Mindshifts in Movements – Part 1
– By Elizabeth Lawrence and Stan Parks –
God is doing great things through Church Planting Movements (CPMs) around the world in our day. CPM does not mean traditional church planting becoming very fruitful. CPM describes the God-given fruit of a distinctive ministry approach – unique CPM-oriented “DNA.” The perspectives and patterns of a CPM differ in many ways from the patterns of church life and ministry that feel “normal” to many of us.
Note, we want to identify paradigms we have seen God change for many of us involved in CPMs. But before examining these, we want to clarify: we don’t believe that CPM is the only way to do ministry or that anyone not doing CPM has a mistaken paradigm. We greatly honor all those who have gone before; we stand on their shoulders. We also honor others in the Body of Christ who serve faithfully and sacrificially in other types of ministries.
For this context, we will mainly examine paradigm differences for Westerners seeking to help catalyze a CPM. Those of us who want to be involved need to notice what shifts have to happen in our own mindsets to create an environment for movements. Mindshifts enable us to see things differently and creatively. These perspective changes lead to different behaviors and results. Here are a few ways the Lord’s great work in CPMs calls us to adjust our thinking.
From: “This is possible; I can see a path to accomplishing my vision.”
To: A God-sized vision, impossible apart from His intervention. Waiting on God for his guidance and power.
One of the main reasons so many CPMs seem to have started in modern times is that people accepted a God-sized vision of focusing on reaching entire people groups. When faced with the task of reaching an unreached group consisting of millions of people it becomes obvious that a worker cannot accomplish anything on their own. The truth that “apart from me you can do nothing” applies to all our endeavors. However, if we have a smaller goal it’s easier to work as if fruit depends on our efforts rather than on God’s intervention.
From: Aiming to disciple individuals.
To: Aiming to disciple a nation.
In the Great Commission Jesus tells his disciples to “make disciples of panta ta ethne” (all ethne / every ethnos). The question is: “How do you disciple an entire ethnos?” The only way is through multiplication — of disciples who make disciples, churches that multiply churches, and leaders who develop leaders.
From: “It can’t happen here!”
To: Expecting a ripe harvest.
Over the last 25 years people have often said: “Movements can start in those countries, but they can’t start here!” Today people point to the many movements in North India but forget this region was the “graveyard of modern missions” for 200+ years. Some said, “Movements can’t happen in the Middle East because that’s the heartland of Islam!” Yet many movements now thrive in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world. Others said, “It can’t happen in Europe and America and other places with traditional churches!” Yet we now have seen a variety of movements start in those places as well. God loves to overcome our doubts.
From: “What can I do?”
To: “What must be done to see God’s Kingdom planted in this group of people (city, nation, language, tribe, etc.)?
A training group was once discussing Acts 19:10 — how approximately 15 million people in the Roman province of Asia heard the word of the Lord in two years. Someone said, “That would be impossible for Paul and the original 12 believers in Ephesus – they would have had to share with 20,000 people a day!” That is the point – there is no way they could accomplish that. A daily training in the hall of Tyrannus must have multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples who multiplied disciples throughout the region.
From: “What can my group accomplish?”
To: “Who else can be a part of accomplishing this impossibly great task?”
This is similar to the mindshift above. Instead of focusing on the people and resources in our own church, organization, or denomination, we have realized we need to look at the entire body of Christ globally with all types of Great Commission organizations and churches. We also need to involve people with a variety of giftings and vocations to address the many efforts needed: prayer, mobilization, finances, business, translation, relief, development, arts, etc.
From: I pray.
To: We pray extraordinarily and mobilize others to pray.
We aim to reproduce everything. Obviously personal prayer is crucial, but when faced with the overwhelming task of reaching entire communities, cities and people groups — we need to mobilize the prayer of many others.
From: My ministry is measured by my fruitfulness.
To: Are we faithfully setting the stage for multiplication (which may or may not happen during our ministry)?
Growth is God’s responsibility (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Sometimes attempting to catalyze the first multiplying churches can take quite a few years. Field workers are told, “Only God can produce fruitfulness. Your job is to be faithful and obedient while expecting God to work.” We do our best to follow patterns of disciple-making multiplication found in the New Testament, and we trust the Holy Spirit to bring the growth.
From: The outside missionary is a “Paul,” preaching on the front lines among the unreached.
To: The outsider is far more effective as a “Barnabas,” discovering, encouraging and empowering a nearer-culture “Paul.”
People sent out as missionaries have often been encouraged to view themselves as the front-line worker, modeled after the Apostle Paul. We now realize that the far outsider can instead have the greatest impact by finding and partnering with cultural insiders or near neighbors who become the “Pauls” for their communities.
Note first that Barnabas was also a leader who “did the work” (Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-7). So movement catalysts need to first gain experience making disciples in their own culture and then work cross-culturally to find those “Pauls” from the focus culture whom they can encourage and empower.
Second, even these “Pauls” have to adjust their paradigms. The outside catalysts of a large movement in India studied Barnabas’ life to better understand their role. They then studied the passages with the initial “Pauls” of this movement. Those leaders in turn realized that contrary to their cultural patterns (that the initial leader is always preeminent), they in turn wanted to become like Barnabas and empower those they discipled, to have an even greater impact.
From: Hoping a new believer or group of new believers will initiate a movement.
To: Asking: “What national believers who have been followers for many years might become the catalyst(s) for a CPM?”
This relates to the common idea that we as a culturally distant outsider will find and win a lost person(s) who will become the movement catalyst. While this can occasionally happen, the vast majority of movements are started by cultural insiders or near neighbors who have been believers for several or even many years. Their own mindset shifts and fresh understanding of CPM principles open up new possibilities for Kingdom expansion.
In part 2, we will share some additional ways the Lord’s great work in CPMs calls us to adjust our thinking.
Elizabeth Lawrence has over 25 years of cross-cultural ministry experience. This includes training, sending, and coaching CPM teams to unreached peoples, living among refugees from a UPG, and leading a BAM endeavor in a Muslim context. She is passionate about multiplying disciples.
Adapted from an article in the May-June 2019 issue of Mission Frontiers, www.missionfrontiers.org.