Church Planting Essentials – Recognizing Emerging CPMs

Church Planting Essentials – Recognizing Emerging CPMs

CPM (Church Planting Movements) has become a popular phrase in the Christian missions and church planting world.  But what I am finding as I travel the globe and exchange ideas with many different leaders is a watering down of the meaning of CPM.  I had one leader declare, “I have been doing CPM for more than 25 years!”  Yet, when I began to ask questions about his ministry, he was redefining his very traditional ministry as CPM.

By traditional ministry I mean:

  • A focus on starting churches which adhere to and look like a particular church, denominational or doctrinal position.
  • A requirement that leadership go through a formalized and institutionalized educational process in order to be qualified to lead.
  • Formal ordination of leadership.
  • High to strict control of the teaching/preaching ministries of the church and the ordinances of Baptism and Lord’s Supper by ordained leaders.
  • In some cases a high focus on having a building that is called “church”.
  • Usually, a high control of all aspects of church.

Please understand that I don’t consider any of the above wrong.  Any organization or church has the right to determine how they will do church and what qualifies individuals and groups to be considered a part of the denomination, organization, or church.  But, many of these requirements are extra-Biblical and slow church planting in such a way that natural replication cannot happen.  And simply renaming what one has been doing for years as a CPM does not make it CPM.

A Church Planting Movement (CPM) is an indigenously led Gospel Planting and obedience-based discipleship process that has resulted in a minimum of 100 new locally initiated and led churches, three generations deep, within the last two years for ministries in new areas.  There is trained local leadership in each church, and each leader relates to a mentor. Every-Member obedience-based discipleship that leads to ministry in the community is the norm for all new Believers and leaders.  The outsider who may have initiated/catalyzed the process is not considered the first generation.  The outside leader may maintain a mentoring relationship with the growing leadership of the movement.  See Church Planting Movement (CPM) – Our Definition.

CPM is local churches (within a people group, nation, megacity, or population segment) rapidly and regularly planting multiple new churches within the same people group as a normal part of being and doing church.  CPMs may be outsider initiated, but are insider reproduced, controlled and sustained.  Making disciple-makers is the focus, Scripture is the source of all teaching, and obedience to Scripture, not any particular doctrinal stance, is the starting place for all teaching.

By “outsider” I mean the person or group who initiated the first new churches.  Being from the same culture or language group does not make one an insider.  Even in CPMs, as churches spread from one community to another, the outsider who may be a very new Christian does not stay and lead the newly initiated church.  All church planting starts in and stays in the hands of local people.  Outsiders coach the process rather than perform the process.

So, following are the questions I ask to determine if there is potentially a CPM in progress:

  • How many churches have you seen started in the past two years?  I’m looking for a number close to 100.    If the process is less than two years old, then I look for a proportional number.  The older a ministry, the higher the number I am looking for.  A thousand paid workers starting a few hundred churches every year is not a CPM!  No paid workers and 15 local churches starting 30 new churches in the past two years may be the beginning of a CPM, and if there are three generations, the likelihood of a CPM is greater.
  • How many generations of churches starting new churches without outside support have you seen in the past two years?  I’m looking for a minimum of 3 generations in multiple lines, not counting the outside organization or church that may have initiated the process.  If there are not significant generational patterns, then there is not a CPM, regardless of how many churches have been started.
  • Who started these churches?  Was it paid outsider church workers or non-paid local Believers?  By “started” I am referring to the on-the-ground worker leading the Bible Studies or leading people to Christ.  Outsiders may be coaching, but the work is done by an insider.  I’m looking for young believers/leaders starting new churches and young churches starting new churches, not paid or volunteer outsiders starting churches.
  • How were these workers trained?  I’m looking for spontaneous church planting by young churches as well as non-institutional rapid training systems that give quick and minimal Biblical training to local leaders.  I am also looking for mentoring systems, formal and informal, that address just-in-time learning systems that present Biblical material and personal coaching when needed to meet a current situation or problem.  (Remember, I am looking at how it’s starting, not the longterm system.  Formal training systems will be required as the system matures.)
  • What curricula do you use to equip your leaders?  Every curriculum begins with a philosophy.  This philosophy is passed on, intentionally or unintentionally, to every learner.  I’m looking for Scripture-only, obedience-based curricula that do not beat a denominational or doctrinal drum.  (What distinguishes a denomination or denomination-like church is the insistence that all related churches and any churches they start adhere to a particular and peculiar perspective and associated practices related to the Bible, as well as their particular church history and the way they do church.  All denominational and denominational-like churches are Bible-based and history-based.  They may require a strict or loose adherence to their doctrine and/or practices.  Their doctrine, however, is at best a subset of what Scripture has to say, and at worst contain extra-Biblical teachings and practices based on their church history.  All worship styles, leadership styles, and governance styles are mostly extra-Biblical, even though all denominations will claim a Biblical background for their practices.)  See Why Denominations Cannot Complete the Great Commission.

There are many other factors that indicate a CPM.  All of these are discussed and/or presented at,, and (this blog).

 This article is about rapid recognition of a potential CPM, not how to do CPM or how to fully evaluate CPM.


David Watson
Irving, Texas

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