About Movements

Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact, Part 3

Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact, Part 3

Originally posted as “119. Paradigm Shifts in Ministry: Pursue Impact” by Mark Naylor –

Identifying CPM/DMM principles and practices used by effective practitioners sheds light on what leads to fruitful ministry. Parts 1 & 2 described paradigm shifts in the realms of Pre-engagement and Preparation, Initiating a DMM-focused ministry, Disciple Making and Disciple Making in Groups. Here are additional paradigm shifts for greater ministry impact.

Church Establishment

49. From “being kind” to “showing unusual / sacrificial practical love.”
Q: How do we encourage a group to be a communal expression of the kingdom by showing the love of Jesus to others inside and outside of their group?

50. From “measuring churches” to “measuring disciples.”
Q: How do we ensure that “disciple making” remains the primary focus of groups that transition to an identity of being “church”?

51. From “individual expressions of faith” to “group expressions of faith” that include obedience, baptism, Lord’s supper, making disciples, telling others, perseverance in suffering, valuing community and relationships over individualism.
Q: How can we maintain a group identity as the body of Christ as participants learn to apply key spiritual practices?

52. From “teaching theology” to “discovering theology” (teach people to depend on scripture for their theological foundation – saturation in God’s word and obedience are the basis for theology. This does not remove the importance of teachers, instead it emphasizes a priority of grounding personal and communal theology in God’s word rather than in the authority of a teacher).
Q: How can we ensure a discovery process so that a group establishes their theological foundation on God’s word as their primary authority?

53. From “encouraging cooperation in ministry” to “empowering disciples to fulfill God’s calling as disciple makers.”
Q: How can believers recognize God’s call on their life as disciple makers that goes beyond mere cooperation in ministry?

54. From “pastoral leadership” as the focus / center of being the body of Christ to “priesthood of all believers” as the focus / center of being the body of Christ.
Q: How can believers recognize their position as “priests” in God’s kingdom so that they take on the responsibility of prayer with and pastoral care for others?

55. From “preconceived ideas of church models” to “community as the hermeneutic of the gospel.”
Q: How can believers become an expression of church that communally lives out the gospel in a transformational manner?

56. From “proven models” to “contextualized models.”
Q: How should our expression of church be adjusted to fit the ministry context, facilitate the multiplication of disciple-making, and maintain integrity with God’s word?

57. From “attraction based on personal needs” to “attraction based on community transformed by obedience.”
Q: How do we keep the identity of the church focused on following Jesus?

58. From “complex church” to “simple church.”
Q: What expressions of church in this context are viable, sustainable and reproducible?

59. From “individuals gathered” to “community gathering” (identity as the “body of Christ” is emphasized).
Q: How can a gathering of the church reinforce identity in Christ, welcome engagement, and develop ownership?

60. From “flourishing church” to “multiplying churches.”
Q: What practices enhance a multiplication mindset?

61. From “baptism and communion controlled by leaders” to “baptism and communion expressed by all believers.”
Q: How does a gathering of believers engage all believers in church practices so that multiplication can occur?


Leadership Development

62. From being a “doer” to being a “catalyst.”
Q: How do we develop in others a vision to serve God’s mission?
Q: How do we model what we are doing for other potential leaders?
Q: What is our plan to discuss with potential leaders what we are doing and why?

63. From “disciple making” to “multiplying disciple makers.”
Q: How do we ensure that those we are guiding to be disciples are also disciple makers?
Q: How do we model a multiplication of disciple makers for other potential leaders?
Q: What is our plan to discuss multiplication with potential leaders?

64. From “controlling the ministry” to “releasing the ministry.”
Q: How can we maintain a humble orientation as fellow servants before other potential leaders so that they are empowered to serve?

65. From “leader as visionary” to “leader as catalyst” (vision developed together with others)
Q: How can we use a discovery process of leadership development that creates ownership?

66. From “role expectations” to “growth expectations” (that is, discipleship results in transformation and fruitfulness).
Q: What do emerging leaders need so that they have both a growth and multiplication mentality?

67. From “assuming” to “communication.”
Q: How can we connect with potential leaders on an ongoing basis so that we listen (attend) to them and they know that we understand and care?

68. From “maintaining control of groups” to “appointing leaders” OR From “few well-trained leaders – status/trained/educated focus” to “many mentored leaders – function focus.”
Q: How can we release people to the ministry God has called them to and ensure that they have the same desire to release others?

69. From “leader who shepherds others” to “leader who disciples and creates disciple-makers” (as a priority) OR From “leaders are priests who make disciples” to “all believers are priests who make disciples.”
Q: How can we focus on guiding believers towards being disciple makers as their primary calling?

70. From “individual ministry” to “mentored / coached ministry – apprentice mentality of having a ‘tag along’” (even if that person is not yet a committed believer, be about the Master’s business with people).
Q: How can we communicate and develop an expectation and value of multiplication so that leaders do ministry with others?

71. From “supporting leaders” to “coaching leaders.”
Q: How can we empower leaders so that they fulfill their plans, rather than advising them about our ideas?

72. From “formally trained leaders” to “leaders coached in context.”
Q: How can we engage in competency-based leadership development of head, heart and hands in the ministry context?

73. From “paid leader” to “self-supporting leader.”
Q: How can we multiply leaders without requiring a multiplication of resources?

About Movements

Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact, Part 2

Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact, Part 2

Originally posted as “119. Paradigm Shifts in Ministry: Pursue Impact” by Mark Naylor –

Identifying CPM/DMM principles and practices used by effective practitioners sheds light on what leads to fruitful ministry. Part 1 described paradigm shifts in the realms of Pre-engagement and Preparation, and Initiating a DMM-focused ministry. Here are additional paradigm shifts for greater ministry impact.

Disciple Making

24. From “personal study” to “engaging others in study and growth” (Timothy principle).
Q: How do we engage others in our ministry and personal walk with God?

25. From “being the gatekeeper” (by starting a group and welcoming others in / attractional) to “finding the gatekeeper” (finding someone who welcomes us into their sphere of influence).
Q: Who are potential People of Peace (gatekeepers) who will welcome a disciple-making initiative and how will we introduce them to an exploration of the Bible?

26. From “decisions” (knowledge / sporadic follow-up) to “obedience” (looking for growth in commitment to Jesus). That is, from “head knowledge” to “behavior” (Jesus’ invitation to follow and obey).
Q: How do we model and encourage active obedience to Jesus?

27. From proclaiming the “gospel of salvation resulting in believers” to proclaiming the “gospel of the Kingdom resulting in disciples.” That is, from “personal salvation” to “commitment to Jesus and his mission.”
Q: How do we communicate the gospel so that new believers become committed and active participants in Jesus’ kingdom mission (“What we win them with is what we win them to”)?

28. From “attendees” to “participators” (people with a disciple-making purpose). That is, from “head knowledge” to “heart desire” (Jesus’ invitation to commitment).
Q: How do we develop vision and commitment in believers so that they become active disciple makers?

29. From “focusing on many disciples” to “helping the few go deep in their commitment to Christ.”
Q: How do we develop vision and commitment in believers so that they pursue a close relationship with God and commitment to the missio Dei?

30. From “training towards ministry” to “multiplication at every step,” OR from “stability, consistency and maturity” to “multiplication and reproduction,” OR from “Believe-Mature-Serve” to “Believe-Serve-Mature” (The point is NOT that stability, consistency and maturity are no longer the aim, but that a key part of stability, consistency and maturity comes through developing a commitment to participate with Jesus in his mission from the beginning of a person’s spiritual journey. Rather than a 2-step process of first becoming stable, consistent and mature and only then participating in the spread of God’s mission, Jesus’ initial call to “follow me” is a call to participate in what he is doing).
Q: How can we communicate from the beginning of the disciple-making process that dedication to multiplication and reproduction is a key aspect of following Jesus?


Disciple Making in Groups

31. From “one-on-one” (extraction) to “group” (body of Christ principle – integrated into life).
Q: How do we prioritize group disciple making and begin Discovery Bible studies (DBS) as group initiatives?

32. From “creating groups” to “bringing Jesus into natural / pre-existing social groups.
Q: How can we identify existing social groups and invite them to explore what it means to follow Jesus?

33. From “conversion / baptism is an individual’s faith step” to “conversion / baptism is experienced as a step of faith in a group context” (a more communal focus with group identity).
Q: How do we practice and encourage conversion / baptism as communal participation?
Q: How can all believers be encouraged to baptize others as an expression of their responsibility to disciple others?

34. From assumption of/focus on “private faith” to “valuing transparency and accountability over privacy.”
Q: How do we encourage communal expressions of faith?

35. From “helping believers strengthen their personal faith” to “helping believers share their personal faith” (Faith is strengthened through interactions with those who do not believe).
Q: How can communal expressions of faith be cultivated that include interaction with those who do not believe?

36. From “helping others grow” to “coaching disciples who reproduce.”
Q: How can a communal commitment to being a reproducing disciple be cultivated?

37. From “Bible studies for believers” to “Bible studies where believers and seekers discover together” (This is not a denial of the need for deeper teaching; it is a multiplication mindset. The assumption is that there is value in learning how to connect with non-believers around the Bible).
Q: What communal connections and understandings are necessary to include seekers within a disciple-making group?

38. From “group conformity” (legalism) to “Jesus conformity” (relational theology)
Q: How do we avoid mere conformity to group expectations and maintain a focus on following Jesus as our unity?

39. From using a Scripture passage to “understand a biblical message” to “seeing Scripture as a revelation of God’s will and character.”
Q: What questions help participants identify descriptions of God’s will and character from any passage of Scripture?

40. From “teacher” to “facilitator” (asking questions rather than giving information).
Q: How can we use open questions that will ensure people discover God’s message from a passage of Scripture?

41. From “controlling the message” to “releasing the message.”
Q: How can we maintain a humble orientation before God’s word together with other believers / seekers so that we learn from others and let God lead?

42. From “a learning style based on the thoughts and opinions of teachers” to “a learning style of discovering what the Bible says” (people learn that they can understand the biblical message).
Q: How can we ensure that a group of believers builds confidence that they can read and understand the Bible as they engage God’s word together?

43. From “human teacher” to “the Holy Spirit” as teacher (The discovery method as foundational: this does not mean that human teachers are rejected or ignored but that the focus is a commitment first and foremost to trusting Jesus and learning to listen to the voice of the Spirit).
Q: How does our posture and our actions communicate trust in God’s Spirit to guide his people as they study God’s word?

44. From “lecturing” to “modelling.”
Q: How can we appropriately model what it means to be an obedient disciple of Jesus?

45. From “knowledge about Jesus’ mission” to “commitment to Jesus’ mission” (discipleship is not about head knowledge but obedience).
Q: How can we ensure that people apply Jesus’ call on their life, rather than just learning about that call?

46. From “being comprehensive” to “being simple and reproducible”
Q: How can we ensure that establishing a new group is simple and doable?

47. From “adding new people” to “creating new groups.”
Q: What can we say and do to ensure that believers maintain a multiplying disciple-making orientation by initiating their own groups?

48. From “establishing small groups” to “establishing multiplying groups.”
Q: How can we be relentless in maintaining a multiplication of groups, and not be satisfied with mere distribution of believers into small groups?

In part 2, we will consider Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact in the realms of Disciple Making and Disciple Making in Groups.

About Movements

Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact, Part 1

Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact, Part 1

Originally posted as “119. Paradigm Shifts in Ministry: Pursue Impact” by Mark Naylor –

“The most significant change comes when there is a paradigm shift.” – Ken Jolley

God calls us to be disciple makers (Mt 28:19-20) because he seeks to use us for his glory.  Fruitful ministry requires our conformity – head, heart and hands – to what God desires for us. When we join God in his mission (the missio Dei) as disciple makers, we embrace the NT priority of disciple making that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can result in multiplying movements.

At the same time, healthy and productive ministry requires thoughtful strategies, planning, and execution. Identifying CPM/DMM principles and practices (P&P) used by effective practitioners sheds light on what leads to fruitful ministry. These principles and practices create a ministry environment in which the fruit of multiplying disciple makers can reasonably be expected. Ignoring fruitful practices inhibit the birth and growth of disciple-making movements.

The following list of CPM/DMM P&Ps are those paradigm shifts that I consider to be particularly significant and impactful. None of them originate with me and all have been discussed in books and articles on DMM. Some of them are practices I have employed in my ministry, others are practices I did not focus on and regret not doing so, since I believe they would have resulted in greater fruit. I propose that these paradigm shifts in ministry activities, priorities, and resources are needed to “make the road straight” for the Spirit to come (See “DMM P&Ps Described as Paradigm Shifts for further explanation).

The list is designed to be used as discussion points for your disciple-making team. As you consider these changes, keep in mind that there are no shortcuts or silver bullets. Each item is like a facet in a diamond that is significant when viewed as part of the complete diamond. Neglecting a key aspect can hamper the development of a multiplying movement. As your team discusses these shifts, you will reflect on several implications for ministry, from grasping the God-sized vision (WIGtake) to leadership development. Making disciples requires a multi-pronged approach so that multiplication occurs. 

“Q” refers to coaching questions to guide your team towards personal application and contextualization of these paradigm shifts.

Pre-engagement and Preparation (Prayer, Vision, Team)

1. From “what can we do” to “what is God’s plan (missio Dei).”
Q: What is God’s vision for the people we are working with?
Q: Who should be involved in discovering God’s plan (missio Dei)?

2. From “what can we do” to “what’s it going to take? (WIGTake)” – ruthless, single-focused vision that drives choices, changes, and sacrifices.
Q: What will it take to see the fulfillment of God’s vision?
Q: How can we be a catalyst towards God’s vision?

3. From “ministry strategy” to “movement strategy” (Identifying and networking with potential workers to focus on multiplication. Mobilizing denominations / churches in order to multiply workers / church planters).
Q: Who should we be partnering with and challenging in order to encourage multiplication potential that goes beyond what we can accomplish by ourselves?

4. From “satisfaction with early success” to “maintaining a vision for the many.”
Q: How can we maintain a multiplication mindset based on a commitment to God’s vision?

5. From “limited vision” to “wholistic transformation” (e.g., not just spiritual but social, not just family but community, not just service but gospel, etc.).
Q: What other dimensions of God’s vision should we attend to?

6. From “jumping into ministry” to “being exposed to the fruitful ministry of others” (Visit a thriving movement and experience the Spirit’s presence – find ‘positive deviance’).
Q: What multiplying ministries can we explore and who are the reproducing leaders we can talk to?

7. From “what can I do” (independence) to “what can we do” (team / interdependence / cooperation / partnership).
Q: Who should we partner with in order to multiply efforts?

8. From “prayer” to “extraordinary prayer.”
Q: How can we move our regular expressions and activities of prayer to a new level of commitment?
Q: What special times of group prayer can we engage in that focus on multiplying disciple making?
Q: How can our prayers be “extraordinary” in terms of bold vision, risky requests, and needing God to miraculously answer?

9. From “being an intercessor” to “multiplying intercessors.”
Q: Who should we pray with and challenge in order to multiply prayer efforts?

Initiate a DMM-focused ministry

10. From “passive waiting for people to come” to “initiating contact and pursuing people.” That is, from asking people to “come and see” our space to entering the space of others so that we “go and catalyze” (engage people where they live rather than inviting them into a setting that we are comfortable with and that we control – “crossing the bridge” is the responsibility of the minister).
Q: What actions should we be involved in to identify and pursue others for the gospel?
Q: What initiative does God want us to take in order to engage people in their context (this week)?

11. From “looking for interest” to “generating interest through segue comments that lead to significant conversations.”
Q: What are some good questions we could ask people to stimulate a significant conversation?

12. From “good activity (tasks)” to “fruitful activity (reproduction).”
Q: What good activity needs to stop and be superseded with a fruitful activity?

13. From “low personal risk” to “high personal risk.
Q: What risk does God want us to take (this week)?

14. From “avoid discomfort and persecution” (maintain limits within personal roles and tasks) to “expect / embrace discomfort and persecution” (Address challenges as spiritual warfare – overcome the fear of rejection).
Q: What potentially fruitful activity are we avoiding because of fear or discomfort?

15. From “friendship evangelism” (limited number) to “network filters / abundant sowing” (leveraging access to ministries or business for multiple new conversations). Many potential disciples are discovered through an abundant gospel-sowing process that filters out those without serious interest. From “spend time with anyone who is willing based on common interests” to “invest only in those with a hunger for God, looking for those prepared to hear and who willingly respond to the gospel.”
Q: What filtering activity are we involved in that identifies those who may be potential disciples of Jesus?
Q: What filtering ministries already exist and are engaging the people group we work with, and how can we connect with them in order to further identify those in whom the Spirit is at work?

16. From “private spirituality” to “being conspicuously spiritual” (Be about the Master’s business in the presence of and with people, living and speaking about how following Jesus is different from the world).
Q: How do we communicate our primary identity as followers of Jesus to those we meet?
Q: What introductory phrase / symbol can we use so that everyone we meet recognizes our commitment to Jesus?

17. From “wanting to be liked” to “wanting Jesus to be seen in us – in word and deed.”
Q: How do we maintain a discipline of communicating Jesus as our motivation?

18. From “serving the community” to “serving with the community” (Seeking connections with leaders in the community to win trust, communicate gospel motives and find People of Peace (POP)).
Q: Who are the community leaders and how can we develop relationships with them?
Q: What community initiatives can we join that will provide scope to be accepted by the community and identify People Of Peace?

19. From “building programs” to “building trust” (maintain a solid focus on the relational dimension of connecting and communicating positively with people, rather than assuming that our deeds will be interpreted as intended).
Q: What are we doing to develop trust with people in the community and what are the indicators that people are coming to trust us?

20. From “persevere at all costs” to “disengage and move on” (discernment).
Q: What activities are we doing or relationships are we involved in that are not bearing fruit, and how should we disengage from them?

21. From “try new methods” / “search for the silver bullet” to “persevere with proven fruitful practices” (Maintain proven fruitful practices even if there is little fruit at first).
Q: What activities are we doing or relationships are we involved in that are currently not bearing fruit, and yet have a proven track record of doing so, and what should we do to persevere without losing heart?

22. From “following fruitful practices” to “adapting fruitful practices” (contextualization).
Q: How can we adapt proven fruitful practices so that they resonate appropriately with our ministry context?

23. From “practicing a few CPM/DMM principles and practices” to “attending to all CPM/DMM principles and practices.”
Q: What is our team evaluation process to ensure that we are not neglecting any key CPM/DMM principles or practices?

In part 2, we will consider Paradigm Shifts for Greater Ministry Impact in the realms of Disciple Making and Disciple Making in Groups.

About Movements

CPM Essentials on a Napkin – Part 2

CPM Essentials on a Napkin – Part 2

By Steve R. Smith –

In Part 1, we looked at setting our sails to catch the Spirit’s wind, and the essential elements of God’s heart in the CPM process. We now turn our attention to…




To fulfill the vision, you do your part in the divine-human partnership: five high value activities. These position you to be used by God to develop healthy, sustained movements. You must do each in a way that can be reproduced by new believers. We describe this simple CPM plan by four agricultural fields. These four fields must all be in place for healthy CPMs to emerge. In many fields around the world, farmers build huts or platforms in which to rest, store their tools and watch for predators. We, too, need a platform – leaders to watch over the churches and movement.


We separate the four fields so that we know the critical elements we need to give attention to, but don’t expect them to always happen in order. For instance, after you lead someone to Christ, he may already be working in field one to find lost family members to win as you move him to field three (discipleship). And while you are discipling him and his family/friends in field three, you will help form them into a church (field four). In addition, you will find yourself in different fields at the same time with different groups as you walk them down the CPM path.


Field 1: Finding God-prepared people (Lk. 10:6; Mk. 1:17; Jn. 4:35; 16:8) [This is represented by seeds planted in furrows – casting seeds to find good soil.] 


CPM catalysts believe that the Holy Spirit has gone on before them to prepare people to respond immediately (or very soon) – John 16:8. Through dozens and hundreds of spiritual conversations, they look for the white harvest already prepared. They expect these persons of peace to be the keys to winning others (John 4:35). They also search for existing believers in their communities who God is leading to partner in this CPM vision.


Therefore, you and your team must search diligently to find God-prepared PEOPLE or FIELDS. You live with the simple choice of everyone falling into one of two categories: saved or lost. Fulfilling Mark 1:17, you try to fish for the lost and help the saved follow Jesus with a whole heart.


  • You hunt for SAVED persons who will work alongside you to reach this city or people group. How do you find them? You bridge into the conversation and relationship by sharing vision with them of what God can do in and through them, then offering to train (or learn together with) them. Virtually every CPM I know of started when national believers caught the vision to work in partnership with a missionary or church planter to fulfill God’s vision. You need to have many conversations to find such people.
  • You and your team hunt for lost persons of peace (or in your oikos) and start witnessing to them. You must have dozens (sometimes hundreds) of conversations that get to the gospel to find the people God has prepared. Most of us find it difficult to get started. So in CPMs, believers have a simple bridge into gospel conversations such as a testimony or a set of questions.


Field 2: Reproducing Evangelism (Lk. 10:7-9; Mt. 28:18-20) [This is represented by seeds sprouting into plants.] 


As we bridge into spiritual conversations with the lost (or help the saved to do the same), we must EVANGELIZE in a REPRODUCING manner. Lost people must hear the gospel in a way that is complete enough that they can fully follow Jesus alone as Lord and Savior and can then use the same method to evangelize others. In CPMs we don’t just look at the theory – what might reproduce. We judge a method by whether it does reproduce. If not, then either the method is too complex or in some way I am not equipping the disciple properly.


In every CPM the gospel is being shared by many disciples with hundreds and thousands of people relationally in a way that can be reproduced. This evangelism follows the pattern given by Jesus in Luke 10:7-9 – the three P’s: a loving presence from the believer and God, praying that God will move in power to demonstrate His love, and clearly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus with a call to commitment to Jesus alone as King. 


Field 3: Reproducing Discipleship (2 Tim 2:2; Phil 3:17; Heb. 10:24-25) [This is represented by plants bearing fruit.] 


As people believe, they are immediately brought into reproducing DISCIPLESHIP relationships, sometimes one-on-one, but usually in new small groups.  They begin a well-defined process of simple short term discipleship sessions that they immediately pass on to those they are witnessing to. This happens through a very reproducible process.  Eventually they enter into a pattern of long-term discipleship that enables them to feed themselves from the whole counsel of God’s Word. We must have a process that works in our context for new believers – both to grow spiritually and to pass on to others.


Most reproducing discipleship processes use the elements of a three-thirds format (e.g. Training for Trainers – T4T). In this format, believers first take time to look back through loving accountability, worship, pastoral care and recalling the vision. They then take time to look up to see what God has for them that week’s in Bible study. Finally they look ahead to determine how to obey God and pass on what they have learned through practicing it and setting goals in prayer.


Field 4: Reproducing Churches (Acts 2:37-47) [This is represented by bundles of harvested grain.] 


In the discipling process, believers meet in small groups or reproducing CHURCHES. In many CPMs, at about the 4th or 5th session, the small group becomes a church or part of a church. CPMs have a simple process to help the believers develop the basic covenant and characteristics of church – based on the Bible and fitting for their culture. Many use the church circles diagram in this process. 


Center Platform: Reproducing Leaders (Titus 1:5-9; Acts 14:23) [This is represented by farmers or shepherds.] 


Some of the believers will prove themselves to be reproducing LEADERS appropriate for that stage of the work. Some will lead one church, some multiple groups, some whole movements. Each will need mentoring and training appropriate for their level of leadership. CPMs are as much leadership multiplying movements as they are church planting movements.


The Arrows


Many believers will go on to REPEAT various parts of the four fields – some will look for God-prepared people, some evangelize, some disciple/train, some form new groups and some train the groups to repeat the process. Not every believer goes on to the next stage. [This is represented by smaller arrows into each new field.] In CPMs, believers go amazingly far, not only in their own discipleship but in ministering to others.




The spiritual triggering effect of all of this is DEATH (John 12:24) – the willingness for believers to boldly persevere, even die, to see God’s vision fulfilled. [This is represented by a grain falling into the ground.]  Until believers choose to joyfully count the cost, this all remains theoretical.


Though it is difficult to describe a complex movement adequately in a chapter, the Heart and Four Fields gives the basic essentials. Effective CPM catalysts build momentum by making sure each part of the process naturally leads to the next, through the way they disciple and train believers. In this way they raise the sails for the boat to keep moving. As I draw out the Heart and Four Fields for friends, they marvel at the depth and richness of a CPM. It is much more than a method of evangelism or church planting. It’s a movement of God.


Can you reproduce this drawing on a napkin with a friend?

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

This material is edited from an article originally published in the July-August 2013 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 29-31, and published on pages 213-222 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

(1) For a description of church circles, see “The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM” in the September-October 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 22-26. 

About Movements

CPM Essentials on a Napkin – Part 1

CPM Essentials on a Napkin – Part 1

By Steve R. Smith –

You’ve decided in your heart that you want to see God birth a church planting movement (CPM) in your community or people group. The question is: “How do I start?” Suppose we’re sitting in a coffee shop and I hand you a napkin, saying, “Sketch out the path to a CPM.” Would you know where to start?

You must get onto a path that will possibly lead to a movement, rather than one that won’t. You must understand what that path looks like. 

The challenge of the CPM path is the word movement. GOD starts church planting movements, not His servants. Yet He uses His servants to be the catalyzing agents in CPMs. This happens when they understand His ways and submit their ministry efforts completely to them.

Setting Your Ministry Sails to Catch the Wind of the Spirit

Think of it this way. As a sailor, I can work on all of the factors that can be controlled. I can make sure my sails are up, the tiller is in the right position, and the sails are trimmed correctly. But until the wind blows, my sailboat is dead in the water. I cannot control the wind. Or if the wind is blowing, but I fail to raise the sails or trim them to catch the wind, I go nowhere. In that case, the wind is blowing but I don’t know how to move with the wind.

A traditional Jewish teacher of the law had a hard time grasping Jesus’ radical ways. Jesus told him this:

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

The Spirit blows in ways we cannot predict, but He does blow. The question is not whether He is blowing. The question is: “Is my ministry positioned to move the way the Spirit blows, so it can become a movement of God?”

If our ministries don’t cooperate with the Spirit’s ways, we can be tempted to say: “God no longer moves today as He did in previous times!” Yet dozens of CPMs around the world and on every continent testify: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8) 

The Heart and Four Fields: CPM Essentials on a Napkin

As we look at these CPMs, what are the essential elements – the factors we can control? What will enable us to position our sails to move with the Spirit of God, if he blows strongly? CPM catalysts express these in many ways. But what follows is a simple summary of essential CPM elements. I often draw this simple diagram on a napkin in a coffee shop for a friend. I use it to explain to him how we can cooperate with God for a movement. If you can’t draw a basic CPM plan on a napkin, it’s probably too complex to live out yourself and too complex for others to reproduce. To encourage you, I find that the worse my art, the more confidence my friend has to pass it on!



Find God’s HEART for your people and seek Him in faith for the fulfillment of His vision


You and your team have a VISION to do whatever it takes under God to see ALL people have a chance to respond to the kingdom. [This is represented by a large heart.] You are seeking God’s vision not your own. Matthew 6:9-10 and 28:18-20 tell us that his kingdom will come fully to all people and people groups. A vision of this size should result in huge numbers of believers and thousands of churches (and/or small groups). Such a vision inspires believers to make radical lifestyle choices to bring God’s kingdom to their community.


  • Since this vision is so large, you must break it down into basic SEGMENTS. This will help you know how to start. In every society people create relationships by geography (neighbors) and/or socio-economic factors (workmates, classmates, club mates). Your goal is simple: plant reproducing mustard seed groups (Mt. 13:31-33) with the ability to reach that segment and beyond.
  • You know a movement has taken root in each segment when you can track at least four generations of believers and churches – G4 – in that place. (2 Tim. 2:2) [This is represented by a generational tree.] CPMs are defined by at least 4th generation churches consistently emerging within a short period of time (months and years, not decades). Effective CPM catalysts evaluate their results by generations of believers and groups/churches, not just numbers of believers and groups/churches. They often track the movement with generational trees.


Until we know God’s heart, we can’t expect Him to show up in miraculous ways. He will not fulfill something that is not on his heart, or less than what is on his heart.


Crying Out For God’s Heart as Those Abiding in Him


To fulfill the vision, you have to start at the foundation by ABIDING in Christ (Jn. 15:5; Ps. 78:72; Mt. 11:12; 17:20) [This is represented by a person with the right heart]. Those who bear fruit are those who abide. There is no way around it. Anything less gives temporary and stunted fruit. Men and women at the center of CPMs are not necessarily greater spiritual giants than other people, but they all abide in Christ. You do not get a CPM by abiding in Christ, but you don’t get one if you don’t.

  • Remember, God uses men, not just methods; people, not just principles.

As we humble ourselves by abiding in Christ, we must cry out fervently to God in PRAYER to see His vision fulfilled (Mt. 6:9-10; Lk. 10:2; 11:5-13; Acts 1:14). [This is represented by a kneeling person.] Every church planting movement begins first as a prayer movement. When God’s people get hungry enough to fervently fast and pray for His heart, amazingly miraculous things begin to happen.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

This material is edited from an article originally published in the July-August 2013 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 29-31.

About Movements

Gaining Church Planting Momentum During COVID-19

Gaining Church Planting Momentum During COVID-19

By Aila Tasse –

The social distancing and isolation related to COVID-19 brought great challenges to Disciple Making Movements around the world, because movements thrive on ongoing and intensive personal interaction. But the Lord encouraged us that every crisis has a kingdom opportunity embedded. We have long believed that helping hurting people is part of being disciples as well as making disciples. Applying this principle in fresh ways demonstrated that the kingdom still can thrive in the midst of extremely bad news.

In East Africa, we faced a perfect storm, more than just COVID-19. Prior to COVID, we had severe drought in many parts of North of Kenya, and other places in East Africa. Then in October 2019, we experienced pouring rain and severe flooding in a week’s time. Between drought and floods, everything was affected, because most of the people groups are nomadic. Any animals that remained from the drought were killed by the floods. Then in December, we started seeing locusts for the first time in our lives. The locusts came and destroyed the remaining plantations, the animals’ food, and even the farms. 

Toward the end of February 2020, COVID-19 hit. So in the midst of movement activity, we got hit with this series challenges. By early March, the situation was very depressing for many of our leaders. The government of Kenya was closing down the country. I had traveled to the northern part of the country at that time, and got locked down. So from March until August, I was locked down in the north.

One of the challenges was that we couldn’t travel to other parts of the country; we couldn’t even engage with the people. We started thinking, “How are we going to respond to this? We need new ways to do ministry, to be able to engage.” We came up with three responses.

Our first response was prayer. In mid-March we called for prayer among all our team members: our core team and our country leaders, representing all the countries where we work. We all started praying at the same time, using WhatsApp to distribute the prayers. We prayed that God would sustain the movement, because we realized that leaders and families were suddenly losing all their sources of income. Prayer was very key for us to keep the momentum. We all started praying, especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We called for fasting on Wednesdays. It was a whole day of fasting every week, which still continues to the present. 

Second, we said, “We will engage with our team in ways that encourage them, because everybody is going through this.” We started sending texts and we assigned the leaders to their countries and regions and started encouraging them with Scriptures and asking them, “How are you doing? How are you going through this situation? What are you doing to help?” We knew that if our leaders were not encouraged, that would affect the momentum of movement. So we set aside Fridays for calling our leaders to encourage them. The people who called them were people they did not expect. They would receive a call from somebody who had never called them before. The reason for calling was just to say, “We are in this with you and we want to encourage you.” That really helped help us to stay together. 

Then in April we started having Zoom meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays with all our team. In those meetings we discussed the situation, which helped keep communication flowing. When we started Zooming we started really getting close and getting to see each other and hear each other. 

Third, we said, “There must be some practical ways of engaging people during this crisis. How can we sustain what has been started?” (We are at the stage of sustaining movements. We went from starting and multiplying to sustaining.) Part of sustaining leaders, groups, and churches was to help with income for pioneer church planters, since their income had disappeared. So we asked, “How can we help them with food? Many families have run short of food; they cannot get access to food because Nairobi is locked down, and all our supplies to different places come there.” This led to something new. We started seeing the generosity of disciples; they started sharing the small things they had with practical love. At this point it was not how much you could share, it was just sharing the little that you had.

Neighbors started giving to their neighbors. We started seeing groups multiplying because of the practical kindness that their disciples were showing. We started receiving amazing stories of people who had just enough food for their own families, maybe for a week, yet started sharing with families that did not have anything. And mostly, those they shared with were their Muslim neighbors. This love, shown at a time when everybody was going through the same difficult challenges, helped people to open up to hearing the gospel. 

In May and June we started asking for help. Help trickled in and by December we were able to feed over 13,500 families. (A family in our context has an average of eight people.) Through this, each of those families were multiplying churches. 

We did some analysis and reporting in December, as we came to the end of the year. We found that through people intentionally sharing – not only the gospel, but also sharing love—we saw multiplication of groups and churches. Any churches that had depended on a meeting place, could not meet there. So people started meeting in homes, and the meetings in homes started to multiply. In that area, the homes are very small; they could not fit many people. So the home gatherings started dividing themselves into multiple homes. As a result, more neighbors, more people, and more unreached people groups were reached. 

I looked at what has happened in the last 15 years of our movement in East Africa, and 2020 was the peak. We saw 1,300 churches planted in just that one year. This was amazing because earlier in the year, we had scaled down our goals by 30%; we said we’ll trust God for 600 or to 800 new churches. But God took us way beyond that, as only he can do. I could hardly believe it, as all the teams presented their data for the year. I had to see the graphs and look for myself, people group by people group. 

God did this through what we call the triangle of disciple-making: loving God, loving your neighbor and making disciples. Practical love was able to open people’s hearts to respond positively to the gospel. New people groups were engaged, new areas opened up, and we are carrying on with that. I just came from meeting with 40 coordinators who have started processing this, so we can build on this momentum for this year and years to come. 


The role of learning new technology 

Before COVID-19, many of us in our context (myself included) were IT illiterate. Any mention of using Zoom for a meeting met a lot of resistance about bandwidth. I had tried a couple of Zoom meetings, but I never knew how to do it. Somebody would have to call me and give me instructions on how to do it. Even knowing how to turn on the mic in zoom was very difficult. So during the first meeting we held, you could hear all kinds of things in the background. It was very noisy, but at least we could see each other’s face, and that was exciting. So we started learning platforms like Zoom, WhatsApp, and others. Because of COVID, we overcame that resistance, even despite the challenges.

I was locked down for months in northern Kenya where the internet was extremely poor. I remember the first day of the basic DMM training. We had about 130 people joining from all over the world, and suddenly my internet stopped working. I couldn’t get any signal whatsoever. So I got in my car and started driving around, looking for a signal on my phone. Finally, at a small airstrip, I found the only signal in the whole town. People stared at me, thinking: “What is this crazy guy doing with a computer in an open field?” It was embarrassing, but I was willing to do it. By the time the signal allowed me to connect again, people were already in discussion, but they were happy I could make it back. I felt so bad, because this was the first day of the training. But we did what we could to learn and be creative, and find new ways of connecting.

We started recording teachings and sending them to our teams. We could do Discovery Bible Studies with all our country leaders or all our coordinators on the same platform. When we started using Zoom, we actually kept growing. We started nine weeks of basic DMM training with 115 people from around the world. We had people from India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, South America, all over the place. People we’d never met continued for the whole nine weeks and we ran cohorts, some of which still continue. 

We had many mission organizations and global teams bring most of their missionaries for first level training courses, second level training, and leadership classes. That kept expanding way beyond East Africa. God used COVID-19 to connect us with others and become a greater blessing to the global body of Christ, through our training. 

We run a DMM Global Catalyst Camp every year. In October, we said, “Why don’t we try doing this virtually?” We didn’t know how it would turn out, but we had people from 27 countries join us for the three days of the catalyst camp. Those are some of the amazing ways God used technology to expand the boundaries of our ministry. 

I expect this greater use of technology to continue. We are not looking back. We still prefer face-to-face for coaching and local relationships. But the way forward is using the new technology to reach people we could not reach in traditional ways. For example, last week I started a mentoring a group of DMM catalysts on Thursday for one hour. It’s not me teaching, I’m just facilitating. How could I not do that, now that God has provided this tool? In the past I could only meet people in Kenya or around our area. Now I am talking to a team in North India and coaching a team in Panama City – places where I’ve never been. We’ve learned through all this that we need to be creative and make use of every opportunity (including new platforms and technologies) for extending God’s kingdom. 


Two lessons learned, that we can carry into the future

We’ve learned first that bad times can bring out good results, so we should not be discouraged by bad times. God has a way of bringing his own results in bad times. We look to God for the results because the results depend on God, not on the situations. That’s why we don’t allow the situations to take away what God has given to us. 

Second, leaders need to be creative in facing challenges and problems. But that response should come out of prayer and dependency on God, because the Holy Spirit will lead us. 

In the book of Acts, we see that whenever the apostles or the church faced challenges, persecution, or problems they always prayed. Sometimes we want to solve a problem we know is beyond us. As leaders, we pray to get direction from God for the next thing or for the next way to solve a problem. Even in the worst situations, the Holy Spirit can show a creative way forward.

Dr. Aila Tasse is the founder and director of Lifeway Mission International (, a ministry that has worked among the unreached for more than 25 years. Aila trains and coaches DMM in Africa and around the world. He is part of the East Africa CPM Network and New Generations Regional Coordinator for East Africa and Southern Africa.”

About Movements

How God is Moving Among Muslims in Southeast Asia

How God is Moving Among Muslims in Southeast Asia

By Yehezkiel –

We consider the outside church planter (even if a national) to be generation 0. The local person (generation 1 – G1) who hears the gospel and responds by believing is baptized, discipled and immediately trained to reach his/her family, friends and acquaintances.  When the G1 believer shares the gospel with his/her contacts and they believe, new believers are immediately baptized, discipled and trained by the local believer. This group becomes a G1 house church with the local believer as its leader. 


The believers gather routinely each week in the G1 house church to worship Jesus, celebrate the Lord’s Supper and study God’s Word together using a guide that we provide. Very quickly they take up responsibility for reaching their network of relationships. The G1 believers are discipled and trained to disciple and train others and establish house fellowships with the new people they reach. 


The house church functions as a sending hub in which all participants are equipped to become church planters. Every week after the worship service each member of the fellowship goes out to reach, disciple and train others. Those who come to faith are immediately baptized, discipled and trained to reach their network of contacts and gather them into a house church.


This process continues with oversight, evaluation and constant training. In this way, we have been able to establish thousands of house fellowships. In the last several years, tens of thousands have come to faith and been baptized, up to 20 generations. Our ministry network has also reached out to other areas to assist workers in other islands and ethnic groups in Southeast Asia. 


This process of multiplication is what we mean by a Church Planting Movement. This approach requires long-term commitment, with ongoing evaluation and monitoring that do not endanger the church planting process itself. 


Autonomy of the house churches is a high priority. Leaders are quickly equipped so they can take ownership of the ministry. We as Gen 0 leaders quickly give local leaders authority to perform all the functions of a church. They baptize, receive people into the fellowship, teach the Word of God, celebrate the Lord’s Supper and so on. We call this equipping process “Model, Assist, Watch and Empower.” This process begins as soon as people come to faith. Autonomy is planned for and applied from the beginning. 


The believers in this movement not only understand the end goal but also effectively live out the lifestyle that accomplishes that goal. Our job is to ensure that this understanding and practice continues to be transferred to each new believer and house church, generation after generation.

Yehezkiel serves as Mission Director for a Baptist Church in SE Asia. Our ministry network focuses on starting movements in Muslim heartlands of Southeast Asia. The essential cornerstone of our network’s church planting is the gospel itself. The gospel functions as our first filter when we interact with people. The first time we meet anyone we share the gospel at the beginning of our conversation: any place, any time, and anyone. Through presenting of the gospel, we begin the process of planting a congregation through this new local believer.

This is from an article that appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 19-20, and published on pages 130-132 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

About Movements

God’s Word Influences Unbelievers

God’s Word Influences Unbelievers

By Trevor Larsen  –

Is it biblical to ask a non-believer, without the Holy Spirit, to obey in response to God’s word?”

One role of the Holy Spirit is to convict unbelievers concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). We should not doubt that the Spirit uses the word of God to do his work in unbelievers. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 

If we examine the word messages in Acts and the Gospels, very few are delivered just to disciples. Most of the word messages are delivered to mixed audiences having a higher proportion of unbelievers than believers. The two clear exceptions are Acts 20, delivered to a group of elders, and the Upper Room Discourse, delivered to the disciples. How did Jesus and his disciples speak to mixed audiences in which most people were unbelievers?

Jesus told the parable of the four kinds of soil (illustrating four types of responses to the word) to a mixed audience: mostly unbelievers and some believers. In doing so, he implicitly challenged all his listeners to become like the fourth kind of soil: having hearts which receive the word of God, commit deeply to embracing God’s word, and become transformed by it. The purpose of this teaching was not to convey the gospel. Even though most of his audience consisted of unbelievers, Jesus wanted his listeners to increase their responsiveness to the word of God. 

When you read the parable of the four kinds of soil, did you ever stop and say, “Jesus didn’t really expect any of the unbelievers to respond”? That was not the nature of Jesus’ delivery of the word. He was challenging all his listeners to respond, to embrace the word of God and align their lives with it, lest their lives be unfruitful. He did not differentiate believers and unbelievers when he spoke that word; they all received the same message. The word was delivered with an invitation for everyone to respond. But their responses to the word would differentiate those ready to respond to God’s word. The response to which Jesus called his mixed audience was the fourth kind of response: very distinct from the first three kinds of responses. 

Jesus said some people would not embrace his word, so we do not expect everyone to respond positively to the word. This is true whether the word is delivered in a one-way preaching format to a large mixed audience, or discussed in small groups consisting of a mix of believers and unbelievers. Most churches nowadays do not contain such a mixed audience; participants are all believers (unlike Acts and the Gospels where mixed audiences predominate). 

What happens in our Discovery Bible groups? A rejecting person (the first kind of soil, the hard soil) would rarely participate in our Bible studies, because Muslims in unreached people groups reject the invitation to come to a Bible discussion (or are not invited – to reduce risk to those open to discuss the Bible). Group participants have demonstrated enough responsiveness of heart to dare to enter a Bible discussion. 

Our group discussions include representatives of the other three types of soil. The words of Christ that they read and discuss challenge them all to respond to his word but they respond differently. Most Muslims in a UPG who do not respond well to the word (do not start to align their lives with what they hear) stop coming to the group discussion, or may threaten the others. 

Islamic people groups manifest far more social preselection and self-selection than commonly seen in Canadian and American churches, because of the high risk. What advantage would they gain by starting to follow Jesus, if they didn’t really want to face the cost? They might lose their job, they might be kicked out of their house, or they might be beaten. In some ways it is surprising how many Muslims do join Bible discussion groups, yet this is a much safer environment for them than to hear the word one-on-one, or to enter a church building. Each quarter, many of the Muslims who have emboldened themselves to join a group Bible discussion, put their faith in Christ. Others in their same group may need another quarter before coming to faith.

The Spirit of God does not indwell an unbeliever. But they have access to God’s Spirit working externally to bring them toward faith. Jesus explains this in John 16:8. The Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. This differs from the Spirit’s role in believers, and he often uses believers discussing God’s word with unbelievers to bring them to faith. So believers should help unbelievers by discussing the word with them. That’s the replicating pattern in the Gospels and Acts. In this way, God’s Spirit awakens the hearts of some unbelievers to respond to God. So we should expose unbelievers to the word of God. If they get into the habit of reading and discussing God’s word in a group of people they know (even joining the group before they believe), we often find that over time these people come to faith. 

You might reflect on your own experience, especially if you came to faith at an older age. I grew up in a liberal denominational church and when I was in high school, they chose me as the youth leader. I wasn’t a believer yet, and when they made me the youth leader, it made me feel very uncomfortable about my own spiritual condition. I couldn’t grasp what I was missing, or how I could become a believer. I didn’t really know that I wasn’t a believer, because I had been going to church. All I knew was: “If I’m going to lead this group, I need to have a deeper experience with God” (or something like that). I went out in the woods and sat there a long time. I tried to pray and ask God: “How am I going to find you? How am I going to get to faith?” I just sat there and talked to God the best way I knew how. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying to find God: how could I go forward? Then God spoke to an unbeliever. I had heard parts of the Bible in church, and I started reading the Bible, and it started to penetrate my heart. The Scriptures started to help me, even before I was a believer, while I was still blind to some of what I was reading. Yet there was a point where God came to me and took off my blinders. This happened during the first Bible discussion group I attended, which had a mixture of believers and unbelievers. I became convinced that God was personal, that he saw my sin and forgave me, and gave me faith in him. 

We shouldn’t doubt that God will speak to unbelievers when they interact with his word. Most unbelievers who begin responding to God’s word try to do what they think will please him, but then God breaks through and shows them the real issue is their sin, and their faith in grace that comes through Christ, not in what they do.

If you reread the Book of Acts, how many times did God surprise people in the book of Acts? God did many things that surprised believers. We must be open to what God’s Spirit may do in our day, to bring salvation through His word to those who have never before heard the good news. Very often God’s Spirit uses his word in the process of drawing unbelievers toward saving faith.

About Movements

Why is 24:14 Different than Previous Efforts?

Why is 24:14 Different than Previous Efforts?

By William O’Brien and R. Keith Parks (1.2)  –

In every age there have been gifted and called cross-cultural missionaries who have wanted to play a role in telling everyone in the whole world about Jesus. With the stoning of Stephen, followers of The Way began to run for their lives into Samaria and other parts. These nameless gospel-gossips shared the Good News in word and deed. In 1989 David Barrett noted there had been 788 plans to evangelize the world from AD 33 to that present moment. Since then, many new plans have emerged. The question may be raised: “What makes 24:14 any different?” 


Institution v. Grassroots: Most of the previous plans have been more institutionally or denominationally focused. While this has had positive results in an increase in mission activity and numbers of people coming to Christ world-wide, there has not been a sharp focus on reaching all who are beyond the reach of the gospel. Nor has it focused on planting self-duplicating communities of faith.


24:14 is not centered in an institution nor a denomination. It has not been developed by institutional leaders via theories. It is driven by informed implementers actively involved in actual movements. It has a more practical and less theoretical quality. It is focused on the desired end result of engaging all Unreached People Groups—effectively reaching them.


Unrestrained Sending: One of 24:14’s strengths is that personnel are not limited to cross-cultural sending groups, and very few financial resources are required. As new believers become partners with those who brought them the Good News, the number of witnesses multiplies. 


Technological Developments provide another important advantage. The more obvious ones include transportation and communication. These result in faster translation of Scripture, better distribution of training materials, and more frequent contact with team members and prospects. However, this plan recognizes that technology does not replace incarnation. Therefore consistent face to face interaction plays a vital part in initiating and developing this plan.


Better Assessment and Tracking: One result of technology has been a more accurate description of the unfinished task. Several important breakthroughs emerged at the first Lausanne Conference on World Evangelization in 1974. One of those was the use of the term “Unreached People Group” by Ralph Winter of Fuller Theological Seminary. The plans in the past were typically focused on nations and failed to take into consideration the multiplicity of languages and ethnic groups within many nations. 24:14 has the advantage of greatly increased information that is more reliable and more relevant. The task is defined much more specifically. Further, relevant information is being tracked not just about engagement, but about effective CPM (Church Planting Movement) engagement that can result in the multiplication of disciples necessary to see an unreached group truly reached.  


Biblically-centered: Another incalculable advantage is the biblically-based approach of 24:14. Some prior efforts focused on the “outsider” as the essential spiritual guide. Therefore, as more groups were started, the missionary felt greater pressure on his or her time, energy and resources. However, 24:14 movements focus on Luke 10 and similar passages as the framework for seeking “persons of peace” and winning their networks of relationships. By inductive learning from the Bible through the guidance of the Spirit and focusing on “making disciples” and “teaching them to obey,” each new group adds more generations of disciple-makers. Instead of adding stress to the “outsider,” this plan establishes indigenous leaders as the key to discipling their own people.


Proven Best-Practice Models: Movements represented in the 24:14 coalition are seeing massive multiplication of disciples and churches. These culturally-adapted models are not limited by human resources. The Lord could use these models to reach all UPG’s. The key 24:14 players have significant experience in initiating this kind of work. They have had the insight to analyze what has already happened. By doing this over two decades, they have identified elements that enable a movement to grow, as well as symptoms of stagnant or dying movements. Too often in the past, when new methods or approaches were tried, no evaluation tools were available to suggest helpful changes. Now gospel workers can constantly make needed changes. These might include leadership refreshing or interaction with other nearby groups or bringing in someone to provide needed expertise. 


Unique collaboration: In the big picture, 24:14 embraces two essential and related theme: unreached peoples and working together among most fruitful movements. We know the Good News is for all the ethnic peoples of the world. Those pursuing 24:14 have come from a wide variety of those ethnic groups and have the advantage of freedom from Western cultural captivity. 


Prayer: Likely all of the plans to evangelize the world have included prayer as an essential element. However, most of them had a prayer-support base limited to one organization or denomination. This plan starts instead with people praying from all around the world. And as new disciples are added, these formerly unreached people add a whole new dimension to prayer as a vital part of this plan. These prayer elements may be the greatest advantage of 24:14. 


 In 1985 we looked at a map of the world and realized our “bold” plans to reach the world did not include over half the world’s countries, which were closed to traditional missionaries and included the vast majority of those unreached with the gospel. We joined with others to try to adjust mission approaches to change that reality. 


We are thrilled to see what God has done in the years since then and we join with our many brothers and sisters around the world in being a part of the 24:14 coalition to hasten the day when the gospel is proclaimed throughout the entire world to every people, tribe, language and nation. 

(1.2) William O’Brien served as an Indonesian field missionary, as a USA church planter and pastor, as Executive VP with the IMB, founding director of The Global Center at Samford University and missions professor in Beeson Divinity School. He co-authored Choosing a Future for U.S. Missions in 1998. 

  1. Keith Parks holds a Th.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He has served as a missionary to Indonesia, as President of the IMB and Global Missions Coordinator of CBF. He and his wife Helen Jean have four children and seven grandchildren. He currently teaches Bible Study for Internationals at FBC Richardson, TX.

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2018 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 38-39 and published on pages 206-209 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

About Movements

Part 5B. Leadership Roles in the Church

Part 5B. Leadership Roles in the Church

By Trevor Larsen 

“Where have you seen the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, Teachers of Eph. 4:11 engaged in the process of church formation? Where do teaching and preaching have a role, as you’re developing New Testament churches?”

Our “Focus on Fruit” could be called a variant of the DMM model that David Watson trained in 2008. We put a greater emphasis on local research and context fitting. We also put a greater emphasis on implanting the DNA of loving well (through community development in poor countries) into the movements that our model develops. Like standard DMM, our model is not just an evangelistic approach, but helps disciples to mature in Christ and be fruitful. But we may put a greater emphasis on the fruit of the disciple-making as the development of a church, like we see in the first 200 years in the Bible. The intended outcome of the Focus on Fruit model is a “Church without Walls”: an expanding organic system of ekklēsia like we see in the period when the New Testament was written. 

I’m from a background that believes the gifts of Apostle and Prophet have ended since the canon of the New Testament closed. The concern is about those who claim the same authority of the Apostles and claim their writings have authority like the New Testament. Of course we agree that the biblical canon is closed. 

Apostle-like gifting

Yet the Apostle Paul was more than a writer. His ambition was to preach Christ where there was no church. When I equip leaders widely, as a seminary professor with its invitations from various denominations, I keep meeting people who seem a lot like the Apostle Paul on this point. They keep trying to start new churches in unreached segments of the population. I have found that certain kinds of pastors are happy to pastor one flock of 70 believers (the average church size in our country). But some other Christian leaders keep forming more and more of these churches, and they end up overseeing eight or 10 linked churches. 

I kept running into this phenomenon and became curious about this type of Christian leader where I serve, which I don’t find as often in the USA. When these apostle-like persons reflect on the Great Commission, they see it as their role to keep making more and more disciples, and this results in more and more churches. These two types of leaders are different: one is more pastoral and wants to shepherd one limited-sized flock so they can handle it. The other is more apostle-like and considers how to start new churches in unreached segments. 

Over time I identified 16 of these apostle-like people who didn’t want to pastor churches, but wanted to start churches among Muslims who live in UPGs. To illustrate their unusual spirit, one of these men had a son who was dying in a hospital. After a 15-year struggle with more and more epileptic seizures and resulting brain damage, he told me one day: “It was just so stressful in my son’s hospital room, I finally had to go to another floor in the hospital to enjoy evangelizing Muslims. That was such a relief!” 


I thought: “That’s a different kind of person than many of us: he relieves stress by evangelizing Muslims!” This goes beyond their assigned ministries. These men have a hobby and Paul’s passion for evangelism (Rom. 1:14; 15:20; 2 Cor. 10:12-16): for getting the gospel out to all the areas where the name of Christ has not yet been named.

In The Signs of an Apostle, C. K. Barret wrote of the 12 Apostles and Paul. And there is a second level of leaders who took over pushing the gospel to the unreached, like Barnabas and the rest of that apostolic team. Others like Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7) and Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) were mentioned as apostles. Other apostles (with a little “a”) were also mentioned, designating those sent on a mission from churches – such as the unnamed brothers mentioned in 2 Cor. 8:23. Certainly the writing of the biblical canon is finished. But the apostle-like spirit that was so prominent when the church was expanding rapidly in the first century is still present today in certain places. These people want to take the gospel to population segments where the name of Christ has not been named. The people I know who have that same apostle-like spirit have become leaders in the forward progress of the gospel. 

While helping them maximize their ministry fruit in Unreached People Groups, I began to realize that I have that same spirit. During seminary, I was recruiting others to join me in reaching Cambodians and Vietnamese and Laotians. I never thought of it as apostle-like. It never dawned on me that that’s what I was doing. But that’s the way the Lord made me. On my birthday yesterday, somebody asked me what I wanted to do for fun. I said, “I want to count up the number of UPGs that we’ve reached in this last year.” Because that is the thing I want to do when nobody’s expecting me to do anything for them. It’s the most fun thing I can think of! That’s different than other people. Apostle-like people have a drive to get the gospel out to the fields that have a potential harvest but have not yet been opened up. Only a small number among those who serve cross-culturally have this drive. Several expatriates of this kind have linked with me and are coming alongside the national apostolic agents to help the fruit move forward. 

I look for apostolic agents; I look for the local believers who have that gifting. And I’ve gotten better at spotting them and helping them. I arrange my life around this question: “How can I help apostolic agents maximize their fruit?” If I find compassion-oriented people, or administratively-oriented people, we have room for them too, alongside of apostle-like leaders. Because apostolic agents kick up so much fruit that all kinds of difficulties have to be overcome, by recruiting more and more people. I think that’s why apostles are listed among the five equipping gifts in Ephesians 4:11. They equip other believers to do the work of ministry, as described in the following verse. All five of these have an empowering or equipping function. The apostolic agents kick up a storm and many others are needed to support the forward motion of the expanding church. 

Evangelists, pastors and teachers

Our movement seems to have all five of these equipping gifts. What’s the difference between an apostle and an evangelist? I find our evangelists are happier one on one or in small groupings, interacting with people face to face. Their skill is more narrowly focused than the apostle, on sharing the gospel. Their work is fairly local; wherever they are is fine. With help, they figure out how to empower other people to evangelize. They train the other believers in how to do evangelism. But apostle-like people seem to have a collection of different capacities that they can draw on when needed to keep pushing the gospel and the church forward into the places where it still needs to be established. 

About pastors: among our 16 most fruitful movement catalysts, some of them show a strong orientation to pastoral gifting, but as apostle-like pastors, they shepherd their top movement leaders (who are widely spread out) rather than one set of believers. When we’ve had martyrs, the other catalysts feel blown away, but the pastors come forward out of the woodwork. They’re the ones comforting the other leaders and helping them figure out how to get up and find encouragement. The same with deaths. We’ve lost over 3000 people to COVID-19 in our small group networks, and this includes many leaders close to them, so our catalysts have been really hurting. These pastor types emerge and help the others. Certainly in a movement, we need someone with the pastor gift to equip all the lay shepherds needed for every set of 50 people. We have leaders over cells, over clusters, over small regions, and over large regions. Those constitute our teams of structural leaders. 

We also have special leaders. We call one kind of special leaders “counselors.” This is really the pastoral function. They get training in counseling, they help people with narcotics addictions, they help grieving people, and they get called in by structural leaders to help with family conflicts. They help people when a pregnancy happens before marriage, and many different kinds of issues. We don’t make the pastors serve as structural leaders. Structural leaders can also serve the pastoral roles, or they can call in unassigned pastors from the network to come and help them, to take over certain issues. If they have a wider structural leadership role and are also gifted as pastors, they need to transition from doing pastoring to equipping lay pastors. 

The same with the evangelists. This is another special leader category. Evangelists often figure out ways for the cluster to birth more groups, maybe in a nearby people group or a nearby region. Structural leaders collect financial gifts from the cluster, and use it to help a volunteer evangelist (who’s maybe a salesman) to have a little more money, so they can travel a little farther to birth or firm up some evangelistic fruit. Facilitators of Community Development are also special leaders. They are administrators who can organize others in projects that benefit the community. We do a lot of loving-your-neighbor. We feed the hungry, create jobs, and have thousands of kids in tutoring groups after school. We’ve decided to make a lot of loving-one-another priorities part of our movement; these require a lot of administrative-facilitator work. The structural leaders of the church don’t have time to also organize these projects. They can call in these people, who serve like the seven who took over the ministry to widows in Acts 6.

The fourth special leader is the Bible teacher – the people gifted in teaching. These also may be a structural leader, or they may focus on only teaching and training teachers. We have special seminars to equip teachers. In the last 15 years, with the help of others, I’ve written 38 Bible study series, each one guiding group Bible discussions for about 25 weeks. The teachers help improve our drafts. They help identify the topics that need to be addressed. These studies are biblically based; some are topical, focused on specific themes. For example, our biblical theology of fasting is a special topic of great importance in a country that fasts one month a year. This is a very popular study, because of the fasting month. We have another popular topical series on healthy biblical families. The topical series are often used to start groups. 

We also have a foundational series. In our Word system, we have a strong emphasis on inductive Bible study in groups, and the teachers are a part of the Word system. The teachers can introduce the a group series to a leaders’ group, in a half day seminar to help the leaders with the overview and some key passages. They can help the leaders during a study, answering questions that come up, like on Christology for Muslims as they study the book of Mark. Some of them help write or select materials, or demonstrate teaching on a topic during one of our seasonal gatherings of 50 or 200 people. Some of them help make teachings in short videos. 

Surprisingly, the way the word “preaching” is used in conventional churches nowadays is different than the way it was used in the Bible. The Greek words used in the Bible that we translate “preaching” primarily described evangelistic proclamation of the gospel to unbelievers, not preaching to believers in churches. In a word search using BibleWorks, the 27 passages having words translated preaching in the ESV of the New Testament, 24 passages clearly refer to evangelistic preaching, and it is unclear in the other three uses whether a believing or unbelieving audience is in view. Open evangelistic preaching must be done very carefully and wisely (to reduce risk) in the 99% Islamic people groups we serve. Most of our proclamation of the gospel is done in smaller groupings of people who know each other, and Muslims who come to faith usually dialog about it. In the Bible, the word “teaching” is more focused on believers, as mentioned above. 

We keep working to identify especially these spiritual gifts and provide additional special training for each of these four categories, plus the gift of giving. Growing disciples are empowered to use those gifts within the movement. One of our 10 Core Skills is our annual health diagnosis. We try to get all the groups and all the clusters to self-evaluate using a set of questions. 

Coaching circles to equip leaders

If one were to ask, “Which of the churches in the New Testament were healthy?” You could probably say they were all healthy, but they also all had some unhealthiness in them. Maybe Corinth would stand out for its unhealthiness, but all of the churches had problems. A movement is a messy process, and we have had all the problems you read about in the Bible. In any one week, if I asked all the leaders, there would be some people in serious family conflict. There would be some people struggling with sexual addiction on the internet. All those problems you could think of, that you find in churches anywhere, are found in the Church Without Walls that Christ is building through our leaders. 

We’re working to sharpen processes, to increase the likelihood of leaders helping believers address their growth issues in a biblical way. In the leaders’ groups, we have a process we call coaching circles, where four peer leaders decide which of them will be coached by the others in a particular week. The leader selected as the coachee shares a challenge they are dealing with, then the other three leaders ask questions to help him or her. Together they come up with ideas to help the coachee find solutions to his or her leadership challenge. Coaching Circles train leaders in group problem-solving, and they build four leaders into a team of leaders.

About Movements

The Riverbanks of a Movement – Part 2

The Riverbanks of a Movement – Part 2

By Steve Smith –

Part 1 of this post addressed one essential riverbank of a movement: the authority of God’s word alone. In this post, we address the other essential riverbank.

OBEDIENCE: Value to Obey Whatever the Word Says

To make sure the movement stays within biblical riverbanks you must secondly build in a value to obey whatever the Word says.

In the 1 Corinthians 5 situation, Paul guided the Corinthians to obedience:

For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. (2 Cor 2:9, NASB)

What a difficult step for them to take, yet they obeyed. Loving obedience was their basic value as followers of Jesus.

Only obedience-based discipleship will keep the CPM in the banks of orthodoxy and holiness. In CPMs, you frequently ask people to be obedient to the Scripture they study each week. Then you lovingly hold them accountable, and vice versa, for obedience in the next meeting. This reinforces obedience. Without it, disciples quickly develop a value to be a hearer of the Word, not a doer.

The enemy is working actively to deceive and create problems. But if obedience is the value, you have a way to call errant believers back. This is what happened in 1 Corinthians 5.

Obedience necessarily includes the discipline of the group to see the issue through. Like the Corinthians, disciples must believe it better to obey the Word and suffer any consequences for correction than to continue in sin.

A Case Study: Wife-Beaters

Several of us planned to spend one-week training twelve local leaders representing eighty Ina churches in a budding CPM in East Asia. 

One basic ground-rule was: Try not to answer their questions, but rather ask, ‘What does the Bible say?’” This is so much easier in theory than in practice! 

One afternoon, my pastor friend spent an hour teaching from Ephesians 5: Husbands love your wives. The application appeared to be crystal clear.

After his teaching, I asked if there were any questions. One 62-year old man in the back nervously raised his hand. “I would like to know if this means we have to stop beating our wives!?”

My pastor friend and I were appalled. How could he possibly dream there was room for wife-beating after such a clear teaching from the Word?

Back to our ground-rule: “What does the Bible say?” It was at this point that our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit was put to the test.

We carefully shared with the whole group:

If we pray, the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher. If we go to his Word, he will give us a clear answer about beating wives.

First, I want you to stop as a group and cry out to the Holy Spirit: “Holy Spirit, be our Teacher! We want to rely on you! We need you to give us insight!”

Together, in unison, we bowed our heads and cried out that prayer to God several times. When we were through praying, I said to the group:

With the Holy Spirit as your Teacher, open your Bibles to Ephesians 5. Together read it and ask God to help you answer this question. When you have come to agreement, let us know.

The twelve huddled together and began talking rapidly in the Ina dialect, which the rest of us could not understand. Meanwhile, we huddled together in prayer. We cried out to God: “Lord, please let them get this right! We don’t need a movement of wife-beaters!” We had to trust that the Spirit of God in the group could overcome the confusion or objections of one or two people.

Meanwhile the turmoil in the Ina group rose and fell and rose and fell. One person would get up and air an idea, then the others would admonish him. Then another would voice an opinion and some would agree. Finally, after a very long wait, one of the leaders stood up solemnly and pronounced, with import worthy of the Council of Chalcedon, their decision:

“After studying the Scripture, we have decided—to STOP beating our wives!”

We were very relieved, but I thought: “What took so long?!”

A day or two later one of the twelve, an Ina man who was a close friend of mine, explained privately to me their discussion.

“We have a saying in the Ina language: ‘To be a real man, every day you must hit your wife.’”

I quickly realized the importance of the 62-year-old man’s question and the reason the answer took so long. His real question was not, “Do we have to stop beating our wives?” Rather, after a startling discovery of the holy standard of God’s ways and the clash with their own culture, the real question was:

Can I be a follower of Jesus and still be a real man in my culture?

Would we have stepped in if they arrived at a non-biblical answer? Of course. But if we had cut short the process by quickly giving them the answer, we would have missed God’s deeper lesson for them. 

That day, and many other times like it later, God’s Word was reinforced as the final authority, not culture or any Bible teacher. A group of young believers trusted the Spirit to guide them in truth, and then heeded the call to obey whatever answer he gave them. The group faced the challenge to re-define manhood in their society despite the mocking they would receive.

Pursue kingdom movements in your area. But don’t pray for rain to flood the land with rivers until you have prepared riverbanks to guide the channels of the waters! Set this DNA within minutes and hours of the first breakthrough. 

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2014 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 31-32, and published on pages 87-95 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

About Movements

The Riverbanks of a Movement – Part 1

The Riverbanks of a Movement – Part 1

By Steve Smith –

We previously looked at the importance of setting the DNA for a kingdom movement within minutes and hours of a new disciple’s commitment to Christ. That brings up one of the greatest fears about Church-Planting Movements (CPMs): That heresy and immorality will emerge in the movement. Scripture makes it clear that problems will emerge in any ministry (e.g. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). This was a primary factor in Paul writing his churches addressing heresy, immorality and a host of other sins. 


One characteristic of CPMs is that they are out of your personal control but stay within the control of the King. A basic premise of CPMs is to exercise proper influence to shape the movement, but not usurp the role of the Spirit to control and be the Teacher of the movement. 


Giving up control, however, does not mean giving up influence. At the outset of discipleship in a movement, there are clear riverbanks (values) to set up that enable the raging rivers of CPM to stay within the banks of orthodoxy and morality. We need not fear heresy and immorality IF we have a plan for dealing with them. If we do not, we should fear them greatly.

The Riverbanks of a Movement: Obedience to the Word Alone as Authority

Ultimately, you cannot control a CPM, or any other movement of God, as long as you want it to continue to grow as a movement of God. What you can do is nudge and shape it, and put parameters in place that enable you to call back believers and churches when they inevitably get off-track. These are the banks of the channels through which the movement will flow. The banks keep it in the channel of orthodoxy, orthopraxy and holiness.


The alternative is restrictive control of a movement, similar to the old brittle wineskins of Matthew 9:14-17. Jesus condemned the heavy burden of the rituals the Jewish leaders had imposed on the people of God; they were inflexible and slavish. In these wineskins, orthodoxy and morality are controlled through rules and our personal oversight, and eventually suppress kingdom growth. 


In CPMs, what is essential is that you give emerging believers, churches and leaders a way to hear God speak in his Word (authority), a value to obey whatever he says (obedience) including a willingness to self-correct the movement no matter the consequences. Scriptural authority and obedience are the twin riverbanks to keep the movement biblical.

AUTHORITY: Authority of God’s Word Alone

The Reformers’ value of Sola Scriptura has been upheld by believers for hundreds of years. Yet, in practice, it is easy to move away from Sola Scriptura by creating competing functional authorities for new believers and churches. Theoretically, we say: “Scripture is their final authority.” Practically, it is easy for the missionary, statements of faith, church traditions or “words from the Lord” to functionally usurp Scripture as the final authority.


Handing Bibles to new believers and telling them to study them does not make Scripture their final authority. Rather, you must instill a value that God’s Word is their final authority. In CPMs or new church starts, you set the DNA for almost all of the new believers’ understanding and practice. From day one you must demonstrate that it is Scripture that is authoritative for all of life.


Eventually, the movement may spread beyond your direct influence. What authority will they follow when questions or disputes arise? If you set them up to value the Word PLUS your opinion, what will happen when another teacher comes in (orthodox or false teacher) whose opinions contradict yours? How will you call them back when they get off track?


If you have not given them a value that Scripture is the final authority, you have no way to call them back when they err. It’s your opinion versus anyone else’s. If you have set up your word as an authority, then you are setting up the movement for failure.

A Biblical Precedent: 1 Corinthians 5

Even Paul, an Apostle of Christ, resisted setting up his opinion as the authority. Instead, he referred his churches back to the Scripture. From the beginning, heresy and immorality infiltrated the churches that Paul established. There was no way to avoid it. But Paul built into the churches a way to address it. One example is found in 1 Corinthians 5. 


It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. (1 Cor. 1:5, NASB)


Such a sin would lead us to discount the orthodoxy of a movement. Paul, as a realist however, recognized that the enemy would sow tares. He didn’t let this shake his faith in moving forward.


The answer to the situation was to remove this offending person from their midst until he repented (1 Cor. 5:5). At this point, Paul could have used his authority as the spiritual father. The problem is that Paul would not always be there to answer each situation in the future. In addition it would set up the movement for divisiveness: his opinion against another person’s opinion (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:3-6).


Instead Paul pointed them to God’s Word.


Remove the wicked man among yourselves. (1 Cor. 5:11, NASB)


Paul referred to Deuteronomy 22 as the guide for this decision:


If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel….
A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he will not uncover his father’s skirt. (Deut. 22:22, 30 NASB)


How do you develop this value of Scripture alone as final authority? One of the best ways is to minimize directly answering important questions (your opinions) but rather refer the believers to the appropriate Scripture in which to meditate for a decision.


In healthy movements the default answer is: “What does the Bible say?” By repeatedly asking this, the believers quickly realize that they must value the Bible as the final authority, not you the teacher, church planter or missionary. 


To do this, healthy movements develop a simple method for believers to use to learn how to read or listen to the Bible and interpret it accurately. As disciples approach the Word with open hearts and a healthy hermeneutic, they will continue to grow in Biblical understanding becoming self-feeders.


This does not mean that you never answer questions. But as you resist the temptation to answer their questions and give the group of believers a healthy method for interpreting Scripture, you will realize that the body of Christ has amazing ability to come up with biblical answers from the leadership of the Spirit. The self-correcting power of the body is amazing (Matt 18:20).

Part 2 of this post will address the other essential riverbank of a movement.

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2014 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pp. 29-31. 

About Movements

Part 5A. Ekklēsia as an Expansive Organic System

Part 5A. Ekklēsia as an Expansive Organic System

By Trevor Larsen –

Could you share about how you’ve seen this work go from groups to New Testament churches?”

Before we started this ministry, we researched the existing conventional churches in the UPG we wanted to reach; the part we investigated had a population of 1 million. We wanted to join with whatever conventional church were reaching Muslims. We found 22 churches. Some of them were not registered; some of them didn’t have buildings; they each had from 15 to 100 believers. We expected to find that some of them were effective at reaching local Muslims. But we really didn’t find any conventional churches reaching local Muslims. 

The best we found were three out of the 22 churches, each of which had added an average of three believers from a Muslim background during the previous 10 years. All the other churches were isolated castles. The only attendees in the churches were from other people groups who had moved into the area from more Christian areas, most churches were either not from the majority UPG, or their families had converted 30 years previously. I was disappointed to find that none of the conventional churches were effective in reaching the local population. Most did not even try, because they were afraid their churches would be burned. 

We found that the three churches getting a little bit of fruit from the majority population, were all non-registered churches. None of them had buildings. We discovered that one of the more effective factors in this UPG was to not have a building. If local people had to enter a church building, that was a great obstacle to making disciples. Not having a church building is exactly the opposite of every conventional church in our country. We discovered that community leaders were shamed if any local person participated in a formal church. But many community leaders tolerated unofficial gatherings of people discussing the Bible, especially if they were small and not noticed. That was an odd thing to discover, but it was one of our big takeaways. 

I teach the Bible in seminaries; I often teach the Gospels and Acts. I’ve done a lot of research on the early church in the Bible and we’ve tried to follow the patterns in Acts. Our biblical research and feedback from the field has helped us sharpen our “church without walls.” We discovered that churches didn’t have buildings for the first 200 years, and we discovered other patterns.

What is a “church”?

When most Bible teachers describe church as local, they mean in one building, but you can’t find that emphasis on one building in the Bible. The word normally translated as “church” was ekklēsia, which meant “gathering.” Ekklēsia was used for a gathering of the followers of Jesus, and was also used for a mob that gathered. It was a flexible term that could have various meanings. Local ekklēsia was described in the Bible in three ways: First, small groups of believers gathering in homes are called ekklēsia. Sometimes small believer groups gathered in homes but the word ekklēsia wasn’t used, they didn’t always use this word. We read in the Bible that sometimes people who had not yet believed joined the gathering. 

Second, there were collective gatherings of all the linked small groups in a city or small region. These collectives consisted of many gatherings in homes, yet they were also called one church; for example, the one church of Rome. Each of the small house gatherings in and around the city of Rome were house churches, yet they also shared an identity as the one church of Rome. Individual believers belonged to both a house church and a city church. We assume that the city church collective was not just for cities; it could also describe a small region collective. 

In the well-researched book House Church and Mission, Roger Gehring quotes all the earlier writers on this topic. It describes how the house church structure supported the advance of the gospel, and linked in city collectives. At the time of the New Testament, both Rome and Corinth (for example) had five or more gatherings in homes that we read about. These were house churches, each meeting in a different home. So by local churches, do we mean house churches? Or do we mean the one local church in Rome (all the linked house churches in that area)? Because the church of Rome was a collective of several house churches. The word ekklēsia flexibly referred to both kinds of local churches in the Bible. We’re most familiar with the city church in Corinth, because at that time the church was still small enough for most of the believers to meet in one very large house. 

Gathering all the believers in a city church in one place soon became impossible. For example, Acts 4:4 mentions 5,000 men. These were heads of households, so when we include the wives and children, and other relatives and servants who lived in the homes of these 5,000 men, we estimate 15,000 or 20,000 believers. How many house churches existed at that time? House Church and Mission describes research on the architecture of the day. The largest room of most houses were about the size of a small bedroom today, though the wealthier homes had larger rooms and courtyards. From Gehring’s research, we estimate 15-20 people on average for each house church. Let’s use the round numbers of 20 people per house church and 20,000 believers. That means they would have had 1,000 house churches in Jerusalem by Acts 4:4, in just the first three years of the Jerusalem movement. And much more growth had occurred by Acts 21. So who led these 1000 house churches? The 12 apostles had oversight, but it would have been impossible for them to lead even 100 of the 1000 house churches. At least 900 house churches must have been led by new believers, under the oversight of the elders of the city church. 

I have heard people state that there are no movements in the Bible, that all gatherings must be led by mature believers. But clearly their claims are not based on the Bible. I try not to say too bluntly, “Really? Haven’t you ever thought about what you are you’re reading in the Bible? There had to be a movement of at least 1000 believer groups in just three years in Jerusalem!” And biblical evidence points to six movements of more than 1000 believers in different areas in the biblical period. We can’t read the biblical evidence any other way. Our understanding about ekklēsia/church has to be robust enough to accommodate all the biblical data. One of the clearest observations about ekklēsia in the book of Acts is its expansive organic nature. It keeps growing and adding new branches and structures to accommodate the growth and to link new growth to the previous growth in ekklēsia as an expanding organic system. Biblical church is both located in homes and is also the house churches linked together as city church (or small region) collectives. 

The word ekklēsia is also used of wide region church: the church of Judea, Samaria, Galatia, and Macedonia. These were provinces, and we can not imagine all the believers in a province ever gathering together. They were not “local” in the face-to-face sense, but neither where they universal in the broad conceptual sense. They shared an identity with other believers in their province. This is the third size we see in this organically expanding linked church system. To put it as simply as possible, church in the New Testament was a combination of small, city (small region) church, and wide region collectives of believers, who saw themselves linked to the other ekklēsia units (whether big or small), as brothers and sisters. This was a church without walls, that kept expanding.

Church leaders

What about leaders? There was one team of elders over the entire city church of 20,000 in Jerusalem. And there must have been 1,000 unnamed leaders of each house church. But the 12 became overwhelmed by the time of Acts 6. They were not able to keep up with leadership demands, which kept expanding with expansion of the church. So when widow’s needs pushed them and conflicts emerged, they added a second kind of leadership team to handle a certain sector of ministry. This second leadership team, composed of men selected based on their spiritual qualifications, handled practical, relational, and spiritual issues in the widows’ ministry sector. The church would have included hundreds of widows at that time. 

As a second example, we read of the Ephesian elders, who similarly would have overseen all the linked house churches in the Ephesus area. We know that believers in that area burned many magic books in a mass renewal. The value was estimated to be 50,000 days wages: about 10 million US dollars when converted to the currency of 2021. So 10,000 believers is a reasonable estimate in the Ephesus area. The Ephesian elders would have had oversight over roughly 500 small group leaders.

Summary of biblical data

Our understanding of ekklēsia must accommodate all the biblical data concerning the fast expanding system of linked house churches, city church collectives of all small groups (and we put small region church in this category), and wide region collectives. 

1) The nature of church in Acts is to expand rapidly and this yielded thousands of believers during Paul’s lifetime in many different regions. Nowadays many use the term movement to describe segments which grow to over 1000 believers. 

2) Much of face-to-face church life happened in informal house churches. They had no church buildings for 200 years, so we know the settled church-building-based ministry of today was not seen in the first two centuries. But believers gathering in their home groups likely knew other believers and visited other believer groups, and supported one another as brothers and sisters. We see indications of this type of one-another relational ministry in Romans 16 and Colossians 4. 

3) When a city church grew, its members shared a common identity, even though as it expanded they did not meet face to face in one place. They met face to face with a smaller group. 

4) Many house churches must have been led by new believers in the fast-expanding early church. 

5) A team of elders oversees the collective of all the house churches linked under each city church (and this likely included elders overseeing small-region churches in rural areas). 

6) In spite of the common practice today, we don’t find any biblical examples of a church of any size being led by one pastor-elder, though we can imagine that some small house churches were led by one person. 

7) A team of elders was established for each city church (or small-region church) before a year had passed after the first preaching of the gospel in the area. Acts 14:23 gives clear evidence for this. They appointed elders for them in every church (a universal pattern) while returning on their second missionary journey. A team of elders was established for every church from among those new believers who were most qualified. The selection of elders was not delayed beyond one year of the church being started. The more mature Ephesian church, that had been established longer, was cautioned not to select new believers for elders (1 Tim. 3:6), but we do not see this caution in the list of elder qualifications for the more troubled church in Crete (Titus 1). So they must have picked the most mature elders available, in areas where people were coming to Christ for the first time in an unreached area. The apostolic team selected the most qualified people available in a region to oversee the church, but they picked a team of elders who could help each other grow.

Applying biblical patterns among modern UPGs

Most of the small groups in UPG contexts that are 99% Islamic average only five believers. When small believer groups get larger than eight, they face more security risks in their communities. But these new believers gladly share the gospel with others, who then want to join groups. So they start new groups instead of allowing them to join existing groups that would become too large. When these linked small groups multiply in three or more generations of groups, we call 10 linked groups a Cluster Church (like a small City Church). That’s where we pick elders. Each small group has a leader, the most mature among the five believers who gather. Small group leaders don’t have to meet elder qualifications, but we want our Cluster Church leaders to qualify as biblical elders. 

All the group leaders in a Cluster meet together in a leaders’ group. They study the biblical passages for selecting elders: 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and Acts 6 for comparison. The group leaders then decide which of them meet the qualifications as elders to lead the Cluster. We want there to be at least three elders over the Cluster, because teams of elders are what we see in the Bible, but sometimes there are only two elders over a cluster, or there may be five. We don’t want just one shepherd over a Cluster church, because we don’t find that in the Bible. 

Are the patterns of the church in the first 200 years just ancient history superseded by church traditions since then? Or do these patterns guide us to develop a model that adapts to each context today? We believe Paul set patterns that should be imitated. That doesn’t mean there will never be an exception to the pattern of teams of elders, but we don’t find any in Paul’s day. We want to focus on replicating the patterns as well as possible. Some people say: “They can’t possibly be qualified to be elders yet!” Who will tell Paul that what he was doing wasn’t biblical? He selected elders in every church, in less than a year after they heard the gospel.

We don’t realize the powerful hold our own church experience has on our view of church. We don’t realize that church traditions have developed, and when they fit with biblical patterns, that is good, but there may be other ways to fit biblical patterns. One biblical pattern is to set up teams of leaders in the first year where the church is expanding. This is much safer than having just one pastor. Because if there are three elders, every one of them has weaknesses and strengths. They can help minimize each other’s weaknesses, and help each other grow in mutual accountability. I’m passionate about this issue. This is a big issue in movements: how to keep creating new teams of leaders as the gospel expands the church, and how to help those elders continue to mature. 

The early role of leaders who want to get to a movement is all about evangelism, about getting to the first groups. But once the system is expanding, the greater focus shifts to developing teams of leaders over all the linked group clusters, and over the small-region churches. Over the small regions, we also need teams of elders selected from among the cluster elders. And some of these need to serve at the next wider level; we need teams of elders over wide-region church too. This chain of linked teams of elders constitutes the organic structure of this expanding ekklēsia system. If we want to get to a movement, and see it multiply movements, we need to keep working on developing teams of elders.

About Movements

The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 2

The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 2

– By Steve Smith –

In part 1 we shared two essentials for helping groups become churches. Here are the other two.

  1. Make sure you have a SPECIFIC LESSON (OR LESSONS) ON CHURCH and its ordinances in your early discipleship.

You should have a clear biblical definition of church and model church-like meetings during each small group meeting. If you do, it will be easy to help the group become a church when you go through the “church” lesson in your short-term discipleship. If you want groups that become churches and plant churches, include one or two lessons on becoming a church by about session four or five. Make sure this is something that group members can obey and pass on to groups they start.

Have a specific goal in mind when you go through the church lesson: This week we will commit to becoming a church and will add in any missing characteristics of a church.

For example, when a group goes through the lesson(s) on church, one of two things usually happens:

1 Step: A group recognizes it is already a church and is practicing the characteristics of church. At this point it takes the final step by committing to being a church together (gains identity and covenant).

2 Steps: More often, a group recognizes that it is lacking in some of the elements of church. It takes two conscious steps forward to 1) add in those elements (e.g. Lord’s Supper, offerings) and then 2) commit to becoming church together (covenant).

  1. Use CHURCH HEALTH MAPPING to help a group evaluate whether they have all the elements of church life.

A great diagnostic tool called Church Health Mapping (or Church Circles) can be used with a group, or the leaders of a group or network of groups, to help them determine if the group is a church. This tool helps them spot weaknesses and correct these. It also helps them see which groups may not yet be a church.

CPMs commonly do this by making church circles the lesson on church. After a small group identifies the basic elements of a church from Acts 2 (they usually come up with around ten), they draw symbols for them and evaluate whether or not their group is practicing them.

The church lesson makes the following application:

As a group, on a blank paper, draw a dotted line circle representing your own group. Above it, list 3 numbers: the number regularly attending (stick figure), the number believing in Jesus (cross) and the number baptized after believing (water).

If your group has committed to being a church, make the dotted line circle solid. Then put an icon representing each of the remaining elements inside or outside the circle. If the group is regularly practicing the element itself, put it inside. If the group is not, or waits for an outsider to come do it, put it outside the circle. 


  1. Covenant – solid line instead of dotted line
  2. Baptism – water
  3. Word – book
  4. Lord’s Supper or Communion – a cup
  5. Fellowship – heart
  6. Giving & Ministry – money sign
  7. Prayer – praying hands
  8. Praise – upraised hands
  9. Evangelism – one friend holding hands with a friend he led to faith
  10. Leaders – two smiley faces

Finally, you can give your church a name. This helps you establish an identity as a church in your community. Remember that your goal is to develop a multi-generational Church Planting Movement to the 4th generation and beyond. So including the generation number helps you see where you are in seeing God start a movement in your community.

At this point, it is fairly easy to see what is blocking the group from really becoming a church. Though they may be lacking something, you now see a way to transform this group into a church, and they see it too! This very empowering, practical process lets the group prayerfully brainstorm how to add each of the elements into the circle. These become clear action plans for the group.

Generations of Churches

You must train the disciples you are training to purposefully help groups become churches. This should happen at a key stage in the short-term discipleship process by having a specific lesson(s) on becoming church. Church health mapping can also help you in that process. Then becoming a church will be a natural step in the process of discipleship. And you will have passed a major milestone toward a Church Planting Movement. How exciting when many generations of believers form their groups of new believers into churches at about the fourth or fifth meeting! When this happens over four generations of new churches, Church Planting Movements emerge! 


If you have no church lesson or purposeful reproducible process of transforming a group into church, then expect very few new churches!


If you include a simple church-planting process with a church lesson early on, then you can expect new generations of churches!


This may not be a process you are familiar with yet. It may challenge your ministry paradigms, but let’s not be afraid to sacrifice our paradigms for the sake of seeing God’s kingdom come! It is a helpful process to help us return to the original discipleship revolution of the Book of Acts. It is a helpful process to help us return to some of the more explosive movements in history. It is a process to help us more fully cooperate with the Spirit of God. 


The very simplicity and purposefulness of this process means that any believer, empowered by the Spirit, can become a church planter. Churches are not meant to multiply only across the landscape of the mission field. They should be and are multiplying in homes, community centers, schools, parks and coffee shops throughout the world. May His kingdom come!

Using the Four Helps with the Team from South East Asia

As I worked through the four helps with the team in South East Asia, we came to the fourth Help, church health mapping, or “church circles,” for short. I called one of the longer-tenured workers to the white board. I asked him to describe one small group of believers to the class. As he described this Bible study group, I represented it with a dotted-line circle on the board. Going through Acts 2:37–47, I asked him to assess which of the elements of the early Acts church were happening regularly in this small group. If an element was happening, we drew a symbol representing it inside the circle. If it was missing, we drew it outside the circle.


As we all stepped back to assess the status of this group becoming church, the diagram showed a couple of clear weaknesses. The group was not practicing the Lord’s Supper nor were they giving to meet needs. The symbols for these two elements were drawn outside the dotted-line circle.  I drew an arrow from Lord’s Supper to the inside of the circle and asked my colleague: “What would it take for this group to start practicing the Lord’s Supper?” The worker thought for a moment. He then said that when he returned to his place of service, he could easily coach the group leader how to implement the Lord’s Supper the following week. As the colleague gave his answers, I summarized them along the arrow as action plans.


I did the same with giving, drawing an arrow to the inside of the circle. Once we had brainstormed action plans to put that into practice, I wrote these action plans on the arrow also.


Finally, I got to the core question: “Does this small group see itself as a church?” After some thought, the worker decided they did not. I suggested that if the group could commit to being church, they would have an identity as church and truly become a church. If that happened, then we would color in the dotted circle as a solid-line circle. I asked the worker what it would take to help the group take that step. He felt that two things would finalize their transition from an outreach group to a genuine church. First, taking them through a study of Acts 2:37–47, then helping them make a firm covenant to God and each other. I wrote this action plan on the dotted-line circle representing the group.


With excitement the worker and the group eyed the three major action plans on the white board. All were very possible. In fact, the worker planned to do these things the next week with two nearly identical small groups. This worker, serving in a remote location, trembled with excitement. For over seven years, he and his family had worked to share the gospel widely. They had trained national partners and discipled new believers into groups. All the while they had longed for the first churches ever to be started among this people group. Now through a simple, yet focused and purposeful step they were going to witness the birth of the first churches!


I saw this worker again last week, just over a year after that training event. Not only have these groups become churches. They are now helping other new groups walk through the same process of becoming churches.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Adapted from an article originally published in the September-October 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 25-26, and published on pages 74-86 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

About Movements

The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 1

The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches: Four Helps in CPM – Part 1

– By Steve Smith –

Going from Group to Church

In Church Planting Movements, we devote much time to finding persons of peace, winning them and their household, grouping them and discipling them. 


But where do churches fit into this mix? When do these groups become churches, if ever?

New believers must be gathered into churches. This is God’s design from the beginning of history. Living in community as church is the King’s way to equip His people – to be what they were designed to be and do what they were called to do.


Any CPM approach should purposefully form groups into churches at a key stage in the early discipleship process. Getting to church is a vital milestone in the Church Planting Movement process.


Not all groups become churches. Sometimes they become home-based cells of a larger church but still carry out the functions of the Body of Christ. The essential point is to help new believers become a part of the Body of Christ in a reproducible form that fits their community.


Two guidelines govern CPM churches:


BIBLICAL: Is this model and/or each aspect of church consistent with the Scripture?


There is no standard biblical model of what a church must be. We see numerous examples of culturally-adapted models in the Scripture. In CPMs we do not propose only one model of church as THE biblical model. Many models of church can be biblical. So the question is: “Is this model (and its elements) consistent with scriptural teaching?”


CULTURALLY REPRODUCIBLE: Is this model of church something an average new believer can start and organize? 


Since many models of church can faithfully serve the scriptural teaching, the secondary question becomes: “Which one best fits the culture and can best reproduce in our community?” The general guideline is: “Could an average young believer start and organize such a church?” Otherwise, church planting will be left to a few highly trained individuals.


With these two guidelines in mind, CPM approaches help believers start simple churches that enable disciples to faithfully follow Jesus as the body of Christ. When initiating CPMs, for the sake of reaching all the lost, we advocate CPM churches that are relevant and reproducible. That type of church will need to emphasize smaller church meetings in easy to find locations. These might include homes, offices, coffee shops and parks rather than locations that are costly to purchase or build.

Four Helps in Getting to Church

I was training a group of workers in Southeast Asia when we came to the subject of helping small groups (e.g. Bible study groups) actually become churches. The workers in this context were struggling to get churches started, not to mention the larger goal of a Church-Planting Movement (CPM). I took them through a set of four helps in the church-planting process—really a rather simple, but purposeful exercise in birthing authentic communities of faith.

It is not difficult to start reproducible churches if you have a clear process in your evangelism and discipleship. Clear purpose is vital. You must have a clear lesson(s) in your early discipleship which helps a group of believers consciously become a church. To establish churches that will start new churches, we have found these four practices especially helpful. 

  1. Know what you are trying to achieve: a CLEAR DEFINITION of when a group becomes a church.

It is difficult to start a church if you do not have a clear idea in mind of when a group moves from being a cell group or Bible study to a church.

Scenario: A group has been meeting independent of any church for three months. They have great worship times and deeply moving Bible studies. They listen to the Word and try to obey whatever it says. They are making plans to visit a nursing home to minister to the needs of people there. Are they a church?

There’s probably not enough information there for you to decide. Is it a church or a great Bible study group? If your definition of when a group becomes church is not clear, you might be tempted to call this group a church. The first step in starting churches is having a clear definition of what a church is—the basic essential elements of a church. We start small training groups that intend from the beginning to become churches.

Acts provides a concrete example that can be helpful here:

Activity:  Read Acts 2:36-47. Try not to make things too complicated. Boiled down, what made this group a church?

Write down your answer.

Here is an example of a definition of church created from the Acts 2 passage. It emphasizes the ten elements of the 3 Cs of church: Covenant, Characteristics, and Caring leaders.

  • Covenant (1): a group of baptized (2) believers [Mt.18:20; Acts 2:41] who recognize themselves as Christ’s body and are committed to meeting together regularly [Acts 2:46] 
  • Characteristics: they regularly abide in Christ through the characteristics of church:
  • Word (3): Studying and obeying the Scripture as authoritative
  • The Lord’s Supper or Communion (4)
  • Fellowship (5): loving care for one another
  • Including giving offerings (6) to meet needs and minister to others
  • Prayer (7)
  • Praise (8): whether spoken or sung
  • They live out a commitment to share the gospel (evangelism) (9)
  • Caring Leaders (10): As the church develops, leaders are appointed according to biblical standards (Titus 1:5-9) and exercise mutual accountability, including church discipline.

For the sake of church planting, the 3Cs are in order of priority. The most important C is “Covenant.” The group sees itself as church (identity) and has made a commitment (covenant) to follow Jesus together. This does not mean they must have a written covenant. They have simply made a conscious step to become church. Many times a church will give itself a name to signify this step.

The second part of the definition is “Characteristics.” A group may call itself a church, but if it lacks the basic characteristics of a church, it is not really a church. If an animal barks, wags its tail and walks on four legs, you may call it a duck, but it is really a dog. 

Finally, a healthy church will quickly develop indigenous (local culture) “Caring Leaders.” A church may exist before these leaders develop. We see a good example of this at the end of Paul’s first journey. In Acts 14:21-23, Paul and Barnabas visited the churches they had planted in the previous weeks and months and appointed elders for them at this point. For the long-term health of the churches, caring leaders should be raised up from within.

The first step in starting churches is: Know what you are trying to achieve and have a clear definition of when a group becomes a church.

  1. When you start a training group, MODEL from the beginning the parts of church life mentioned above.

A church planter was having a hard time helping the groups he was training to become churches. As he described to me his training groups, the process sounded like a sterile classroom experience. As the group worked through the lessons, they received knowledge but not warmth. In this classroom setting he was teaching them to start something different in their homes. He was modeling something different than what he hoped they would do. I suggested he change his training meetings into a format similar to what he would want the churches to look like. This would make it much easier for these groups to actually become churches.

The easiest way to transition a new small group into a church is to start living as church and modeling church from the very first meeting. That way, when you get to the discipleship lesson on church, you have already been experiencing it together. For example, in each meeting starting the first week, T4T employs a three-thirds discipleship process. This involves looking back to evaluate the previous week, looking up to receive more from God, and looking ahead in order to obey and serve Him faithfully. These three-thirds incorporate the basic elements of church such as worship, prayer, Word, fellowship, evangelism, ministry, etc.

Do your best from the first small group meeting to model what you want this new church to eventually look like. The lesson on church should come as no surprise. You don’t want to spend 4-5 weeks together as a “class” and then announce: “Today we will have the lesson on church and become a church,” and completely change your manner of meeting. Becoming a church should be a natural next step in the process of meeting together.

In part 2 we will share the other two essentials for helping groups become churches.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Adapted from an article originally published in the September-October 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pp. 22-25.

About Movements

Part 3. God-Sized Vision and Expansion

Part 3. God-Sized Vision and Expansion

By Trevor Larsen –

Our initial goal in 1998 was 200 groups in one Unreached People Group; that was the vision: “God give us 200 groups.” When I said that, I thought: “Should I even tell anyone? They’re going to think I’m crazy!” Because there had never been any progress for decades, in fact centuries. But now, after starting from that one UPG, 75 other UPGs have many believers in this family of linked movements among Muslims, (except one Hindu UPG). As it spreads from our country to other countries, some Buddhist-background Communists are being reached. But the greater focus is on Muslims. Even in countries like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand with Muslim minorities, we focus on the Muslims who live in those countries.

That’s in the DNA that we cultivated from day one. It grows out of my sense of stewardship. From the beginning we decided to count only Muslims in groups, to keep our focus there. We’re in a country in which Muslims are the dominant majority, so we get invitations to other blocks where there are large numbers of Muslims: South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Turkic bloc, and the Central Asia block. And I ask: “If the Lord is giving more fruit in our country right now, even though it’s not the same variant of Islam as other places, can our story build up faith and sharpen ministry models so that other teams might bear fruit elsewhere?” So I’ve been coaching people in the Middle East, who have gotten to movements. We have also been coaching people in other areas who have gotten to movements or emerging movements among Muslims. In some places we have made commitments to a three to five-year period of regular coaching with selected people who are ready to improve their model by aligning with the fruitful practices we discovered.

 We did a lot of ethnographic studies, to fit our model into one UPG’s culture. I did a study on the social-political power of Islamic leaders, and my national partners could ask a lot of questions as my research assistants. I assumed that our model, developed to fit our context, might have relevance in only that one unreached people group we were initially trying to reach. But then our movement bridged over into other unreached people groups. We discovered that our pattern of deeply researching local culture and context implanted the DNA of context-fittedness into our model. This flexibility has enabled us to adjust to different contexts as the gospel spreads. Seeing that gave me more confidence to accept an invitation to the Middle East. I could see it was working in a lot of different cultural contexts. Then some of the participants in training we did in the Middle East who were starting to multiply small groups, joined together with me for a coaching circles series by Zoom. We coached each other while they learned the coaching circle skills. After some time, the fruit of these coaching circles helped two movements develop.  This increased my confidence that I should use part of my time to train and coach outside our country, helping other teams implement the fruitful practices God was teaching us. 

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the spread of the gospel into more places and people groups in our country, and also glad we can help ministries advance their fruit in other countries. I pinch myself at the end of each quarterly evaluation and say: “Am I really in this dream? Lord, what’s to keep it from expanding to the next phase?” When I look at our last five years’ history before COVID, it has multiplied by 13 times, this makes me really excited about the next five years. We keep asking, “What obstacles are preventing growth? How can these be minimized? Let’s keep growing!” 

I think about the parable in Mark 4:26-29, where Jesus talks about the farmer who goes to sleep after he plants his seed. Jesus says, “He’s sleeping, and he doesn’t know how, but the seed sprouts and grows! It grows all by itself!” That is how I have felt many times. It doesn’t mean you don’t plant your seed with diligence as best you know how. But there’s also a sense that after you finish a day’s work and lay down your head on the pillow, you can just sleep, because God is working and he’s going to take the fruit of the gospel forward through other people. 

Since 2008, when we multiplied past 50 groups, I started writing articles after every quarterly retreat. (We have three days of quarterly retreats with the local movement catalysts, and I usually write three or four articles based on our discussions, for these 14 years. That’s lot of articles!) And I’ve been asked to teach a lot of courses for bachelors and masters and doctoral programs. So I have a lot of courses on biblical, mission, and leadership topics related to movements. I’ve sorted these articles into a set of 12 books under development. I’ve partially written each book, and three books are finished so far. They’re available on a website: If you want to dig deeper into this, you can download the digital books that have been finished so far. We write first in our national language based on our long dialogs with field leaders. I type while movement catalysts discuss what they have been learning. It is quite a long process: rechecking it, cross-checking, making sure we have triangulation from different church planters in different populations and settings before we become confident that a fruitful practice has emerged. One of our completed books is on fruitful practices, another is the core skills that fruitful catalysts train over and over to their leaders and are reproduced through the generations of groups. Other books are biblical tools that leaders of multiplying sets of believer groups are using.
About Movements

The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 2

The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 2

By Steve Smith –

In part 1 we focused on the essential characteristic of “urgency.” We now turn our attention to…


Grit: tenacious determination and staying power toward a mission, often in the face of insurmountable odds

Rooster Cogburn (epitomized by John Wayne in True Grit), guns ablazin’, conjures up images of someone staring down insurmountable odds to achieve a mission. But in the spiritual realm, tenacious grit has always characterized men and women God has called to launch movements.

Jesus’ one-term mission could not be stopped. His face was set like a flint toward the troubles that awaited him in Jerusalem (Lk. 9:51-53). Along the way, many declared their desire to follow Him. But one by one, He challenged their willingness to count the cost and their determination to stay the course (Lk. 9:57-62). Grit.

Grit characterized our Lord’s wrestling in the wilderness temptations and in Gethsemane’s final hour—the determined staying power to walk through insurmountable odds to reach the goal the Father had set.

Jesus implored His disciples to live with similar grit—an unwillingness to take “no” for an answer. Rather, like the widow beseeching the unrighteous judge, they “ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Lk. 18:1-8).

Thus, the disciples throughout Acts continued their outward kingdom push in the face of amazing odds. When Stephen was stoned and fellow believers were dragged off to prison (Acts 8:3), what did they do? They preached the word as they were scattered! Paul, stoned in Lystra, got right back up to re-enter the city before moving on to the next destination. Paul and Silas, bound fast in a Philippian jail, sang praises to the Most High when circumstances were the most low. Spiritual grit kept them at the mission.

What circumstances can arise that would cause you to quit the mission of God? What is your grit level?

Secrets of grit can be found in Jesus’ determination to face the cross:

Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising [lit. counting it as nothing] the shame. (Heb. 12:2)

The joy of what was before Him—pleasing His Father, fulfilling His mission, providing redemption—led him to count the shame of the cross as nothing. The upside far outweighed the downside. 

Paul expressed similar sentiments.

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Tm. 2:10)

The upside for Paul—that God’s chosen people in each place might find salvation—far outweighed the downside of enduring ridicule, beatings, imprisonment, shipwrecks and stoning. Only a vision of the upside of the mission will steel us with the grit we need to endure the downside of difficulty to achieve it.

Our generation has within its means the ability to engage every remaining unreached people group and place with fruitful CPM approaches. We have within our ability the means to overcome every obstacle to fulfillment of the Great Commission and the Lord’s return. But such a generation will only rise up when it is resolved to finish the task with a renewed sense of urgency, steeled by grit to push through every obstacle.

Moses, the man of God, prayed in Psalm 90:12: 

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.


What would happen if the global church recognized that time is limited? What if we set a date for completion of engaging every people group with an effective CPM strategy by a year such as 2025 or 2030? Perhaps we might live with wiser hearts filled with a sense of urgency, making whatever sacrifices are needed to fulfill the mission objective.

Let us live with a sense of urgency and endure with grit till the end is at hand.

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pages 40-43, and published on pages 239-247 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from 24:14 or Amazon.

About Movements

The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 1

The Intangibles of Urgency and Grit – Part 1

By Steve Smith –

Jack (pseudonym for a Southeast Asian disciple of Christ) grasped the bars of his cell door and peered down the hallway. His heart raced as sweat beaded down his forehead. Should he speak or not? As a former soldier, he recalled the cruel horrors inflicted in military prisons. Arrested for preaching the gospel, he was now on the wrong side of the bars. 


Should he speak? How could he not? His Lord had commanded him.


Gripping the bars more tightly, he spoke in a low voice to any guards stationed nearby. “If you don’t let me go, the blood of 50,000 people will be on your heads!” He darted back to the corner of the cell, awaiting a beating. But it never came.


I did it! I witnessed in the face of my captors.


The next day, grasping the bars, he spoke more loudly. “If you don’t let me go, the blood of 50,000 people will be on your heads!” But again no retribution came.


Each day he repeated this encounter with his captors, his voice growing louder with each declaration. The jailers admonished him to be quiet, but to no avail.


At the end of the week, Jack shouted so all could hear, “IF YOU DON’T LET ME GO, THE BLOOD OF 50,000 PEOPLE WILL BE ON YOUR HEADS!” For hours this went on until finally several soldiers grabbed Jack and loaded him on to a military truck. 


Jack looked around in apprehension expecting the end to come shortly. After a couple of hours, the truck rolled to a stop. The soldiers escorted him to the side of the road. “We can’t stand your constant shouting! You are at the border of the county. Leave here and never preach in this place again!”


As the trucked rambled back down the dusty road, Jack blinked in surprise. He had been faithful to the call to preach the good news in a county that had never heard of Jesus. The Lord had called him and the Lord had protected him. A few weeks later, filled with a sense of urgency and emboldened with spiritual grit, Jack and another brother slipped back into the county under cover of darkness to obey the great King’s command. Soon they led the first man to faith—a man through whom a church planting movement would be birthed.


The Intangible Elements of Fruitful CPM Catalysts


Two intangible characteristics rise to the top over and over again that seem to separate the most fruitful church planting movement (CPM) catalysts from many other laborers. Like Jack in that Asian prison, these elements are evident in the life of Christ and in the lives of the disciples in Acts. They are the accelerants that seem to spur on a spiritually-abiding servant of Christ to fruitfulness. Though it is hard to define them, I will refer to them as urgency and grit. For this purpose, I define urgency as purposefully living on mission with the awareness that time is limited. Grit is a tenacious determination and staying power toward that mission, often in the face of insurmountable odds.


These are not normally the first characteristics we look for in church planters and missionaries, usually because of negative connotations… 


  • Urgency: “He is too driven!”
  • Grit: “She is too stubborn!”


It is becoming less common to find laborers in the kingdom (at least in the Western world) who face their mission with gritted teeth and a sense of urgency that often keeps them awake at night. We much prefer people who have “margin.” Yet Jesus and Paul would probably not fit our definitions of people with appropriate margin. Today we might counsel them to “slow down,” spend more time on non-work interests and adjust their work-life balance.


Yet the men and women through whom God is birthing kingdom movements seem remarkably blind to the idea of margin as we define it. Rather, the mission of God consumes their lives, as it did with Jesus.


His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17)


Zeal was a defining characteristic that the disciples recalled about Jesus. Did John Wesley, writing sermons on horseback as he traveled from meeting to meeting, have such margin? Would a movement have emerged if he had? As William Carey chafed in England to be set loose to fulfill the Great Commission, would we characterize his life as a margin-filled life? Would Hudson Taylor, Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King, Jr. fit such definitions?


Jim Elliot, the martyr said, 


He makes His ministers a flame of fire. Am I ignitable? God deliver me from the dread asbestos ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame. But flame is transient, often short-lived. Canst though bear this my soul—in me there dwells the Spirit of the Great Short-Lived, whose zeal for God’s house consumed Him. ‘Make me thy fuel, Flame of God. God, I pray thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee.  Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine.  I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.’


An encounter with CPM catalysts today evokes similar descriptions: passion, tenacity, determination, restlessness, driven-ness, zeal, faith, unwillingness to quit or take “no” for an answer. It is time to re-elevate the intangible elements of urgency and grit to the level we see them in the New Testament. 


Can they become out of balance? Undoubtedly. But the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction.




Urgency: purposefully living on mission with the awareness that time is limited


Jesus lived with a sense of urgency, knowing his time of ministry (three years) was short. From the beginning to the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus frequently references his “hour” of departure from the world (e.g. Jn. 2:4, 8:20, 12:27, 13:1). Jesus knew in His spirit that the days were short and He must redeem each one for the mission on which His Father had sent Him.


We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. (Jn. 9:4)


For example, while the disciples were ready to camp out in Capernaum after the prior day’s amazing success, Jesus decided exactly the opposite. Knowing His mission was to get through all of Israel before His departure, He left to begin the next stage of the journey.


And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mk. 1:38-39; see also Lk. 4:43-44)


A colleague describes this mentality as “one-term urgency” referring to the common length of a missionary term of service (3-4 years). 


Today’s experts might warn Jesus about “burnout.” But Jesus’ desire was not to burn out but to “flame out” or “burn up” at exactly the time the Father chose for him. Flaming out describes living with the urgency and intensity of the Father’s pace (His voice) toward the Father’s mission (His goal) for the Father’s pleasure (joy derived from knowing we are pleasing Him and doing His will—Jn. 4:34, 5:30). 


Burnout has little to do with margin or lack of margin, but rather with lack of fulfillment of a life well spent. Everyone today is busy; not everyone is purposeful. A busy existence lived aimlessly totters toward burnout.  But one rooted in the Father’s presence and for His purposes is life-giving. We end each day receiving God’s commendation: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Flaming out is letting our lives be completely used up by God at His pace and in response to His promptings, and letting Him end our lives in His good timing.


Jesus implores His disciples to live in a similar way. Urgency marked a common theme of the parables Jesus taught them. In the parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 24:1-14) the servants are to compel people to come to the feast before it is too late. There is no time to lose. In the parable of ready servants, the servants are to stay “dressed for action” to keep alert for the Master’s return (Lk. 12:35-48). Urgency means that we don’t know how much time we have, so our lives are to be lived on purpose, redeeming the days.


The disciples carried this sense urgency with them in the mission efforts of Acts. Paul’s three journeys of thousands of miles (at the pace of foot traffic) and dozens of places squeezed into the span of 10-12 years has a dizzying effect. Paul had a mission (preaching to all of the Gentiles) and not much time to fulfill it. It is why he hoped not to linger in Rome but to be propelled by them toward Spain so that there would be no place left to lay a foundation for the gospel (Rom. 15:22-24).


Urgency to fulfill the stewardship given them by God has always driven the most fruitful servants of God:


This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. (1 Co. 4:1-2)


In part 2 we will focus on the essential characteristic of “grit.”

Steve Smith, Th.D. (1962-2019) was co-facilitator of the 24:14 Coalition and author of multiple books (including T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution). He catalyzed or coached CPMs all over the world for almost two decades.

Edited from an article originally published in the January-February 2017 issue of Mission Frontiers,, pp. 40-43.

About Movements

Learning Fruitful Practices through Experimentation

Learning Fruitful Practices through Experimentation

By Trevor Larsen –

One important way we have learned our ministry principles is through field experimentation, observing what God is doing through our interventions, while reflecting on Scripture. When we found a little bit of fruit (individuals who came to Christ, groups of believers, or other indicators of spiritual growth), we tried to examine: Why was that? What helped us progress? How can we increase those practices that were more fruitful? How can we decrease those practices that were not proving fruitful?

The earliest churches learned what God wanted them to do, by observing what he was doing, reflecting on how he had used humans to bear fruit, then reflecting on Scripture to obtain insight on God’s intent. We can see in Acts two examples of first observing what God was doing through people, then reflecting on Scripture to confirm new insight. Peter was surprised but compelled to follow, when God used supernatural means to lead him to the home of Cornelius a centurion of the Italian cohort. He was surprised because this advance of the gospel among Gentiles did not fit with Jewish traditions. “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me” (Acts 10:28-29). Clearly sensing God’s leading, both through God’s direct intervention and through the response of unbelievers to God, Peter shared the gospel. Acts records the Jews’ amazement that God was working among. While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-45)

They became convinced of God’s unexpected leading, by observing what God was doing. What they saw God doing in unbelievers, helped them understand what they should do: preach the gospel to Gentiles, baptize them, and accept them into their community of believers. When called by the leaders in Jerusalem to give account for this surprising development, Peter added that what he observed gave him new insight on John the Baptist’s words about Jesus’ baptism: “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life(Acts 11:15-18). For Peter, and for the Jerusalem leaders, the combination of observing God’s work in unbelievers plus reflecting on Scripture to gain new insight, convinced them of what they should do. 

Acts 15 reflects this same pattern of first observing (or hearing what had been observed by others) what God was doing among believers, followed by reflection on Scripture confirming God’s direction. This convinced all the early church leaders who had gathered, of what they should do. 

In short, we create experimental conditions, and do quarterly assessment, to rigorously promote fruitful practices and extinguish practices that were not fruitful. Of course, we don’t extinguish biblical practices, whether or not they contribute directly to fruitfulness, like helping the poor. We do that too, even though that may or may not create more believer groups, because of God’s commands to help the poor. That’s a different discussion; I’m just talking about those practices that we can modify without violating or ignoring biblical principles. 

Our DNA of experimentation has been fascinating to people who want to learn from us. When they come, they can hardly believe it, because local movement catalysts are telling us, each quarter: a) new experiments they are doing, b) how far they progressed in the three months they were doing an experiment, and c) what they will modify as they go forward in the next three months of the experiment. Our innovation goes forward in small increments each quarter. You can imagine the creative people we’ve attracted, and how their creativity has developed. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed: innovating and finding innovative local workers. 

It’s not that all the fruitful people I oversee are innovative. But I especially work with the 40% to 50% of them who are innovative, because they’re the ones discovering new pathways. The nature of UPG ministry is that there have been no gains for decades. If we keep doing the things other Christians were doing, we can be pretty sure we will still get no gains in the next decades. That’s why innovation is important in reaching UPGs, in areas where there have been no significant fruit gains in the past.

Here’s one example of experimental learning through a comparative case study. I would recruit good local evangelists, then watch them work and compare their stories. Comparing different practices of different people and comparing their fruit, is part of my learning and theirs. 

Our first team leader started three groups. He seemed to provide the model for the rest of the evangelists to follow. But he never got past three groups. Meanwhile the other guys were like a turtle in a race against a rabbit. They were far behind but kept working and eventually started one group. The leader already had three groups, then those who had started more slowly developed two groups each, then three groups each. Suddenly the planters who had started more slowly reported four and five groups, because some of their groups had started others. But the leader was still leading three groups personally, then it reduced to two groups. What was happening?

This comparison of different planters’ fruit created a question. “They’re all graduates of the same Bible College and had the same coaching, and all were working in the same area where 99.6% of the people are from the majority religion. What is happening differently?” Those who were getting to more groups were not forthcoming to share things in meetings for fear of embarrassing the leader who was getting more frustrated. They were not voicing a straightforward analysis. When I investigated it further, I found out that the leader was afraid that if he talked to groups rather than individuals, he would increase the risk for himself and his family. So he was only talking to individuals. That approach was getting a certain measure of fruitfulness, but it was not being reproduced by local people. Meanwhile the other planters who had started more slowly, were all talking with natural groupings of people and seldom with individuals. 

In our country, you almost never find someone alone. It’s so crowded, everybody’s always together. Even if you go to the store, or you go running, no matter where you go, you see people in groupings. They’re with their brother and their uncle and their friend: maybe four or five or six people. I don’t mean formal groups, but groupings. So those evangelists who started more slowly began to talk to groupings of local people. They adjusted their dialog style to fit into groupings. Initially, the sharing of the gospel in groupings came along more slowly than sharing with individuals. But when the people in the groups began to talk about the gospel with each other, and began to come to faith while supporting one another, those first local groupings of believers were not sterile. They reproduced by imitating the pattern. Individuals who were won to the Lord alone were sterile. They couldn’t have babies; they couldn’t copy the same process, because in our country, no one talks to an individual alone. If someone did talk to another person one on one, it seemed to signal that something was illegitimate about the topic being discussed. If something had to be hidden, it was probably shameful. “Why do you need to talk to an individual alone?” You’ve got to hide something. But when you talk in groupings of people who already know each other, it’s a signal that this is something that’s good to talk about with others. 

The people who came to the Lord in natural groupings, have an experience like the people in an Alcoholics Anonymous group: they give and receive support while they share what they are learning. These are people in Unreached People Groups who are doing something different than all the other people. They need each other for support to seek the Lord together through the Bible. They legitimize each other: “It’s okay to open the Bible and discuss it.” They provide protection for each other from being attacked by neighbors and friends. They can come to the Lord together and this is something they can replicate, because the social organization and dynamic supports ongoing interaction. It’s like a ping-pong game enjoyed by a group of friends: the ball is being hit back and forth while they laugh with each other. They dialogue back and forth about the Scripture and how to apply it, and the interaction is part of the fun. They’re fun-loving people; they like to do it together. So now they’re harnessing the social dynamics already present in the culture, and the groups start to multiply.

I shared the previous story as an example of how we learned one of our main principles. We have 15 or 20 fruitful practices. The fruitful practice we learned from this case was “Groups, not Individuals.” They made slogans out of each of the fruitful practices, and this is one of them: “Groups, not Individuals.” This fruitful practice is one of our guiding principles. We discovered it through experimentation, by comparing what was working to what was not working as well. 

When we had been going for 10 years and had 110 groups, I participated in a conference where I was asked to share our case study. I was on the plane thinking “They’re not going to believe it when I tell them there are 110 groups of people from the majority religion, who have come to Christ and are discussing the Bible and applying it. They’re going to think I’m lying!” But all the other case studies presented were from Africa and India, and they all had far more fruit than that!

It was such a good jolt for me, to realize that what had been developing in our country was only a little drop in the bucket, compared to what others had. It was a great encouragement to my faith to reflect: “There aren’t limits on an expandable system. This can keep going.” And during that conference, I received CPM training for the first time, done by David Watson: the DMM model.

Many conference participants didn’t like the CPM training because it jolted the way they’d been doing things in many years of ministry. They raised objections that didn’t need to be raised. I kept thinking: “I should stand up and tell them: ‘Why don’t you leave the room and let me to listen to this speaker?’ This is what we’ve been learning in our country. These principles are the same things God has been teaching us. How did he figure this out, in a different country?” That was my experience in that conference. What we had learned through experimentation in the field for many years, others had also discovered, in other contexts among other kinds of unreached peoples. But most of us don’t want to stop doing what we have been doing and try a new model.

About Movements

A Church Planting Movement is a Leadership Movement – Part 2

A Church Planting Movement is a Leadership Movement – Part 2

By Stan Parks –

In part 1 of this post, we looked at four ministry patterns that set the stage for ongoing leadership development in movements. This post presents seven additional patterns.


Obedience: Obedience-based, not Knowledge-based (John 14:15)


The biblical training in CPMs is powerful because it does not just focus on knowledge. Each person is expected to obey what he or she learns. Too many churches mainly focus on knowledge—leaders are those who have the most knowledge (i.e. education). Success is gathering more members and teaching them more information. In CPMs, the focus is not on how much you know, but on how much you obey. As groups study the Bible, they ask “How will I/we obey this?” The next time they meet, they answer “How did I/we obey?” Everyone is expected to obey, and leaders are identified as those who help others obey. Obeying God’s commands in the Bible is the fastest path for disciples and leaders to become mature.


Strategy: the Gospels and Acts Provide the Main Strategy and Models 


Not only does the Bible contain commands, it also contains patterns and models. In the 1990’s, God led various people working among the unreached to focus on Luke 10 as a pattern for mission into new areas. Every CPM we know of uses a variation of this pattern of laborers going out two by two. They go seeking the person of peace who opens their home and oikos (family or group). They stay with this family as they share in truth and power, and they seek to bring the whole oikos to commitment to Jesus. Since this is a natural group (not a group of strangers gathered together), leadership is already present and just needs shaping instead of a wholesale transplant. 


Empowerment: People Become Leaders by Leading


This sounds obvious but is often overlooked. One example of this occurs in the Discovery model of CPMs, where the interested oikos begins to study the Bible. A key series of questions is used to “make disciples” of those studying the story of God from Creation to Christ. In some of these CPMs, the outsider will never ask the questions. Instead he or she will meet separately to coach an insider(s) to ask the questions. The answers come from the Bible, but the question-asker(s) learns to facilitate the process of learning and obeying. We see an example of this in Training for Trainers (T4T). Each new disciple learns to share what they learn – by training others and thereby growing in ability to lead. The same principle applies in continuing to develop leaders: believers have an opportunity to practice and train far more quickly than in most traditional church settings. 


Biblical Leadership: Standards from Scripture


As leaders emerge and are appointed, biblical standards are used, such as the requirements for new church leaders in Titus 1:5-9 and for established church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:1-7. The believers discover and apply roles and responsibilities from a thorough study of leadership passages. As they do this, they find various character elements and skills needed at each stage of the maturing church. They also avoid foreign extra-biblical standards or requirements for church leaders. 


Unbiased: Focus on the Fruitful (Matthew 13:1-18)


Leaders are chosen, not based on their potential, personality, or style, but rather on their fruitfulness. When anyone asks CPM trainers how we know who will be fruitful when we first train people, we often laugh. We have no idea who will be fruitful. We train everybody and the “least likely” often become the most fruitful while the “most likely” often don’t do anything. Leaders become leaders by reaching people who become their followers. As these leaders emerge, more time is given to those who are more fruitful so they can produce more fruit. Special training weekends/weeks, annual training conferences, intensive training programs (often mobile) are some of the tools used to keep developing and equipping fruitful leaders. Then they in turn equip others.


Shared: Multiple Leaders (Acts 13:1)


In most CPMs, churches have multiple leaders to ensure more stability and to develop more leaders. This has the key advantage of allowing leaders to keep their existing jobs. This enables the movement to spread through ordinary believers, and avoid crippling dependence on outside funds to pay leaders. Multiple leaders can better manage leadership tasks. They also have greater wisdom together and mutual support. Peer learning and support between multiple churches also play important roles in helping individual leaders and churches thrive. 


Churches: Focus on New Churches


Appointing and developing leaders enables the planting of new churches on a regular basis. And this happens naturally. As a new church starts and is full of passion for their new Lord, they are asked to repeat the pattern that led to their salvation. So they begin to look for lost persons in their networks and repeat the same process of evangelism and discipleship that they just experienced and were trained to reproduce. In this process they often realize that some leaders are gifted to focus inside the church (pastors, teachers, etc.) and some are gifted to focus outside (evangelists, prophets, apostles, etc.). The inside leaders learn to lead the church – to be and do all that a church should be (Acts 2:37-47) both inside and out. The outside leaders model and equip the whole church to reach new people. 




What can we learn from God in these new movements he has birthed? Are we willing to let go of cherished cultural and denominational biases and use the Bible as our primary manual for birthing and developing leaders? If we follow biblical commands and patterns and avoid extra-biblical requirements for leaders we will see many more leaders emerge. We will see many, many more lost people reached. Are we willing to make this sacrifice for the sake of the lost and the glory of our Lord?

This post is taken from pages 100-104 of the book 24:14 – A Testimony to All Peoples, available from  24:14 or from Amazon.  It is a revision by the author of an article originally published in the July-August 2012 issue of Mission Frontiers,