Frequently Asked Questions
As we discuss Church Planting Movements with missionaries from around the world, a number of questions frequently recur.
1. What about volunteers?
The key to effective use of volunteers in missions is orientation. Most short-term volunteers want to be strategic, but don't realize that some forms of help can actually hinder a Church Planting Movement. Constructing church buildings, subsidizing pastors and creating dependency are obstacles to a Church Planting Movement even if well-intentioned. Prayerwalks, evangelism, literature distribution, pastoral mentoring and human needs ministry are some of the many positive contributions that volunteers make. Volunteers also provide invaluable support to long-term missionaries who suffer from isolation, difficulties in language learning, culture stress, family hardships, etc.
One of the greatest contributions volunteers provide is vision and passion. They inspire and encourage missionaries and new believers alike with their demonstration of faith in traveling great distances to demonstrate their love for the lost and obedience to the Great Commission. This love and obedience are contagious.
2. What is the place of Baptist unions and conventions?
Baptist unions and conventions hold great potential as partners in fulfilling the Great Commission. Sharing a common commitment to Christ, they should be natural allies. However, commitment to initiating and nurturing a Church Planting Movement requires vision. When union leaders have a vision for church multiplication that exceeds their need for control, they can greatly facilitate the movement. Missionaries can help to impart this vision through dialogue, education and modeling.
It is also important for missionaries to recognize that their role is different than that of denominational leaders. The unique role of the missionary is to continually push to reach the unreached, and introduce them to the Gospel. Denominational leaders have a much broader responsibility, which the missionaries can bless and encourage, but should not try to duplicate or control.
3. How about church buildings and institutions?
Church buildings and institutions can contribute to Church Planting Movements, but they also can become stumbling blocks. When buildings and institutions emerge indigenously and naturally within the needs and means of the local believers, they undergird the work. When institutions (seminaries, schools, hospitals, etc.) are imposed by or dependent upon external agents, they may leave a burden of maintenance that distracts from the momentum of evangelism and church planting.
Church buildings have become second nature to us in the West. We forget that it took Christianity nearly three centuries before it indigenously arrived at the need for dedicated church buildings. During those same three centuries the gospel exploded across much of the known world. When we instantly provide church buildings for new congregations, we may be saddling them with an external burden they are ill-equipped to carry.
Church buildings and institutions can contribute to Church Planting Movements, but they also can become stumbling blocks.
4. Where do teams fit in?
Like everything else we've discussed, missionary teams are not inherently helpful or harmful to Church Planting Movements. If each team member sees the purpose of the team as fostering and nurturing a Church Planting Movement, then the prospects for success are good. If, on the other hand, the team or its members turn inward and become an end in themselves, then a Church Planting Movement is unlikely. When teams focused on a people group die to themselves, and set their sights on doing whatever it takes under the lordship of Jesus Christ to initiate and nurture a Church Planting Movement, success cannot be far away.
5. Do Church Planting Movements foster heresy?
Critics contend that a grassroots phenomenon such as a Church Planting Movement is fertile ground for heresy. This may be true, but is not necessarily so. The often-proposed solution is more theological training. However, church history has shown that the cure can be worse than the disease. Since the first theological school at Alexandria, Egypt, seminaries have proven themselves capable of transmitting heresy as well as sound doctrine. The same is true today.
The key to sound doctrine is God's Word. In the explosive church growth environment of the first century, there were no seminaries, simply a practice of teaching them to "observe whatsoever things I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20). Out of this mandate grew a number of approaches to discipleship and training. The challenge of the first century has changed little for us today and invites the same types of creative responses to ensure a continued faithfulness to Christ's teachings.
6. What do you do with the kids?
Missionaries and those with traditional church experience have raised many questions about the mechanics of cell-church methodology. One of the most common questions concerns the place of children in cell churches. Cell church practitioners admit that this is a weakness compared to traditional churches with their graded Sunday School programs. Solutions range from incorporating the children into the cell church Bible study and worship to segregating them into separate programs that may be led by rotating volunteers or older youth. If we resist the temptation to let cell churches get too large before they divide and multiply, we keep the task of nurturing and discipling our youth more manageable. While there are no universal answers to this challenge, there are a variety of responses that are surfacing around the world. As with so many challenges related to a Church Planting Movement, missionaries and church planters are encouraged to continue to experiment, innovate and adapt!
7. Can we start again please?
Some missionaries who begin to seriously study Church Planting Movements occasionally find that they are simply offtrack and wonder if it is possible to begin again. Of course it's impossible to actually begin again, but it is possible to correct earlier mistakes and turn the course of a movement in the right direction. Because Church Planting Movements aren't just sequential, step-by-step programs, they can be facilitated whenever we stop doing those things that impede them and begin doing more of those things that seem to support them. This should be an encouragement to anyone who hopes to see a CPM unfold among a people group.
Contents ©2000 by the International Mission Board.