What is a Church Multiplication Movement?

Ton Choy church - CopyOur vision and prayer is for a Church Multiplication Movement to occur among the Iu Mien of Southeast Asia.  In fact, no Church Multiplication Movement has ever occurred where there wasn’t dedicated and abundant prayer offered on behalf of the targeted people.  So you can play a very important part!  But what is a Church Multiplication Movement (CMM)?

CMMs have been called a number of different things, including Church Planting Movements (CPMs) and Indigenous Biblical Church Movements (IBCMs), among others.  The primary example is the growth and multiplication of the early church in the book of Acts.  The gospel was spread by early Christians and coverts, who often gathered in very simple and sometimes secret house churches, over entire regions far beyond the direct influence of the apostle Paul or other apostles.  The essential “engine” to the movement was the Holy Spirit, and his method was multiplication.

A multiplication of churches happens when Christians from one body establish a new church and the believers in the new church go out and plant another generation of churches, usually of new believers with whom they’ve shared the gospel.  This reproduction continues until there are many generations of churches and entire regions or people groups are reached with the gospel.  A CMM is distinct from a “people movement” in that new believers experience continued discipleship as a part of local congregations.  In people movements, believers are multiplied by masses of people accepting and sharing the gospel, but in CMMs, churches are multiplied and can provide on-going discipleship, encouragement and accountability for the new believer.

A CMM is the only way large people groups can be reached, especially in creative access nations where open and centralized evangelism is not permitted.  Growth by addition cannot keep up with population growth and the mortality rate, even if hundreds of new believers are won every single month.  Only exponential growth (multiplication) can make ground on the population dynamics of large people groups.  This is why it is essential that we pray and work for a Church Multiplication Movement—it’s the only way the Mien of Southeast Asia (numbering over 1 million) will be reached!

Only God can start a CMM, but his servants can all play a part.  We never want to over-estimate OR under-estimate our role in CMMs.  Praying for the Mien is one way we acknowledge that we cannot just do it by our own wisdom, finances, power or strategy, and so we call out to God to move among them.  And while it’s not the only thing we can do to reach them, we believe that praying for the Mien might be the very best thing.

Those who have studied such movements around the world have discovered that there are 10 universal elements in every CMM:

  1. Extraordinary Prayer
  2. Abundant Evangelism
  3. Intentional Planting of Reproducible Churches
  4. The Authority of God’s Word
  5. Local Leadership
  6. Lay Leadership
  7. Cell/House Churches
  8. Churches Planting Churches
  9. Rapid Reproduction
  10. Healthy Churches

Explanation of the 10 Universal Elements

Extraordinary Prayer

We see examples of believers praying in the book of Acts, and then God moving.  In history many great missionary movements began out of prayer meetings.  In modern times prayer has been incredibly critical for every known CMM.  Prayer is extraordinary when more people are praying than ordinary, when people pray longer than ordinary, when people pray in more ways than the ordinary, and when all these prayers are accompanied with a higher level of faith than ordinary.

Abundant Evangelism

CMMs only occur when the gospel message is being shared and communicated in an abundant, overflowing fashion rather than in smaller “strategic” ways.  Abundant Evangelism means that the masses are hearing the good news, and often in multiple ways—both through mass media and personal testimony.  The image is the Parable of the Sower who sows his seed abundantly, wherever it may land.

Intentional Planting of Reproducible Churches

Church planting approaches that seek to plant one big, dynamic and impressive church usually fail in planting reproducible churches.  Great success in one location actually becomes a barrier to multiplication because the model is not reproducible.  Reproducibility often means that churches are very simple and easy to copy—it doesn’t require experts to plant them.  Such churches must be intentionally planted to be reproducible because it almost never happens otherwise.  CMMs occur when simple churches are planted with the DNA to reproduce.

The Authority of God’s Word

CMMs are not “run” by people or organizations, but they go beyond the control and policy of human entity.  Consequently, churches in known CMMs universally rely on the Bible for their source of authority and guidance.  The Bible is what guides doctrine, church practice and the everyday life of the believers in the movement.  This is true even in contexts where the people are largely non-literate, but have the Bible in an oral form.

Local Leadership

Churches in CMMs are led by the people in that location where the church was first planted rather than being supplied by preachers from the outside or from a centralized training institution.  In each new church plant, believers disciple and train their relatives and neighbors and to lead and reproduce the church.  Missionaries are not the leaders of churches, but may help disciple some of the first believers and walk alongside them as they plant and lead new churches.

Lay Leadership

If churches in a network rely only on being supplied with highly trained pastors from seminaries, there will always be a leadership shortage, and leadership will often be determined based on knowledge rather than obedience.  This traditional approach great stifles multiplication and a CMM will not occur.  However, in a CMM, churches multiply being led by those who have been trained and often work in normal jobs to support themselves rather than being paid by the church, or by outsiders, including missionaries.  We call such people “national tentmakers.”

House Churches

The use of dedicated church buildings is not completely absent from all CMMs, however, the majority of new church plants are small groups who meet in their own homes or shops.  The size of most churches in CMMs is small (maybe only 10-30 people) but, as a result, is much more reproducible and doesn’t rely on a great budget to operate.

Churches Planting Churches

Churches cannot multiply (and therefore be a CMM) if they are not planting churches that plant churches that plant churches.  In CMMs, all churches understand that it is their responsibility (and nature) to plant more churches.  When multiple generations of churches have been planted, we can begin to describe this as a CMM.  A CMM really grows when churches do this on their own and not because of outside influence.

Rapid Reproduction

In known CMMs around the world, churches multiplied much faster than people expected.  In some cases, hundreds of thousands of simple churches have multiplied in a matter of 5-10 years.  This rapid reproduction builds momentum and a sense of urgency that helps to both motivate churches to reproduce and hold them accountable for doing so.  The rapidity of church reproduction often leaves people exclaiming, “This is like the book of Acts!”

Healthy Churches

Those who have studied existing CMMs have observed that the churches are healthy bodies of believers, which include regular worship, evangelism, discipleship, service and fellowship.  When churches are strong in all five of these areas it is natural for them to grow and reproduce.

There are other common elements to CMMs that may not be completely universal.  Those are the following:

  1. A Climate of Uncertainty in Society
  2. Insulation from Outsiders
  3. A High Cost for Following Christ
  4. Bold Fearless Faith
  5. Family-Based Conversion Pattern
  6. Rapid Incorporation of New Believers
  7. Worship in the Heart Language
  8. Divine Signs and Wonders
  9. On-the-Job Leadership Training
  10. Missionaries Suffered

As you pray for the Mien of Southeast Asia, reflect on all of these concepts and pray accordingly.

To learn more about unreached people groups click HERE.

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