Jesus modeled to his disciples how to build the kingdom by making disciples who could make disciples. In three years the number of Jesus’ disciples grew from 12 to 70 (or 82 – Lk 10:1 “70 others”) then to a core of 120 in an upper room (Acts 1:15) out of a total of 500 that he appeared to (1 Cor. 15:6). In three years Jesus raised up at least 500 disciples in addition to the thousands who hung on his words as he traveled from place to place.
If you developed 500 disciples in three years, not counting the thousands who attended your meetings, what would you call that—a Disciple- Making Movement?
Acts is the kingdom growth of the gospel accounts on Spirit-empowered steroids. Pentecost was a game- changer in that regard. Luke describes how kingdom movements had become normal (and viral) over a 30-year span. Kingdom movements were not a passing phenomenon.
If we come to the Acts record, laying aside our presuppositions, we are amazed at how fast, through whom, and how far the kingdom can spread.
Twenty of the 28 chapters have numerical indicators. Stop and consider what your band of 500 disciples in AD 30 would feel like in AD 35. The gospel had spread to thousands of new disciples and many new churches had started throughout all of Judea, Galilee and Samaria (9:31). What would your band of disciples call this—a church-planting or disciple-making movement?
Then consider the Jerusalem church 27 years after beginning. With most believers having fled the city earlier (8:4) there are still many thousands of new disciples (21:20). The movement is still multiplying.
Paul’s journeys over the span of only ten years defy expectations of how far and rapidly the kingdom can grow—six to eight Roman provinces penetrated with multiplying disciples and churches. Any missionary with such results in 2-3 terms would categorize this as a movement of God.
Within 30 years the eastern half of the Roman Empire is filled with kingdom witness. Acts perpetuates the expectation of kingdom movements taught and modeled by Jesus.
Examine the timeframe of Acts (especially the first five years) and ask the questions: “How rapidly does the Spirit make disciples who in turn make disciples? How quickly are new churches formed? How quickly were leaders developed?” Fruitful CPM practitioner, Nathan Shank, says, “Whoever said we set the pace? If we take credit for the pace, then we are taking credit for the growth. ” If growth is God’s responsibility (1 Cor. 3:6-7), then surely pace is also.
When the numbers are as large as the thousands given in Acts and the places for these disciples to meet are small (often meeting in homes (2:46); probably the norm once they were kicked out of the temple), then how do you interpret what is happening? Disciples are making disciples. These disciples are forming new groups and churches wherever they can – homes, public spaces, etc. When disciples are making disciples and starting churches in new homes along the way, we call that—a Church- Planting Movement.
Taken from “The Lens of Kingdom Movements in Scripture: A Biblical Exegesis of Church-Planting Movements” – Steve Smith