists. Just as the Antioch church sent out 40% of its leadership to the mission field (Acts 13:1-3), the sending hubs of the world must sacrificially give their best to the greatest mission of the church.
Home hubs face two challenges. First is the willingness to adapt our priorities to Jesus’ Great Commission priority and make the sacrificial last push to finish the task. We do not lack the resources, just the resolve.
Second, though we sacrificially send people, we most often send missionaries who lack experience in multiplying disciples, much less multiplying churches, leaders and movements. Our missionaries are ill-prepared for the task ahead.
An ideal scenario would be that a missionary team leaving a home hub already understands and practices the basic spiritual lifestyle required to get to a kingdom movement at home—whether among the majority population or ethnic populations (especially immigrants to our home lands). The jump to a cross-cultural ministry is great enough. To add a ministry philosophy jump radically different than that of their home ministry sets missionary teams up for disaster.
Stage one of a No Place Left strategy is to form home hubs in our sending countries in which individuals and teams can learn to implement CPM methods full of faith—to reach the lost (not just the unchurched) with the gospel, to make and multiply disciples, to start and multiply groups and churches and to develop and multiply leaders from the harvest. This process can start with people like ourselves—from our own ethnic/cultural worldview—but expand to cross-cultural situations in our own cities and areas. Our missionary teams must learn to implement here the way they plan to implement there. Too many of the missionaries we’ve received around the world lack basic abilities to evangelize the lost, much less to disciple them in multiplying ways. For the sake of the lost, we must make these beginning adaptations at home.
Fortunately, a number of these home hubs are emerging around the world. Right now they are in early stages, but we need a concerted effort for churches to take up the calling to serve as home hubs. They must be willing to pursue a CPM/DMM model (perhaps in addition to their existing model) and provide a context of loving accountability in which individuals can be mentored to launch movements at home. Whether these mission teams rise up from that city or converge on that city, we need home hubs to emerge in every sending nation with a model that will work well among the unreached. The specific tools among the unreached will be adapted, but the kingdom principles and lifestyle will be similar.
As the team, in a context of multiple teams in the city, learns to make disciples who can make disciples among the majority and minority/ethne populations, they will begin to make short-term forays into various affinity blocs of the world to seek the Lord’s direction for a UPG to target with the kingdom of God.
Two things are needed to make home hubs a consistent reality: 1) Home hub churches in which the senior pastor and leaders embrace this model and the vision to send teams to finish the task abroad. They must bless and support experimental zones in which these teams can learn CPM principles. 2) Coordinators at these home hubs who will make the logistics of such home hubs work. A number of church leaders are willing to walk this path but need a champion to make the ideas a reality.
Logically, it would seem that learning to implement CPM principles at home would make implementing them in a UPG the next step. But the cross-cultural jump of applying CPM/DMM practices in a foreign context is so great that it is actually faster for teams to stop along that journey to be coached in a context in which a CPM is going or on the way. That context should be similar to the one the team will end up in.
For instance, if the team plans to target a Buddhist UPG in South Asia, it makes sense for them to take one or two years to base in a place like Delhi or Kathmandu with a field hub team of experienced CPM practitioners. In that context, they can walk the streets or dusty roads with these practitioners—both foreigners and nationals. CPMs are more easily “caught” than “taught.” In the spirit of those CPM efforts, they will find culturally-appropriate CPM tools, national partners, Great Commission coaches and increased faith that will equip them to launch into another UUPG of that same affinity bloc.
The time frame for this can be a year or two, but the goal is for them to learn and add value to the kingdom work there. Basic language study in a trade language may be appropriate during this stage. Once they have developed some proficiency in ministry, they will be ready to take the next step toward their own people group. Alternatively, it may become apparent to them that they are not suited for this type of pioneering work.
In many affinity blocs, field hubs are emerging—nationals and expats with CPM experience who are willing to receive a coach or a number of new missionaries from various nations. The hub team’s vision is the greater advance of the kingdom beyond their own city or people group. A number are willing, but one great obstacle hinders the development of field hubs: field hub coordinators. Coordinators are needed who will oversee the logistics of receiving new personnel and helping them get plugged in to the local efforts. Such logistics are beyond the purview of the CPM practitioners in that hub. The practitioners would gladly receive the missionaries IF someone would oversee the logistics. Perhaps this would be a retired couple, a family or single with the gift of service or perhaps a college graduate taking a gap year or two.
When the team leaves the field hub to launch a CPM in an unreached area, it is less a matter of time than of proficiency. When the team has demonstrated the ability to give themselves to the high value activities of movements and produced the fruit thereof, they are ready to tackle their own UPG. In the early stages of leaving the home hub, a team may feel the two year stint in a field hub is a delay in the UPG strategy. But in actuality, it is very likely they will be able to fast-forward CPM ministry in the new context because they have already tasted, smelled and touched a CPM in a similar context.
A number of us who have been a part of CPMs well understand the dark period of trial and error to find the keys to unlock a movement in a people group or city. If we had had the opportunity to see it modeled for us in a context similar to our own, the waiting period for a breakthrough and the mistakes we made along the way may have been lessened.
A benefit to teams launching into a UPG after the field hub stage is that it is very likely they will have formed relationships with near-culture nationals who may move with them or come for short-term trip to help launch the new movement.
The UPG launch toward a CPM is the stage of this progression we are so familiar with: the missionary team that has been sent from a home culture to a foreign culture—yet with no experience or mentoring in the movement dynamics they seek to implement. Teams at this stage need much training and coaching in movement dynamics, which is where many of us devote our efforts.
Hopefully, the four stages can shorten the years of frustration that many teams experience in trying to launch a movement among the unreached. Four stages does not eliminate the need for training and coaching, but it makes that task much easier. We cannot dictate when God will launch a movement, but we can posture our lives to better move in conjunction with His Spirit (Mark 4:26-29).
In the early days of CPMs, we often talked about an “exit strategy.” The idea was that when a movement began to spread among our people group, we were ready to exit the work and go to a new place. Now we realize we were a bit off in that thinking. Instead of exit, we should expand.
CPMs are much easier to start if the hot coals of a movement are transferred to nearby people groups! Disciples from within these movements already know how to walk a CPM path with a high level of faith. They know how to find people of peace, how to reach their households, how to plant the initial DNA of disciples who are fervent followers of Jesus and fishers of men. They know how to implement discipleship, church planting and leadership development methods that are simple enough that new believers can practice them and pass them on. And, these hot coals are similar enough in worldview, culture and language that they can get to the heart of this UPG much faster than distant-culture believers can.
In a number of places around the world, catalytic missionaries have decided not to exit but rather to expand the movement to cascade into other UPGs. They are launching short and long term teams of national disciples to start CPMs in these places.
To the growing vision to get to movements of multiplying disciples, churches and leaders, we must add “multiplying movements.” The great need here is missionary catalysts who will broaden their horizon from a movement among a people to multiplying movements among many peoples. We should emulate the Apostle Paul who picked up Timothy’s, Priscilla’s, Aquila’s and Epaphras’s from the fires of existing movements and helped them start fires in new places.
At the end of the day, we may never send enough missionaries from home cultures to finish the task. Fortunately, we serve a Lord who told us to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more workers—workers that would arise from the harvest (Luke 10:2). This was the King’s plan from the beginning to get to No Place Left in our generation.
To learn how you can connect to this process, write the growing global movement at: NPLglobal@gcnow.org