Church planting movements are happening all around the world at an accelerating rate! In this Ultimate Guide to Church Planting Movements, you will learn what church planting movements are, where they are happening, and the methods being used to catalyze them.
Vision for CPM
While the church is in decline in West, people coming to faith through church planting movements is exploding in Asia and Africa!
In the United States, the church has been in decline since 1976. In 1976, 91% of Americans identified as Christian. By 2022, that number has dropped to 64% and Pew Research expects the number of self-identifying Christians to fall to less than 50% by 2070.
Current church planting models and methods are not keeping up with population growth.
Meanwhile, churches that were planted as a result of church planting movements has exploded from 1,219 in 1995 to 6,879,000 in 2022!
These 7 million new churches amount to around 100 million new believers around the world!
According to data from 24:14, the vast majority of these movements are taking place in Africa and Asia.
The Holy Spirit is clearly working through church planting movements (CPM) to reach unreached people groups in and around the 10/40 Window! Read on to learn about CPM, how you can get involved, and discover resources to learn more!
What is a church planting movement (CPM)?
The most commonly referred to definition of a church planting movement is from David’s Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements:
A church planting movement is a rapid and exponential increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.David Garrison Church Planting Movements
While David Garrison’s definition describes church planting movements well, the ambiguity and subjectivity of the terms “rapid” and “exponential” have led others to pursue adding some more objective components to the definition. More objective definitions make it easier to classify what is a movement and what isn’t. It also allows for the number of movements in the world to be counted.
David Watson’s definition adds total churches, church generations, and time components to his CPM definition in his book, Contagious Disciple Making:
A church planting movement is an indigenously led Gospel-planting and obedience-based discipleship process that resulted in a minimum of one hundred new locally initiated and led churches, four generations deep, within three years.David Watson Contagious Disciple Making
Church Planting Generations
If you’re not familiar with term “church generations”, generational growth in churches occurs when one church plants another church. The original church is generation 0 and the newly planted church is generation 1. If that newly planted church plants another church, that church is generation 2, and so on.
Similar to David Garrison, 24:14 uses a descriptive definition for church planting movements:
a multiplication of disciples making disciples, and leaders developing leaders, resulting in indigenous churches (usually house churches) planting more churches24:14
But in order to quantify the total number of active movements in the world, 24:14 uses the following “movement markers”.
In order to qualify as a CPM, the movement must be:
- Reproductive: consistent 4th generation churches being started in multiple streams
- Stage 5+ on the CPM Continuum (see below)
Using these “movement markers”, 24:14 estimates that there were 1,855 active church planting movements as of March 2022.
Now that you know what a church planting movement is, let’s look more closely at the cycle CPMs follow and some of the tools being used to catalyze CPMs in something called “4 Fields”.
4 Fields Framework for CPM
The CPM cycle can be hard to conceptualize. That’s why CPM practitioners have found it useful to develop a simple framework for people to visualize the components of a church planting movement. The most well-known of these frameworks is called “4 Fields”.
What is 4 Fields?
4 Fields is a framework for visualizing the CPM cycle. Its purpose is to cast vision for church planting movements, encourage having a tool for each field, and evaluate the efficacy of the tools being used to pursue movement.
The Four Fields of Kingdom Growth was inspired by Jesus’ parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:26-29. Each field corresponds to a primary component of the CPM Cycle:
- Field 1 – Empty Field (Entry Plan)
- Field 2 – Seeded Field (Gospel Plan)
- Field 3 – Growing Field (Discipleship Plan)
- Field 4 – Harvest Field (Church Formation Plan)
The 4 Fields framework actually has 5 parts. The 5th part in the middle is a leadership development flywheel that takes place in each of the 4 fields.
- Part 5 – Leadership Development Plan
Leadership development is crucial to sustaining movements!
The 4 Fields Tools section includes examples of tools that church planters are using to catalyze and sustain movements around the world.
4 Fields Tools
Church planters are encouraged to have at least one tool for each of the 5 parts of 4 Fields. Shown below are examples of tools that can be used in each of the 5 parts of the Four Fields framework.
Many tools have been developed for each of the 5 parts. Movement practitioners can mix and match these tools for their church planting context and are encouraged to have 1 or 2 tools for each of the 5 parts. Training in the tools and overall 4 Fields framework can be found at e3partners.org/training-resources/.
How to start a church planting movement (using 4 Fields)
If you want to be used by God to help catalyze church planting movements, but feel unsure about where to begin, it’s helpful to view your plan in the context of the 4 Fields. Develop your CPM plan by choosing one or more tools from each of the fields.
Field 0: Abide & Seek The Lord
Any experienced movement practitioner will tell you, simply implementing a method will not get you to movement. Pursuing a church planting movement must be done in the context of a healthy relationship with the Lord through abiding in His word together as a team.
- Mobilize a prayer team to pray for your team (which should include locals, if possible!) and the lost in your target people or area
- Set aside time to fast and seek the Lord for direction on your strategy
Field 1: Entry Plan
Your entry strategy will vary greatly depending on your context and location, but here are some entry strategy ideas that church planters are using around the world:
- training believers in how to have Gospel Conversations
- have believers create an oikos map
- door knocking
- Bible or spiritual content distribution
- social media ads that lead to further discovery and follow-up
- gospel events with follow-up plan
Field 2: Gospel Plan
The following gospel presentations are being used by church planters around the world.
- 3 Circles
- The Bridge
- Back to God’s Village (honor & shame)
- The Sacrifice of Christ (Gospel cube for Muslims)
- The First & Last Sacrifice (Any 3, for Muslims)
- Creation to Christ (C2C)
- Creation to Revelation (C2R)
- Discovery Bible Study (story sets can be tailored for any context)
Field 3: Discipleship Plan
Your short-term discipleship plan should include some basic discipleship lessons and also some culturally relevant lessons (idols, demonic realm etc). Your long-term discipleship plan should give new disciples a broader exposure to the story of God’s Word.
Here are a few examples of discipleship plans being used:
- 7 Commands of Christ
- Rapidly Advancing Disciples (RAD)
- Discovery Bible Study (story sets can be tailored for any context)
Field 4: Church Formation Plan
If you are going to be pursuing church planting movements, it is a good idea to know what your definition of church is! Many aspiring church planters get started with Fields 1, 2, and 3 without having a clear picture of how to get to Field 4 or knowing when they have arrived. The resources below can help bring some clarity to your church formation plan.
- Church Circles (based on Acts 2)
- Handy Guide to Healthy Church (see Field #4)
Part 5: Leadership Development Plan
In John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Law #1 is that everything rises and falls based on leadership. The same will be true of your movement! That’s why it’s important to have a leadership development plan that is being implemented from day 1. Don’t worry it’s easier than you think!
Below are a few tools being used for leadership development.
Now that you have a basic plan of how to start a church planting movement, let’s get you connected to others that are pursuing the same thing!
No Place Left
No Place Left is a global network of people using 4 Fields. You can get connected and find future in-person 4 Fields trainings at noplaceleft.net.
If you’re looking to go to the mission field as a career missionary and want to work alongside others using 4 Fields as their framework, check out e3 Partners. They train all of their long-term missionaries in 4 Fields to give everyone a common language and framework to operate from.
Now that we have a framework for the CPM cycle, let’s look at two of the most popular approaches for catalyzing CPMs: DMM & T4T.
Methods / Models / Approaches to CPM
There are two methods (or models or approached) that most CPM practitioners use to pursue catalyzing a church planting movement:
- Disciple Making Movements (DMM)
- Training for Trainers (T4T)
What’s the difference between a framework and a method?
The difference between a framework and a method is that methods are generally more prescriptive in the process and tools that are used to pursue movement.
While it’s important to understand the differences between these two methods, let’s start with what they have in common:
- Both methods encourage practitioners to look for “people of peace” or “houses of peace” that will open up their community to the gospel.
- Both methods emphasize the importance of groups studying God’s Word together and growing as disciples, instead of one-on-one discipleship.
- Both methods focus on obedience-based discipleship, instead of knowledge-based discipleship.
- Both methods ideally end up with a rapid and exponential growth of churches among a people group or even across people groups.
- Both models emphasize that following the method does not guarantee a CPM! But implementing the method is like raising the sails on the sailboat to increase the chances that the blowing wind of the Spirit.
There are numerous other similarities including the 10 Universal Elements of a CPM below.
Disciple Making Movements (DMM)
As the name implies, Disciple-Making Movements (DMM) emphasizes Jesus’ command to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations”.
Whereas many Christians think of discipleship only taking place after conversion, DMM emphasizes “discipleship unto conversion” through the Discovery Bible Study (DBS) process. In a DBS, a group of family and friends (an oikos) follow a consistent set of questions as they study the Bible and make “obedience goals” for the week based on what they just learned. Since the DBS questions are consistent, anyone can learn them and facilitate a DBS… even a non-believer! The important thing isn’t who the facilitator is, but that the Holy Spirit is speaking through His Word to the people.
The DBS process often takes several weeks or even months before a non-believer hears the gospel (the part about the death and resurrection of Jesus) because DMM often uses a Creation to Christ (C2C) story set that covers key points in the Old Testament that build up to the gospel.
DMM strongly de-emphasizes believers teaching others the Bible and instead emphasizes pointing people to God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit can teach them what they should know.
So, what is a Disciple Making Movement?
A disciple making movement exists when churches plant churches:
- through gospel activity
- that has abundant fruit among the lost,
- that multiplies these disciples (people growing in obedience to all of Jesus’ commands)
- who in turn replicate themselves in others, so that we can see at least four generations regularly produced
- in multiple streams of disciple-making activity
- and these streams multiply consistently into churches
David Watson popularized DMM after documenting what happened in a large movement that took place among the Bhojpuri people in India. Keith Parks and Stan Parks have also been influential in leading and training others in DMM.
The book Contagious Disciple Making gives the best introduction to DMM.
Training for Trainers (T4T)
Ying Kai and Steve Smith popularized T4T after documenting a large church planting movement that took place in China in the early 2000s.
As the name implies, T4T emphasizes viewing all believers as potential trainers of other believers. So T4T is training for people that will go on to train others. The vision for multiplication and generational growth of disciples and churches is baked right into the name!
T4T practitioners disciple (train) the saved in movement principles using the 3/3rds (Three-Thirds) process for groups meeting together.
To learn more about the 3/3rds process, go to t4tglobal.org/three-thirds-process.
Compared to DMM, church planters following the T4T method share the gospel relatively quickly with their family and friends (oikos) compared to DMM practitioners.
A favorite saying of T4T practitioners is:
If you meet a lost person, share with them.
If you meet a saved person, train them.
T4T is also known for popularizing “The 7 Commands of Christ” for short-term discipleship.
The 7 Commands of Jesus
- Repent & Believe
- Be Baptized
- Make Disciples
- Lord’s Supper
The 7 Commands aren’t saying that Christ only gave those 7 commands. The 7 Commands were chosen because they are great initial short-term discipleship lessons (Field 3 in 4 Fields) that naturally flow into talking about the functions of a church (Field 4 in 4 Fields) described in Acts 2:36-47.
Some church planters draw a circle representing the group and icons representing each of the 7 Commands (and a couple other icons) drawn inside or outside of the circle representing whether the group is doing that item (drawn inside) or not (drawn outside).
These church circles can then be drawn to represent generational church growth in what is called a “gen map” or generation map of church growth.
Both of these methods follow a similar pattern called the 7 Stage CPM Continuum but on different time frames (DMMs typically take a bit longer). Learn about the 7 Stage CPM Continuum next!
7 Stage CPM Continuum
Do church planting movements follow a consistent pattern?
People who have studied CPMs around the world have found that they follow seven stages of development.
- Moving Purposefully – a team is consistently trying to consistently establish new 1st generation believers and churches
- Focused – some 2nd generation churches are forming that were started by 1st generation believers
- Breakthrough – consistent 2nd generation churches, some 3rd generation
- Emerging CPM – consistent 3rd generation churches, some 4th generation
- CPM – multiple streams of 4th+ generation churches
- Sustained CPM – visionary, indigenous leaders leading the movement with little or no outside help
- Multiplying CPMs – the movement is catalyzing new CPMs in other unreached peoples and places
These seven stages should be viewed as a progressive continuum of progress as opposed to distinct stages.
This 7 Stage CPM Continuum can help church planting movement practitioners visualize the process that they are pursuing and understand the direction that they need to head to advance the movement to the next stage.
People who have studies movements have found that they not only follow a similar pattern, they also contain many similar “elements” and “factors”.
10 Universal Elements of a CPM
Even though movements are taking place on different continents among a variety of cultures, movements hold many things in common. David Garrison studied numerous movements around the world and found that every movement had the following in common:
- Extraordinary prayer
- Abundant gospel sowing
- Intentional church planting
- Scriptural Authority
- Local leadership
- Lay leadership
- Cell or house churches
- Churches planting churches
- Rapid reproduction
- Healthy churches
You can learn more about each universal element, in David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements.
10 Common Factors in CPMs
In his book, David Garrison also lists the following 10 factors that most CPMs had in common, but these elements were not found in every CPM:
- Worship in the heart language
- Evangelism has communal implications
- Rapid incorporation of new converts into the life and ministry of the church
- Passion and fearlessness
- A price to pay to become a Christian
- Perceived leadership crisis or spiritual vacuum in society
- On-the-job training for church leadership
- Leadership authority is decentralized
- Outsiders keep a low profile
- Missionaries suffer
Again, you can learn more about each common factor in David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements.
The history of church planting movements dates back to the early church, but now seems to be rapidly accelerating! Below is a rapid-fire history of movements!
The first church planting movement likely took place in the Roman Province of Asia (modern day Turkey) and is described in Acts 19:8-10:
8 Then [Paul] entered the synagogue and spoke boldly over a period of three months, engaging in discussion and trying to persuade them about the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 And this went on for two years, so that all the inhabitants of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the message about the Lord.Acts 19:8-10
While this passage only says that “all the inhabitants of Asia heard the message about the Lord” we see other evidence of churches being planted (Revelation 2-3) and elders being appointed in the churches (Acts 14:23).
Early Church Age
Data is noticeably lacking from the first few centuries after the death and resurrection of Jesus, but all signs point toward rapid church growth and expansion throughout the Mediterranean region in the first 3 centuries.
Below is a map of the estimated locations of house churches or house church networks throughout the region in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries.
The Middle Ages were a period of relatively limited church growth and the rapid expansion of Islam. There were likely few, if any, church planting movements during this time.
The Protestant Reformation, the invention of the printing press, the Moravians, William Carey, various “revivals” and “awakenings” all helped kick off a new wave of church expansion starting in the 1500s. 3 major waves of mission movements helped Christianity spread rapidly to the Coastland regions (wave 1), Inland regions (wave 2), and among unreached people groups (wave 3).
In the late 1900s the church exploded in China to where it is estimated that there are now between 60-100 million believers. Even though these movements weren’t tracked, there no doubt that numerous church planting movements took place there!
Same with Africa. It is estimated that there were only 8.7 million Christians on the continent in 1900, but now there are 667 million! No doubt there were abundant church planting movements there as well!
Finally, India has seen (and is seeing) several large sustained church planting movements that have transformed the map from lots of red (unreached people groups) to a strong mix of red, orange and yellow (being reached).
As mentioned above, the number of churches planted through tracked movements is growing exponentially! In addition to that, there has been numerous churches planted through untracked movements in the Global South in the 1900s and continuing on through today.
There are now taking place on every populated continent!
Check out our Get Involved page for ways to join in this global movement of the Holy Spirit!
As of March 2022, there are 1,855 movements in the stage 5 and 5,160 active movement engagements.
It is estimated that 99 million people have come to faith through church planting movements.
There was an average of 14 believers in the 6.8 million house churches that have formed as a result of church planting movements.
Church planting movements are happening on all six inhabited continents with the largest number happening in Africa and Asia.