The mode of training is also critical, particularly at the earlier levels of training. The problem with a Bible college or seminary-type training is that it uses a classroom-academic methodology that is inconsistent with the model of church that is being planted. The college – trained church planter may often feel uncomfortable with the informal atmosphere of the home gathering or the church under a tree. He or she wants to preach extensively rather than equip the people to discover the truth from God‘s Word for themselves so that they can become mature believers, not dependent on the church planter. The mode and tools of training should be consistent with the expected model of church.
Extractive training should also be avoided if possible. When emerging leaders are removed for significant periods of time from their local community they become an outsider to their own community. They often return from the training (if they return at all) with an outsider (and academic) view of church and ministry, with strange ideas and habits and are no longer able to relate naturally to their people.
On-the-job training is much more effective in terms of rapid church multiplication. This continuous training is done primarily through a discipling/mentoring relationship between the coordinator/trainer and the church planter. It reflects Jesus‘ model of training with the disciples. They were almost constantly with Him.
Every believer, specially gifted by the Spirit of God, is to be a minister in the work of the Kingdom. Kingdom work is not the domain of the ―professional trained paid church planter/pastor/leader. In fact, the separation of clergy and laity has perhaps become one of the greatest barriers to the engagement of the believers in the ministry. This unbiblical class distinction leaves most believers with a secondary role in the work of the ministry. Classified as laity or volunteers they are generally expected to serve the professional leaders in secondary functions leaving the important roles to those who are trained, credentialed, and paid.
The criticality of discipling every believer, because every believer is to be a minister using the gifts assigned to them by the Spirit, leaves no one out. There are no spectators. Everyone must be empowered to do what God has ordained them to do.
This fundamentally changes the role of the church planters. They must resist the temptation of doing the work and focus on equipping the new believers to do the work of the ministry. From the very beginning nothing is done by the church planter that could be done by the local believers. It becomes part of the DNA of the new church. The ministry is done by the believers and unless the believers do the ministry it doesn‘t get done. It is an unhealthy church where the church planter or paid pastor is the minister and the people are the spectators, or are relegated to secondary roles of ministry.
When the people are the ministers there is a ready army of workers. The local believers win their neighbors to Christ. The local believers lead the newly formed church including all the functions of church. The local believers minister to the needs of the people in the community. The local believers go out and plant new churches. Rapid church multiplication simply cannot happen through a strategy of ―professional paid ministers. It will only happen when the believers are empowered and engaged in the work of the ministry.
Initially in the East Africa project the Muslim sheikhs were avoided. They were considered to be the enemy. As the principle of the person of peace began to take hold, some church planters started to focus on the sheikhs. They were indeed often the spiritually sensitive people in the community. They were influential with the people. Many sheikhs were discovered to be the person of peace to bring the gospel into the community. In one part of the Rift Valley the church planter began to seek out sheikhs with the gospel message. Within three months, five local sheikhs had become believers and were deeply engaged in a discipleship process with the church planter sometimes meeting together several times a week. These five then began to carefully share the newly discovered ―truth with other sheikhs in nearby communities. Within twelve months, seventy-two sheikhs became followers of Jesus. The goal in this area is to see one thousand sheikhs become Christ- followers and then to ―go public. The desire is that the entire community will be transformed through the power of the gospel.
“Perhaps no one principle in this strategy of church planting has had such a singularly powerful impact as the principle of finding the person of peace. From a strategic perspective it becomes one of the key elements in this overall process. Many church planters have been freed from the overwhelming burden of an institutional/traditional method of church planting by adopting the person of peace principle.”
“Nekarat is a diligent and committed church planter. For years he worked tirelessly succeeding in establishing thirteen churches throughout his region. By most accounts he was a very successful church planter. But for Nekarat it was not enough. Learning the principle of the person of peace he immediately changed his whole approach and began looking for that special person or family that God had already prepared in each community to receive the gospel message and to open their community to the gospel. Within the next two years seventy new churches emerged in his region.”
One of the best resources to learn about DMM/CPM is free. It is the doctoral dissertation that David Hunt wrote about how he was used to catylize a DMM/CPM in East Africa.
When he was twenty-two years old, Ibrahim turned from being trained as a sheikh to becoming an ardent follower of Jesus. He was so thrilled that he had ―found the truth‖ that he could not stop himself from telling others about it. First he led his wife to Christ, then his cousin Eyobe. Within three months, thirty of his neighbors had become believers in Jesus, creating no small stir in his Islamic community where his father was the current sheikh. Needing to band together, this small group of believers met regularly to support each other, study the Word together, worship their new-found God, and talk about how to reach still more. Ibrahim and Eyobe met regularly with the local church planter for discipleship, but the church planter was not regularly in the village and did not lead any church services. After a few more months, Ibrahim had a passion to take the ―truth that he had recently discovered to the next community so he took his cousin Eyobe and began to look for an open listener in the neighboring village. After initial resistance it was the sheikh of that community who first responded to the gospel, and through his witness a new community of believers quickly emerged. Ibrahim and Eyobe moved on to the next community where again God moved and a church was born. Eyobe planted three churches in less than twelve months because no one told him he couldn‘t! He did the thing that naturally came out of the passion of his heart to share Jesus with his community and those around Him. Today these communities of believers are continuing to grow and mature as the people learn how to become obedient follow of Jesus.
I sat in a room of about forty church leaders gathered to hear one of the crosscultural missionaries I work with talk about church planting movements in Asia. He’s been in the middle of the action for over a decade. He knows how to mobilize new believers to share their faith and plant churches. This man told us that one of the key elements of a church planting movement is to ensure that every new believer has a simple way of immediately sharing their story and the gospel with friends and family.
The church leaders wanted to dissect his model of evangelism. They wanted to discuss our cultural context. They wanted to go deeper. They wanted to lead this brother into complexity and abstraction where we felt safe. He listened for a while and then asked patiently and repeatedly, “But who could you share the gospel with this week? What are you willing to do?” We were the ones with the theological degrees, the ministry experience and the resources. He was the one with the new believers and the new churches.
from Movements That Change The World
by Steve Addison
the leading evangelist in the world today, Billy Graham, recognizes the tremendous potential of this plan when used properly in the church. In response to the question “If you were a pastor of a large church in a principal city, what would be your plan of action?” Mr. Graham replied: “I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve people around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laypeople who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them. I know one or two churches that are doing that, and it is revolutionizing the church. Christ, I think, set the pattern. He spent most of his time with twelve men. He didn’t spend it with a great crowd. In fact, every time he had a great crowd it seems to me that there weren’t too many results. The great results, it seems to me, came in this personal interview and in the time he spent with his twelve.”
from The Master Plan of Evangelism (1963)
By Robert Coleman
We should not expect a great number to begin with, nor should we desire it. The best work is always done with a few. Better to give a year or so to one or two people who learn what it means to conquer for Christ than to spend a lifetime with a congregation just keeping the program going. Nor does it matter how small or inauspicious the beginning may be; what counts is that those to whom we do give priority in our life learn to give it away.
from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman
Here was the acid test. Would his disciples carry on his work after he had gone? Or what might be even more to the point, could they do as good a job without his bodily supervision as they could with it? This may sound like asking too much, but the fact is that until this point was reached in their Christian nurture, Jesus from a purely human point of view could never be sure that his investment in their lives would pay off for the Kingdom. If the disciples failed to impart his Spirit and method to others who would keep this work going, then his ministry with them all these years would soon come to naught.
from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman
This answers the question of how it is to be done, but it is necessary now to understand that this method can accomplish its purpose only when the followers practice what they learn.
It did not matter how small the group was to start with so long as they reproduced and taught their disciples to reproduce. This was the way his church was to win—through the dedicated lives of those who knew the Savior so well that his Spirit and method constrained them to tell others. As simple as it may seem, this was the way the gospel would conquer. He had no other plan.
from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman
Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.
When will the church learn this lesson? Preaching to the masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the work of preparing leaders for evangelism. Nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian workers do this job. Building men and women is not that easy. It requires constant personal attention, much like a father gives to his children. This is something that no organization or class can ever do. Children are not raised by proxy. The example of Jesus would teach us that it can be done only by persons staying close to those whom they seek to lead.
from The Master Plan of Evangelism
By Robert Coleman
Five years ago I watched a little youtube video that completely changed my life and redirected my approach to ministry. This is that video:
The video introduced me to the idea of Church Planting Movements (CPM), or rather the development of Disciple Making Movements (DMM) that lead to Church Planting Movements. I got the book that was behind the video (Church Planting Movements by David Garrison) and it started a major paradigm shift in my thinking. One of the CPM’s in Asia mentioned in at the beginning of the video was started by a Southern Baptist missionary in Cambodia named Bruce Carlton. Here is what David Garrison says about the DMM Bruce started in Cambodia:
Instead of planting a church himself, as had previously been his custom, the missionary began a mentoring relationship with a Cambodian layman. Within a year, he had drawn six Cambodian church planters into his mentoring circle. In 1993, the number of Baptist churches grew from six to 10. The following year, the number doubled to 20. In 1995, when the number of churches reached 43, the Cambodian church leaders formed an association of like-minded churches which they called the Khmer Baptist Convention (subsequently changed to the Cambodian Baptist Convention). The following year, the number of churches climbed to 78. In 1997, there were 123 Baptist churches scattered across 53 of the country’s 117 districts. By the spring of 1999, Baptists counted more than 200 churches and 10,000 members.
I have since read much about CPM and DMM, but wasn’t aware that Bruce Carlton had written anything on the subject. Therefore when I came across a book written by him (Amazing Grace: Lessons on Church Planting Movements From Cambodia by R. Bruce Carlton) I had to get a copy. Unfortunately, the book is not available in digital format and is out of print, but used copies can be found.
The book is certainly not a textbook on DMM or CPM. It is really just a book about his experiences from his 7 years as a missionary in Cambodia. However, that 7 years of ministry resulted in an amazing harvest of souls and numbers of churches planted, and I felt there must be some nuggets of wisdom hidden in those stories. I was not disappointed. Three characteristics of DMM that leads to a CPM came through loud and clear as he told the stories. (1) He recognized the need to focus not on doing ministry or planting churches himself, but rather on discipling a few men and women who would become the church planters and who would disciple others in the 2 Timothy 2:2 paradigm of ministry. In other words, his focus was on multiplication through making disciples that make disciples. (2) His emphasis on prayer as the only way to find those people to invest his life in (what some CPM practitioners call “persons of peace” based on Luke 10). (3) His emphasis on obedience based discipleship and involving the disciple in hands on practice. Teach something. Wait for the disciple to put it into practice or teach it to others. Then teach some more. I will just place some quotes from the book that will give you an idea of what made all the difference and resulted in an amazingly fruitful ministry.
In early 1993 I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of a man who, in a sense, would become my mentor for the next several years. While in my home one day, this man spoke the following words of wisdom to me, words that would reshape and refocus our entire approach to church planting in Cambodia. He said, “Most people working cross-culturally usually ask themselves, ‘How can I reach these people with the gospel?’ This question narrows their vision and places the responsibility of the enormous task on their own shoulders, as if they were the ones who had to do it all. What we should ask ourselves is, ‘What is it going to take to evangelize these people?’ This question broadens our vision and opens new opportunities in that we no longer carry the burden by ourselves. We realize that there are more resources out there than just us. One key is figuring out how to multiply yourself. If you must plant every church yourself, in a good year you may be able to plant three or four churches. However, if in that one year you multiply yourself in the lives of three or four men, they may be able to start three or four times more churches in one year.”
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses
entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2
I soon began to pray, “Lord, raise up some men and women in whom I can invest my life — those who have the desire to reach their own people with the gospel of hope and who have the burden to plant Cambodian Churches.” I did not know what God was going to do. I did not know from where God would call those whom I could mentor, but I tried to keep the faith that God in His wisdom would provide. I prayed, “Lord, I only want to work with the men and women whom you have called for this task…. I will not actively seek out those for this task. Lord, send them to me.” Within several months, the Lord raised up the first man.
The first man the Lord raised up for Bruce to disciple was a man named Rith.
Each week, I went to Rith’s home, and our studies focused on one step in the church-planting process. I always instructed Rith that before he could learn the next step in the process he must teach the material to another person. From the beginning, I tried to instill the concept of 2 Timothy 2:2 into Rith’s life.
I am not criticizing other cross-cultural workers, but I am reflecting on a truth that God revealed to me about my own life and ministry through my work with Rith. For example, in the beginning I sometimes treated the Khmer believers as children who were not capable of making decisions. I also expected them to consult with me about where to start new churches and became upset when they did not do so. I have witnessed many such paternalistic patterns in cross-cultural work and found none of them ever to be truly successful. I had to abandon my paternalistic patterns of dealing with Cambodians. This involved daily checks on my words and actions as I worked alongside the Khmer people. This is a continuing process. As I checked my words and actions, God did teach me increasingly more about the capabilities of the Khmer believers. Consequently, I shared with Rith another vision I had for the ministry in Cambodia. The vision was that every church birthed out of our church planting ministry would be birthed and led by Cambodians….. To this day, every Khmer Baptist Church started in Cambodia through this church-planting ministry or through the Khmer Baptist Convention has been started and led by Khmer men and women.
In 1994, I traveled to Battambang Province to visit churches in that area and to do some work with one of the local church planters working there. When we arrived in Battambang, several church leaders asked me to conduct a baptismal service for them because they did not know how to do it. My conviction was that only national believers should be involved in church leadership, so I refused to baptize the new believers. However, I did agree to teach the church leaders how to conduct a baptismal service. Then the church leaders themselves would be responsible for baptizing their own people.
The common qualification they shared was not capability but availability. These Cambodians have given themselves to God to be used of Him. One of the greatest blessings I received through the ministry God gave me in Cambodia was the realization that the same Holy Spirit who lives and works in my life is the same Holy Spirit who lives and works in in the lives of my Cambodian brothers and sisters. All of the churches that I have been a part of planting through the ministry in Cambodia have been planted by and are being led by Cambodian people themselves.
Some said that it cannot be done this way. They told me that Cambodians were not ready to lead these congregations. They said that the Cambodians were not spiritually mature enough to handle the responsibility. I refused to believe them. Many of these naysayers were measuring the capability of the Cambodian brothers and sisters according to our Western ideas. I saw what God could do and was doing in the lives of so many Cambodian people. I learned that the Holy Spirit does not work according to our Western thinking. The Holy Spirit works as He always has, calling out committed people who make themselves available.
“If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested. What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down? I’m ready for a Christianity that ‘ruins’ my life, which captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and, well, dangerous. Yes, I want to be ‘dangerous’ to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered ‘dangerous’ by our predictable and monotonous culture.”
— from Robert Capon in his book, The Astonished Heart
I just finished reading a doctoral dissertation on T4T written by Steve Smith, who was the co-author of the T4T book with Ying Kai. Smith has been involved with T4T since the early days of CPM research, and has implemented T4T successfully with a rural tribal group in Asia and has taught T4T to missionaries and consulted on various CPM initiatives for many years. He is probably one of the 10 most knowledgeable people on the subject of Church Planting Movements / Disciple Making Movements. This dissertation is book length and includes far more in-depth information about T4T than the book mentioned above. You can download a copy here for free.
However, I am also aware that most won’t take the time to read through a 350+ page doctoral dissertation, so I’m going to just highlight here in the blog some things that caught my attention as I read it.
In the last post I surveyed the 3/3rds process that is the genius of Ying Kai. I mentioned the 4 essential elements that are necessary for multiplication. I want to just quote a few comments from Steve Smith on this subject.
“It has been observed in T4T training around the world that a general lack of awareness prevails about the three-thirds process in general and the four essential reproduction components in particular. In the International Mission Board where T4T was developed, a general lack of awareness prevails in many contexts despite (and sometimes because of) the T4T training received.
I personally find in my T4T training of missionaries, church planters and pastors globally, that these four components are the greatest surprise of the discipling process of T4T. In general, it seems that would-be T4T implementers typically drop many or all of these four components from their training time for two main reasons: lack of awareness of them (i.e. they do not realize they are essential elements of the T4T process) or the pressure of time. In regards to the latter, when trainers are pressed for time, (e.g. the meeting starts late, so they have less time for their T4T meeting), the elements of the seven most commonly dropped to save time are these reproduction essentials. The typical order of what is left out is:
• Practice (most common; the meeting is out of time)
• Accountability (second most common; the trainer is uncomfortable with this)
• Vision casting (third most common; the trainer forgets its importance)
• Setting Goals with Prayer (fourth most common; the meeting runs out of time)”
As one would expect in a doctoral dissertation, Smith did research via surveys of CPM practitioners and drew conclusions from the statistical analysis of the responses and the relative success of those practitioners. Without boring you with the details, I’ll just quote his summary of those results:
“The top performers emphasize all the components except new lesson more than the bottom performers. This indicates an attempt to create a well-rounded meeting, even sacrificing / shortening a new Bible Study at times in order to help the trainers [disciples] work through problems or get to reproduction. In contrast, bottom performers emphasize the Bible study (new lesson) element much more than the top performers… It is important to note, that while the top performers struck a healthy balance of all seven components, the four reproduction components were among the most frequently practiced. This regimen appears to indicate purposefulness by these practitioners to get to reproduction – to implement a new way of discipling that enables their members to become disciple makers.”
In the next post I will describe some things I learned and that surprised me about Vision Casting.
Ying Kai was the missionary who started a Church Planting Movement in a closed Asian country that resulted in 1,738,143 new baptized believers and 158,993 new churches in a 10 year period. The complete story and unique approach to ministry is detailed in T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolutionby Kai and Smith. Kai’s entire approach to ministry is worthy of study, but I want to just highlight one thing Kai did that probably did more than anything else to propel his movement to success of Biblical proportions (book of Acts).
In all of his discipleship, Kai used what is called the 3/3rds process. That means that when he spent time with the disciple or a small group, the time spent together was divided into thirds. If they have two hours together, it is 40 minutes / 40 minutes / 40 minutes. If they have only 30 minutes together, it is 10 minutes / 10 minutes / 10 minutes. No matter how long or short of a time they have together, they always divide the time into thirds and do different things in each of those thirds. The breakdown of the time looks like this:
Look Back (1/3rd)
1. Member Care
2. Worship 3. Accountability 4. Vision Casting
Look Up (1/3rd)
5. New Lesson
Look Ahead (1/3rd)
6. Practice the Lesson
7. Goal Setting and Prayer
Kai says that the most important parts are the bold red parts. At the end of the lesson they set goals concerning who they are going to share the gospel with and pray. The following week they discuss how they did with that goal (in a non-judgmental loving accountability). He always casts vision with a story or a scripture passage, and in the final third they practice the lesson or gospel presentation so that they can teach it to others.
Kai says that these red parts are the parts we are most tempted to eliminate when short of time, but they are the most important part. Consistent goal setting, practice, vision casting and loving accountability are the only way to get to multiplication. A typical Bible Study in the American context would include 1 (Member Care), 2 (Worship) and 5 (New Lesson), but leave out the most important parts that lead to multiplication. And of course, that is exactly what we see happening in a typical American Bible Study… no multiplication. Kai says that if you have to cut short some part, trim back anything but the bold red parts. This 3/3rds process was passed down from generation to generation of believers and became part of the DNA of the movement.
The genius of Ying Kai was the 3/3rds process. There is much more to T4T that is worthy of study and I don’t want to oversimplify the process, but the cornerstone of T4T is this 3/3rds process. By strictly adhering to this process, multiplication is kept front and center in a way that can lead to the birth of a movement. T4T has been adopted (with appropriate contextualization) on just about every continent in a variety of languages / religions / people groups with amazing results.