Kingdom Kernels: The Riverbanks of a Movement

Kingdom Kernels: The Riverbanks of a Movement

by Steve Smith

In the last article, we looked at the importance of setting the DNA for a kingdom movement within minutes and hours of a new disciple’s commitment to Christ. That brings up one of the greatest fears about Church-Planting Movements (CPMs): That heresy and immorality will emerge in the movement. Scripture makes it clear that problems will emerge in any ministry (e.g., Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43). 

The problems that develop in CPMs (heresy, immorality, or any other problem) are probably no greater than any other ministry context by proportion, but they appear greater since there are so many new believers, baptisms, discipleship groups, churches, and leaders. In fact, in my observations, the problems may even be fewer in proportion due to the regular mentoring discipleship occurring generation by generation. 

All ministries have problems. This was a primary factor in Paul writing his churches addressing heresy, immorality, and a host of other sins. 

One characteristic of CPMs is that they are out of your personal control but stay within the control of the King. A basic premise of CPMs is to exercise proper influence to shape the movement but not usurp the role of the Spirit to control and be the Teacher of the movement. 

Giving up control, however, does not mean giving up influence. At the outset of discipleship in a movement, there are clear riverbanks (values) to set up that enable the raging rivers of CPM to stay within the banks of orthodoxy and morality. We need not fear heresy and immorality IF we have a plan for dealing with them. If we do not, we should fear them greatly.

The Riverbanks of a Movement: Obedience to the Word Alone as Authority
Ultimately, you cannot control a CPM, or any other movement of God, as long as you want it to continue to grow as a movement of God. What you can do is nudge and shape it and put parameters in place that enable you to call back believers and churches when they inevitably get off-track. These are the banks of the channels through which the movement will flow. The banks keep it in the channel of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and holiness.

The alternative is restrictive control of a movement, similar to the old brittle wineskins of Matthew 9:14-17. Jesus condemned the heavy burden of the rituals the Jewish leaders had imposed on the people of God; they were inflexible and slavish. In these wineskins, orthodoxy and morality are controlled through rules and our personal oversight, and eventually suppress kingdom growth. 

In CPMs, what is essential is that you give emerging believers, churches, and leaders a way to hear God speak in his Word (authority), a value to obey whatever he says (obedience), including a willingness to self-correct the movement no matter the consequences. Scriptural authority and obedience are the twin riverbanks to keep the movement biblical.

AUTHORITY: Authority of God’s Word Alone
The Reformers’ value of Sola Scriptura has been upheld by believers for hundreds of years. Yet, in practice, it is easy to move away from Sola Scriptura by creating competing functional authorities for new believers and churches. Theoretically, we say: “Scripture is their final authority.” Practically, it is easy for the missionary, statements of faith, church traditions, or “words from the Lord” to functionally usurp Scripture as the final authority.

Handing Bibles to new believers and telling them to study them does not make Scripture their final authority. Rather, you must instill a value that God’s Word is their final authority. In CPMs or new church starts you set the DNA for almost all of the new believers’ understanding and practice. From day one, you must demonstrate that it is Scripture that is authoritative for all of life.

Eventually, the movement may spread beyond your direct influence. What authority will they follow when questions or disputes arise? If you set them up to value the Word PLUS your opinion, what will happen when another teacher comes in (orthodox or false teacher) whose opinions contradict yours? How will you call them back when they get off track?

If you have not given them a value that Scripture is the final authority, you have no way to call them back when they err. It’s your opinion versus anyone else’s. If you have set up your word as an authority, then you are setting up the movement for failure.

A Biblical Precedent: 1 CORINTHIANS 5
Even Paul, an Apostle of Christ, resisted setting up his opinion as the authority. Instead, he referred his churches back to the Scripture. From the beginning, heresy and immorality infiltrated the churches that Paul established. There was no way to avoid it. But Paul built into the churches a way to address it. One example is found in 1 Corinthians 5.

“It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. ” (1 Cor 1:5, NASB)

Such a sin would lead us to discount the orthodoxy of a movement. Paul, as a realist however, recognized that the enemy would sow tares. He didn’t let this shake his faith in moving forward.

The answer to the situation was to remove this offending person from their midst until he repented (1 Cor 5:5). At this point, Paul could have used his authority as the spiritual father. The problem is that Paul would not always be there to answer each situation in the future. In addition it would set up the movement for divisiveness: his opinion against another person’s opinion (e.g. 2 Cor 11:3-6).

Instead Paul pointed them to God’s Word.

Remove the wicked man among yourselves. (1 Cor 5:11, NASB)

Paul referred to Deuteronomy 22 as the guide for this decision:

If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel…. A man shall not take his father’s wife so that he will not uncover his father’s skirt. (Deut 22:22,30 NASB)

How do you develop this value of Scripture alone as final authority? One of the best ways is to minimize directly answering important questions (your opinions) but rather refer the believers to the appropriate Scripture in which to meditate for a decision.

In healthy movements the default answer is: “What does the Bible say?” By repeatedly defaulting to this, the believers quickly realize that they must value the Bible as the final authority, not you the teacher, church planter, or missionary. 

To do this, healthy movements develop a simple method for believers to use to learn how to read or listen to the Bible and interpret it accurately. As disciples approach the Word with open hearts and a healthy hermeneutic, they will progressively grow in Biblical understanding becoming self-feeders.

This does not mean that you never answer questions. But as you resist the temptation to answer their questions and give the group of believers a healthy method for interpreting Scripture, you will realize that the body of Christ has amazing ability to come up with biblical answers from the leadership of the Spirit. The self-correcting power of the body is amazing (Matt 18:20).

OBEDIENCE: Value to Obey Whatever the Word Says
To make sure the movement stays within biblical riverbanks, you must secondly build in a value to obey whatever the Word says.

In the 1 Corinthians 5 situation, Paul guided the Corinthians to obedience:

“For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.“ (2 Cor 2:9, NASB)

What a difficult step for them to take, yet they obeyed. Loving obedience was their basic value as followers of Jesus.

Only obedience-based discipleship will keep the CPM in the banks of orthodoxy and holiness. In CPMs, you frequently ask people to be obedient to the Scripture they study each week. Then you lovingly hold them accountable, and vice versa, for obedience in the next meeting. This reinforces obedience. Without it, disciples quickly develop the value to be a hearer of the Word, not a doer.

The enemy is working actively to deceive and create problems. But if obedience is the value, you have a way to call errant believers back. This is what happened in 1 Corinthians 5.

Obedience necessarily includes the discipline of the group to see the issue through. Like the Corinthians, disciples must believe it better to obey the Word and suffer any consequences for correction than to continue in sin.

A Case Study: Wife-beaters
Several of us planned to spend one week training twelve local leaders that represented eighty Ina churches in a budding CPM in East Asia. 

One basic ground-rule was: Try not to answer their questions, but rather ask, ‘What does the Bible say?’” This is so much easier in theory than in practice! 

One afternoon, my pastor friend spent an hour teaching from Ephesians 5: Husbands love your wives. The application appeared to be crystal clear.

After his teaching, I asked if there were any questions. One 62-year-old man in the back nervously raised his hand. “I would like to know if this means we have to stop beating our wives!? ”

My pastor friend and I were appalled. How could he possibly dream there was room for wife-beating after such a clear teaching from the Word?

Back to our ground-rule: “What does the Bible say?” It was at this point that our faith in the power of the Holy Spirit was put to the test.

We carefully shared with the whole group:

If we pray, the Holy Spirit will be our Teacher. If we go to his Word, he will give us a clear answer about beating wives.

First, I want you to stop as a group and cry out to the Holy Spirit: “Holy Spirit, be our Teacher! We want to rely on you! We need you to give us understanding!”

Together, in unison, we bowed our heads and cried out that prayer to God several times. When we were through praying, I said to the group:

With the Holy Spirit as your Teacher, open your Bibles to Ephesians 5. Together read it and ask God to help you answer this question. When you have come to an agreement, let us know.

The twelve huddled together and began talking rapidly in the Ina dialect, which the rest of us could not understand. Meanwhile, we huddled together in prayer. We cried out to God: “Lord, please let them get this right! We don’t need a movement of wife-beaters!” We had to trust that the Spirit of God in the group could overcome the confusion or objections of one or two people.

Meanwhile, the commotion in the Ina group rose and fell and rose and fell. One person would get up and air an idea, then the others would admonish him. Then another would voice an opinion, and some would agree. Finally, after an interminable wait, one of the leaders stood up solemnly and pronounced, with import worthy of the Council of Chalcedon, their decision:

“After studying the Scripture, we have decided—to STOP beating our wives!”

We were incredibly relieved, but I thought: “What took so long?!”

A day or two later, one of the twelve, an Ina man who was a close friend of mine, explained privately to me their discussion.

“We have a saying in the Ina language: ‘To be a real man, every day you must hit your wife.’”

Immediately I realized the gravity of the 62-year-old man’s question and the reason the answer took so long. His real question was not, “Do we have to stop beating our wives?” Rather, after a startling discovery of the holy standard of God’s ways and the clash with their own culture, the real question was:

Can I be a follower of Jesus and still be a real man in my culture?

Would we have stepped in if they arrived at a non-biblical answer? Of course. But if we had short-circuited the process by immediately giving them the answer, we would have missed God’s deeper lesson for them. 

That day, and in many other scenarios like it later, God’s Word was reinforced as the final authority, not culture or any Bible teacher. A group of young believers trusted the Spirit to guide them in truth and then heeded the admonition to obey whatever answer he gave them. The group took a collective deep breath and exercised the discipline to redefine manhood in their society despite the ridicule they would receive.

Pursue kingdom movements in your area. But don’t pray for rain to flood the land with rivers until you have determined to erect banks to guide the channels of the waters! Set this DNA within minutes and hours of the first breakthrough. 

About the Author: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019.

This article was first published in Breaking the Silence, Jan/Feb 2014, page 29-32. It was used here with permission.

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Kingdom Kernels: Minutes and Hours

Kingdom Kernels: Minutes and Hours

by Steve Smith

In a previous article, I discussed the concept of finding God-prepared people. Because they are so out of the norm from what we normally encounter, I sometimes call them abnormal people: they are prepared by God to respond abnormally quickly and fervently as well as to have abnormal impact in their communities. Much of Church-Planting Movement (CPM) focused ministry is spent in bearing witness to many people in order to find these force-multipliers. They might be one out of ten or one out of a hundred in your culture. Because their responses are so out of the norm from the majority of our witnessing encounters, we often miss them. The differences I see in ministries that experience multiplication often and those that do not is how the evangelist disciples the abnormal person in the first few minutes or hours. Those that adapt their follow-up discipleship to expect abnormal results in the first few hours rather than waiting days or weeks often experience kernels of kingdom explosion.

  • The person of peace wins a whole family or web of relationships to Christ within hours or days. 
  • These disciples repent of sinful lifestyles, often with miraculous deliverance from strongholds.
  • They walk through the waters of baptism with radical abandonment to Jesus.
  • They bear witness to their community, stand firm under trial and become a beautiful example of an Acts 2-like church – all within days and weeks. 

The first few minutes and hours determine the difference.

This process is not without backward steps and failures. The enemy is at work to quench the flame of the Spirit unleashed in them. Some of these new disciples fall back into old patterns before emerging into long-term victory. Some fall away completely. Uncomfortable situations co-exist for a while (e.g., the man and woman that live together come to faith and begin planning their Christian wedding). Yet with all the warts, this norm-defying group of people in love with Jesus and each other, through zealous obedience to the Word, grow by leaps and bounds, transforming their community. Their faith reminds us of our first love.

My colleague, Jeff Sundell, calls the initial group of people who come to faith a “house of peace,” much like the New Testament calls the abnormal person a “person of peace” (Luke 10:6). This is a community of people peaceful toward the kingdom who respond in abnormal ways. How does a whole group of people come to faith together so radically?

Houses of Peace

When Jesus sent out the Twelve on their first mission (Matthew 10, Luke 9) and sent out the Seventy on their mission (Luke 10), what did he expect them to find—an individual alone or a community that would respond to the kingdom of God?

Whatever house [or household] you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  And if a son [man] of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.  (Luke 10:5-7 ESV)

Understanding the person of peace concept is a critical first step in following the leading of the Spirit to enter new communities for the kingdom. They are the pathways the Spirit has set up for the kingdom to flow through. However, the person of peace (abnormal person) is just the gateway into a web of relationships. It is easy to miss the web of relationships out of the sheer excitement of seeing the initial person respond.

In the passage above, Jesus made it clear that the goal was to escort a whole household (not just one person) into the kingdom of God. In the Gospels and Acts, numerous examples emerge of whole networks of relationships coming to faith. Often our value of individualism blinds us to this kingdom potential. We fail to move from discipling an individual to winning and discipling a group. For kingdom movements, we must re-introduce biblical patterns into the first few minutes and hours after the salvation of a person of peace.

How did Jesus and the early disciples transition the kingdom from a person of peace to a house of peace? Read these examples and ponder how the whole group came to faith:

  1. Levi and his friends: Luke 5:27-32, Mark 2:14-17
  2. The Samaritan woman and the town of Sychar: John 4:7-42
  3. Zaccheus and his friends: Luke 19:1-10
  4. The Gadarene (Gerasene) demoniac and the Ten Cities (Decapolis): Mark 5:1-20; 7:31; (Matt. 15:29-31 explains what happened when Jesus returned to the Decapolis in Mark 7:31)
  5. Lazarus, his household and community: John 11:1-46, 12:9-11
  6. Cornelius and his household: Acts 10:1-11:18
  7. Lydia and her household: Acts 16:14-15, 40
  8. The Philippian jailer and his household: Acts 16:23-34
  9. The first believers and leaders in Corinth: Acts 18:4-11; 1 Cor. 1:14-17, 16:15-18

Who initiated the salvation of the household, town, or group of friends?

  • At times the evangelist witnessed to the whole group at once (rather than one individual) and led them to faith (e.g., Cornelius).
  • At times the evangelist trained the newly-saved person of peace to go home to win his household to faith (e.g., the Gadarene demoniac).
  • Sometimes the evangelist accompanied the person of peace to win the household together (e.g., the Philippian jailer). 

Consistent in the thoughts of the evangelist was the winning of a whole network of family and friends through the initial responder. The salvation of this group of people occurred concurrently with or within minutes, hours, or days of the salvation of the person of peace.

When were they baptized?

Remarkably quickly, often together! The evangelists sought to secure their initial devotion and commitment to Christ with immediate baptism (e.g., Peter commanding Cornelius’ group to be baptized immediately – Acts 10:47-48). In the case of the Philippian jailer and his family, this appears to have been in the wee hours of the morning (Acts 16:33 “at once”), so urgent was this step. In fact, other than Saul of Tarsus fasting and waiting three days after his conversion for his baptism (Acts 9:9ff), we are hard-pressed to find any examples in Acts where new converts were not baptized on the day of their salvation. That was because baptism was a sign that these disciples were sure, not that they were mature in following the King.

So effective were these patterns set that these houses of peace often became the leaders of the churches and ministries established through them (e.g., Stephanas’ household 1 Cor. 16:15).

Coaching Abnormal People Toward a Movement

Within minutes or hours, when critical patterns and expectations were set, the evangelists began to set the DNA for a movement. In various ways, they accepted, encouraged, or coached the person of peace to reach his web of relationships. 

Beyond encouraging their firm commitment to Christ, what were the frequent elements of this coaching?

  • Help them look outward and be responsible for their household: In many of the examples, the evangelist implicitly or explicitly encouraged the abnormal person to gain a vision for reaching his family, friends, and community. Rather than the evangelist taking responsibility for their salvation, he put the onus on the new disciple to be the fisher of men. Even the angel who came to Cornelius prior to his salvation gave him a vision to gather his whole household for the message they would receive (Acts 11:14).
  • Coach them on what to do: The evangelists did not assume the new believer would know how to bear witness but rather coached them on what to do and say. Sometimes they accompanied the new believer and shared the gospel themselves. Sometimes they sent the new believer back to bear witness. Sometimes both. A clear example is the account of the Gadarene demoniac:

“And [Jesus]…said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 5:19-20)

Jesus gave him a clear target and a clear way to begin to bear witness – one that was simple enough for this hours-old disciple.

Lessons of Minutes and Hours: Follow and Fish

If we will emulate the expectations of the New Testament movements, we must look at our watches rather than our calendars when a person shows interest in the gospel or gives his life to Christ. Within minutes or hours, we should disciple in the twin expectations that Jesus gave his first disciples – follow and fish (Mark 1:17). CPMs around the world are injecting this discipleship DNA in various ways but follow a similar pattern:

  • FOLLOW: Baptize and prepare them for persecution (counting the cost). Like the evangelists above, we must begin by encouraging their white-hot devotion to Christ. This comes through helping them count the cost rather than avoiding the hard discussions. New disciples of Jesus can grasp the persecution that may come, but out of love for him, will joyfully accept it. We must help them see that the King is worth it. The New Testament avenue of helping them become a fervent follower is to do this through immediate baptism. How long do new believers in your context wait before they can demonstrate this sign that they are sure about following Jesus?
  • FISH: Encourage the new believer to bear witness or the interested person to gather his family and friends to hear the gospel. Coaching to witness should incorporate three simple elements:

WHY – Give them a vision to look outward (“you and household”)

WHOM – Help them identify family and friends who need to hear this message. 

HOW – Give them a simple way to start in the first few minutes – their story of what God just did for them (testimony). Like the Gadarene demoniac, encourage them just to tell the story, and as the days go by, you can help them develop a more comprehensive gospel presentation.

Below is a case study in which the missionary has implemented these principles with explosive results. “G” People Case Study by Nathan Shank

For the last twelve years, my growing team and I have been targeting the 25 to 30 million “G” people groups who are spread out across 2000 kilometers. In my family, I am a first-generation Christian. Though I work cross-culturally, I am fluent in the trade language of the people groups. I’ve worked hard to research the local culture and religions and have led out in contextualization but with much criticism for my approaches. This won’t stop me because I long for the Lord’s return and want to equip every new believer to join us as ministers of reconciliation.

Our multi-cultural polytheistic people groups have never heard of Jesus, and our team is the first to engage most of these fields. A strong economy has led to broad trade, exposure to various philosophies, and secular motives in densely-populated urban areas.  Financial incentives mean that religious traditions are fiercely guarded.

Persecution has followed kingdom breakthroughs as new disciples abandon temples. We’ve also been persecuted by members of our home religious culture as we have departed from Christian traditions we deemed unbiblical.  

Most of our ministry partners have been new believers inside the culture who have become fruitful laborers.  Other than a few core teammates, we have not spent time mobilizing outside resources.  Explosive sustained growth has come through on-the-job training for new local leaders raised up from the harvest. 


We’ve employed a very simple strategy based on Jesus’ instructions:

  1. Find and win believers through the Holy Spirit’s direction.
  2. Disciple converts to immediately reach their family and friends.
  3. Immediately baptize them as a foundation of obedience.
  4. Gather churches in homes.
  5. Instruct and hold leaders accountable before persecution forces us to move on. 
  6. Entrust the believers to the Holy Spirit and the Word. Return when possible, correspond often, and watch for obedience.

Amazingly, miracles are frequent.  Encounters with pagan deities have led to breakthroughs in which several religious and political leaders have come to Christ. Normally households are our target.  This aids church formation as families believe and are baptized. New leaders often emerge naturally within family structures.  Because persecution limits how long we can stay in one locale, we have developed a common discipleship pattern implemented in all churches. This has streamlined reproduction by new believers who can pass on this discipleship anywhere.


Six provincial movements of reproducing churches have resulted in a broad evangelization of local populations.  Personal ministry responsibility among the thousands of new believers and our refusal to hold authority over churches has been a key for rapid maturity.  The strong leadership base of trainers in each region means that engagement in these fields is sustainable.


  1. False teaching has infiltrated some networks of churches. We have chosen to confront these traditions directly with truth from Scripture, often expelling false teachers.  
  2. Frankly, some churches have major problems.  False gospels, unscriptural eschatology, and abuse of spiritual gifts have affected multiple churches. We’ve also discovered legalism, abuse of the Lord’s Supper, immorality, and factions among leadership.
  3. The New Testament is not yet available, resulting in dependence on oral methods for teaching about Christ. Literacy is estimated below 25%.
  4. Long-term discipleship by our team is difficult due to distances. Though we revisit some churches, most of the second- and third-generation churches do not fit into our calendar. Therefore we write churches frequently on various topics: our basic discipleship package, God’s power, biblical theology, holy lifestyle, and love for God’s word.  We also instruct believers concerning non-negotiables: salvation by faith, the deity of Jesus, etc.


Despite these shortcomings, the six kingdom movements move forward in an exponential manner. Everything needed for sustained growth and health is present.  After twelve years of service in these fields, I feel the Lord saying there is no room left for my pioneering work and that it is time for me to move on.Your First Minutes and Hours

As you read this case study, what were your initial responses, both positive and negative? Did the missionary seem reckless or on the right path? Could this missionary have been Paul the Apostle working among the “G”entile people groups? Read it again.

A fresh read of New Testament patterns may shake us into a new awareness of kingdom ways.

If the lifestyle of new believers were set on course by the DNA you help them establish in the first few minutes or hours, what would their lives look like? Could a movement result? In your initial discipleship, is a new believer empowered to act in minutes and hours or encouraged to wait weeks, months, or years to follow radically and gather his community to do the same? Are you willing to take the risk, along with its messiness, of unleashing the Spirit of God in the life of this abnormally-prepared person and community? 

About the Author: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019.

This article was first published in Unleashing the Gospel Through Storytelling, Nov/Dec 2013, page 28-31. It was used here with permission.

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Kingdom Kernels: Finding God-Prepared People

Kingdom Kernels: Finding God-Prepared People

by Steve Smith

After sharing with a group of missionaries about God’s vision of a Church-Planting Movement (CPM) in their contexts, I paused to ask them how their work was going. I was blind-sided by their responses:

  • “In our culture, it normally takes four years for the average Buddhist to believe after first hearing the gospel.”

  • “In our country, it normally takes 15-20 hearings of the good news before someone will make a firm commitment to Christ.”

  • “Normally in our context people won’t believe if we don’t have the perfect worldview bridge.”

  • “Normally in our city it takes two years just to get into a spiritual conversation with a person.”

  • (My favorite came a few months later in Europe) “Normally the gospel is no longer good news for Europeans.”

With each statement I grew more discouraged. That evening I prayed for discernment, searching the Word for answers. 

The Abnormal Woman at the Well

The Lord took me to John 4. What struck me was that nothing was normal about the Samaritan woman at the well. Everything about Jesus’ encounter with that woman was abnormal:

  • Culture: A Jew talking with a Samaritan
  • Norms: A man talking with a strange woman
  • Time to Transition into a Spiritual Conversation: Jesus’ second statement was the beginning of a spiritual conversation (4:10)
  • Worldview: Jesus went straight to the heart despite religious worldview differences (4:20ff)
  • Social Mores: Jesus skipped small talk and discussed deep, personal issues immediately—call your “husband” (4:16)
  • Time to Believe: Within the course of one conversation, with a person from a “hard” people group, the woman believed (4:28-29)
  • How Far and Quickly the Gospel Spread: Within two days, an entire town (Sychar) was reached with the gospel (4:39-42)

This woman was prepared by God to defy the norms of Samaritans. She believed in one hearing and was the key to a whole town’s response.

Finding Abnormal People

The next day I told my colleagues, “Everything you shared yesterday is true. You serve in tough places. Normally it is just like you described it. But we’re not looking for NORMAL people. We’re looking for ABNORMAL people!”

Abnormal is defined as: “deviating from the normal, average or expected; extremely or excessively large.”1 That’s what the responses of the Samaritan woman and those in Sychar were like.

This was the beginning of a paradigm shift for many of our missionaries. We were honest to acknowledge that some fields are tougher than others, but none are unharvestable. Perhaps the normal response we find is a lack of interest or faith. But we are looking for abnormal responses – the people prepared ahead of time by the Spirit of God. Now, rather than just spending all our time trying to convince the normal ones, we spend a lot more time looking for the abnormal ones.

The search for norm-breakers was a biblical pattern in the Gospels and Acts. I believe that the Gospels and Acts are like a sports highlights recap. When you watch the highlights, what do you see? The dribbles? The huddles? No! You see the abnormal ten percent of the game – the goals, the touchdowns, the remarkable catches, and the slam-dunks. In the Bible, we most often see the abnormal people, not the 80-90% that may not have responded. Jesus was constantly looking for such people. It’s a biblical pattern for today in which… 

  • Often normal people take years, but God-prepared people take only days or weeks to believe. 
  • Often normal people need to hear the good news 15-20 times, but God-prepared people only need to hear it once or twice.

We are surprised to find norm-breakers because the normal response to our evangelism or discipleship is the opposite. And that normalcy tempts us to label our community, country, or people group as difficult, and we stop expecting miraculous responses. We get dulled by the normal into no longer expecting the abnormal.

The Keys to a Society: God Prepared People
Until you find the abnormal people, CPMs will not start. In the last issue of Mission Frontiers, I explained the essentials for a CPM on a napkin. Finding God-prepared people is one of the first steps (field one). Many people declare their communities hard or unreachable with a CPM when the reality is they have not found the key person(s) for unlocking their community. Jesus called them persons of peace, and they were the entry points He instructed His seventy disciples to find (Luke 10:2-12). When we, as strangers, witness to a “normal” person, he may not respond. But winning the person of peace may result in this “normal” person’s salvation because he trusts the person of peace.

Jesus declared the nation of Israel in His day as a “plentiful harvest” (Luke 10:2), while Paul described them as a “hardened” nation (Rom. 11:25). Both characteristics were true. Hard nations contain harvestable individuals. And harvestable individuals are the key to harvesting nations. There is no context in which God cannot begin a movement because His Spirit prepares people in each of them. In some places, one out of ten persons might be a God-prepared person. In other places, one out of a hundred or a thousand. You just have to work harder to find them.

No CPM method will bear fruit until you find the right people. Conversely, sometimes it seems you stumble through your gospel presentation, and yet the God-prepared person gets radically saved. The Spirit’s just working in them in abnormal ways. 

At the same time, we may miss the full potential of a harvest if we don’t follow up effectively with the abnormal person. Expecting the normal, we follow up in our normal ways and miss the plentiful harvest. Again, we get dulled by the normal into no longer expecting the abnormal.

Finding Abnormal People—3 F’s

In all likelihood, as the disciples took the road into Sychar, this woman passed them on the way to the well. Twelve missed her, but One found her. Why? Perhaps they were so accustomed to the normal rejection of Samaritans that they expected nothing out of the ordinary.

But Jesus’ lifestyle was one of constantly sifting through society to find where the Father was preparing people (John 5:17, 19). Though tired, He found the abnormal response that day. Why did He find her, but the twelve missed her?

Full of the Spirit

One major difference between Jesus and the Twelve was that He was full of the Spirit (Luke 4:1), and they had not yet been filled with the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2). As the incarnate Son of God, Jesus limited His divine abilities so that He lived in faith by the Spirit, just as we must. Through the Spirit, He had the discernment to see opportunities before Him and to expect results that broke the norm.

The day was coming for the apostles, however. They may have missed the abnormal person in Sychar, but Peter and John didn’t miss the one at the beautiful gate. Full of the Spirit after Pentecost, they finally “saw” a man they had probably passed many times – the lame man. This time they called for an abnormal response: “Rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6) What resulted was the beginning of a fresh movement in Jerusalem.

Application: Unless you cultivate being filled with and walking in the Spirit continually, you will likely miss the people who will break the norms. Will you surrender yourself daily to the Spirit of Jesus so that you have the eyes of faith He had?

Fish for Abnormal People—Going for Broke

After sharing this with some national church planters in the Philippines, our missionary leader pulled me aside. “Steve, that’s our problem! We are fishing for normal people not for abnormal ones.”

Jesus fished for abnormal people, not normal ones. In one conversation, He went to the heart of the issue with the Samaritan woman, and she responded in faith. He looked for people willing to break the norms and called them to respond abnormally. He told the rich young ruler to sell everything, most likely disappointed that he didn’t (Mark 10:21ff). An abnormal invitation but a normal response. But two other rich men, Levi and Zacchaeus, responded abnormally, giving up their possessions. Jesus fished for norm-breakers.

Jesus could have fished for normal people, not daring to challenge them to radical commitment to the King. But to do that, He would have missed the abnormal people that God uses to launch movements. Instead, He went for broke so much of the time: sell everything, come follow Me, don’t say goodbye to your parents, don’t sin anymore, go tell your family the great things God has done for you.

Do we expect people to be normal or abnormal when we share Jesus with them? Too often, we expect them to be normal and therefore stop short of abnormally inviting them to wholeheartedly follow Jesus and boldly fish for men. We use methods that require them to wait weeks, months, or years before we call them to respond, and then we call them to such shallow responses. Such an approach means we’ll miss the norm-breakers in all likelihood. We have a saying in our region: “People are responsive until they prove themselves otherwise.”

This transforms our expectations.

Application: If you tend to fish for normal people, try fishing for abnormal people also. This does not mean you have to give up the many normal relationships you have, some of which will require years for the salvation of a friend. But in addition, begin finding ways to share the gospel lovingly, relationally, and frequently, calling people to wholehearted faith and witness. Why miss the abnormal by only fishing for the normal? There will be times you are disappointed that persons only respond normally (rejection). But in due time, you’ll have the joy of finding the abnormal response. If only one in a hundred in your community is a God-prepared person, how many people do you need to share the gospel with to find that one?

Follow-up for Abnormal People—Expecting an Extraordinary Lifestyle

It wasn’t just that Jesus fished for abnormal people. He also followed up (discipled), expecting them to respond with an abnormal lifestyle. He wasn’t satisfied with an initial amazing response. Many of us would have been thrilled just to have a man with a legion of demons delivered and wholeheartedly trusting Jesus. But not the Savior! He continued to follow up with the Gerasene demoniac, instructing him to return home to the Ten Cities and proclaim the great things God had done for him. As he did so, people throughout the Ten Cities marveled (Mark 5:1-20). When you find an abnormal person, if you follow up abnormally, a movement may result. This was a biblical pattern.

Would we have done such a thing? Or would we have told him, “Listen, you have a lot of emotional, relational and spiritual baggage. Stay here and let me disciple you for a while. When you’re ready, we’ll let you take baby steps in responsibility.” Would you have trusted him to start on a ten-city tour the next day proclaiming his testimony?

Once again, we get dulled by the normal into no longer expecting the abnormal. We’ve seen so many normal discipleship responses that we no longer expect people to make radical commitments to Christ, to follow through with baptism immediately, and to bear witness to their whole circle of influence within days. Instead, we must give God-prepared people a vision for how the Spirit will use them to reach a whole community. Rather than say “sit and stay,” we must, like Jesus, say, “get up and run”! We will be disappointed at times, but the alternative of never trying is unacceptable.

Application: Is your discipleship approach for new believers one in which you expect them to get up and run with wholehearted surrender and bold witness to family and friends?

All CPMs began in an intensive and ongoing search for God-prepared people. As in the parable of the four soils, there are no labels on their foreheads identifying them as “good soil.” They look the same as everyone else. The only way we find the good soil is through dozens and hundreds of relational gospel conversations with a challenge to biblical commitment. In the process of finding many normal responses, not too different from the first three soils (hard, rocky, thorny), we will find abnormal responses that bear fruit thirty, sixty, and a hundred times. We must sift through large numbers of people in our locales to find the norm-breakers through which God will start Church-Planting Movements.

A few years ago, a missionary colleague of mine adapted his approach and began fishing widely for abnormal people. One day, while hiking with a group of volunteers, he met a man who inquired where they were going. When my friend said, “Up to that village over there,” the man responded, “No you’re not! You’ve come to see me!” My friend recognized this as an abnormal response and set aside his agenda in order to go to the stranger’s house.

In that house, he immediately went for broke and shared a simple Creation to Christ gospel presentation. That day the man believed. Immediately the man called his family and friends to his house and shared the same gospel presentation with them. As my friend discipled him in abnormal ways, this man led his family to believe. A month later, after surviving a death threat from a witch doctor, eighty people in his village believed. Shortly after that, the next village invited him to share the gospel. Sixty people there believed.

The kingdom of God has continued to spread from valley to valley because a missionary found an abnormally-prepared man and discipled him in abnormal ways.

Will you and your team or church fish repeatedly to find the people God has prepared and then follow up expecting abnormal responses? Full of the Spirit, you can be an abnormal fisher of men.

About the Author: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019.

This article was first published in Water + Gospel = Transformation, Sept/Oct 2013,  pages 27-30. It was used here with permission.

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Kingdom Kernels: CPM Essentials On a Napkin

Kingdom Kernels: CPM Essentials On a Napkin

by Steve Smith

You’ve decided in your heart that you want to see God birth a Church-Planting Movement (CPM) in your community or people group. The question is: “How do I start?” Suppose that we’re sitting in a coffee shop and I hand you a napkin, saying, “Sketch out the path to a CPM.” Would you know where to start?

You must get onto a path that will possibly lead to a “movement”, rather than one that won’t. You must understand what that path looks like. 

The challenge of the CPM path is the word movement. God starts Church-Planting Movements, not His servants. Yet He uses His servants to be the initiating agents in CPMs when they understand His ways and submit their ministry efforts completely to Him.

Setting Your Ministry Sails to Catch the Wind of the Spirit
Think of it this way. As a sailor, I can work on all of the controllables: making sure my sails are up, the tiller is in the right position, the sails are trimmed correctly. But until the wind blows, my sailboat is dead in the water. The wind is the uncontrollable. Or if the wind is blowing, but I as a sailor fail to raise the sails or trim them to catch the wind, I go nowhere. In this case, the wind is blowing but I don’t know how to move with the wind.

Jesus made this declaration to a traditional Jewish teacher of the law who was having a hard time understanding Jesus’ radical ways:

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 (ESV)

The Spirit blows in ways we cannot forecast, but blow He does. The question is not whether He is blowing. The question is: “Is my ministry positioned to move the way He blows so that it can become a movement of God?”

If our ministries don’t cooperate with the Spirit’s ways, we are tempted to say: “God no longer moves today as He did in older days!” Surely the testimony of dozens of CPMs around the world and upon every continent is that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8 ESV) 

The Heart and Four Fields: CPM Essentials on a Napkin

As we look at these CPMs, what are the essential elements (the controllables) that enable us to position our sails to move with the Spirit of God, should He blow in gale-force ways? Though expressed in many ways by CPM practitioners, what follows is a simple distillation of the essential elements or basic CPM plan. I often draw this simple diagram on a napkin in a coffee shop for a friend. I use it to explain to him how we can cooperate with God for a movement. If you can’t draw a basic CPM plan on a napkin, it’s probably too complicated to live out personally and too complicated for others to reproduce. To encourage you, I find that the worse my art, the more confidence my friend has to pass it on! 

Find God’s HEART for your people and seek Him in faith for the fulfillment of His vision.

A Vision exists by you and your team to do whatever it takes under God to see that all people have a chance to respond to the kingdom [represented by a large heart]. You are seeking God’s vision, not your own. Matthew 6:9-10 and 28:18-20 say that His kingdom will come fully to all people and people groups. A vision of this magnitude should result in multitudes of believers and thousands of churches (and/or small groups). Such a vision galvanizes believers to make radical lifestyle choices to bring God’s kingdom to their community.

Since this vision is so large, you must break it down into basic relational SEGMENTS to know how to start. In every society people create relationships by geography (neighbors) and/or socio-economic factors (workmates, classmates, club mates). Your goal is simple: plant reproducing mustard seed groups (Mt. 13:31-33) with the ability to reach that segment and beyond.

You know a movement has taken root in each segment when you can track at least four generations of believers and churches – G4 – in that place (2 Tim. 2:2) [represented by a generational tree]. CPMs are defined by at least 4th generation churches consistently emerging within a relatively short period of time (months and years, not decades). Effective CPM practitioners evaluate their results by generations of believers and groups/churches, not just numbers of believers and groups/churches. They often track the movement with generational trees.

Until we know God’s heart, we can’t expect Him to show up in miraculous ways to fulfill something that is not on His heart, or less than what is on His heart.

Crying out for God’s heart as those abiding in Him.
To fulfill the vision, you have to start at the foundation by ABIDING IN CHRIST (Jn. 15:5, Ps. 78:72, Mt. 11:12, 17:20)  [represented by a person with the right heart]. Those that bear fruit are those that abide. There is no way around it. Anything less gives temporary and stunted fruit. Men and women at the center of CPMs are not necessarily greater spiritual giants than other people, but they all abide in Christ. You do not get a CPM by abiding in Christ, but you don’t get one if you don’t.

  •  Remember, God uses men, not just methods; people, not just principles.

As we humble ourselves by simply abiding in Christ, we must cry out fervently to God in PRAYER to see His vision fulfilled [represented by a kneeling person] (Mt. 6:9-10, Lk. 10:2, 11:5-13, Acts 1:14). Every Church-Planting Movement begins first as a prayer movement. When God’s people get hungry enough to fervently fast and pray for His heart, amazingly miraculous things begin to happen.

Four Fields
To fulfill the vision, you do your part in the divine-human partnership — five high value activities — to position yourself to be used by God to develop healthy, sustained movements. Each must be done in a manner that is reproducible by new believers. We describe this simple CPM plan by four agricultural fields. These four fields must all be in place for healthy CPMs to emerge. In many fields around the world, farmers build huts or platforms in which to rest, store their tools and watch for predators. We too need a platform – leaders to watch over the churches and movement.

We separate the four fields so that we know the critical components to which we need to give attention, but don’t expect them to be absolutely sequential. For instance, after you lead someone to Christ, he may already be working in field one to find lost family members to win as you move him to field three (discipleship). And while you are discipling him and his family/friends in field three, you are going to help form them into a church (field four). In addition, you will simultaneously find yourself in different fields with different groups as you walk them down the CPM path.

Field 1: Finding God-prepared people 
[Represented by seeds planted in furrows–casting seeds to find good soil] (Lk. 10:6; Mk. 1:17, Jn. 4:35, 16:8)

CPM practitioners believe that the Holy Spirit has gone on before them to prepare people to respond immediately (or very soon) – John 16:8. Through dozens and hundreds of spiritual conversations, they look for the white harvest already prepared and expect these persons of peace to be the keys to winning others (John 4:35). They also search for existing believers in their communities that God is convicting to partner in this CPM vision.

Therefore, you and your team must search diligently to find God-prepared PEOPLE or FIELDS. You live with the simple dichotomy of everyone falling into one of two categories: saved or lost. Fulfilling Mark 1:17, you try to fish for the lost and help the saved follow Jesus with a whole heart.

You hunt for SAVED persons that will work alongside you to reach this city or people group. How do you find them? You bridge into the conversation and relationship by casting vision to them of what God can do in and through them, and then offering to train (or learn together with) them. Virtually every CPM I know of started when national believers caught the vision to work in partnership with the missionary or church planter to fulfill God’s vision. You have to have many conversations to find such people.

You and your team hunt for lost persons of peace (or in your oikos) and start witnessing to them. You must have dozens (sometimes hundreds) of conversations that get to the gospel to find the people God has prepared. The difficulty for most of us is just getting started, so in CPMs, believers have a simple bridge into gospel conversations such as a testimony or a set of questions.

Field 2: Reproducing Evangelism
[Represented by seeds sprouting into plants] (Lk. 10:7-9, Mt. 28:18-20)

As we bridge into spiritual conversations with the lost (or help the saved to do the same), we must EVANGELIZE in a REPRODUCING manner. Lost people must hear the gospel in a way that is complete enough that they can fully follow Jesus alone as Lord and Savior and can then use the same method to evangelize others. In CPMs, we don’t just look at the theoretical – what may be reproducible. We judge a method’s reproducibility by whether it is reproducing. If it is not, then either the method is too complicated or, in some way, I am not equipping the disciple properly.

In every CPM, the gospel is being shared by many disciples with hundreds and thousands of people relationally in a reproducible manner. This evangelism follows the pattern given by Jesus in Luke 10:7-9 – the three “P’s”: a loving presence from the believer and God, praying that God will move in power to demonstrate His love, and clearly proclaiming the gospel of Jesus with a call to commitment to Jesus alone as King. 

Field 3: Reproducing Discipleship 
[Represented by plants bearing fruit] (2 Tim 2:2, Phil 3:17, Heb 10:24-25)

As people believe, they are immediately brought into reproducing DISCIPLESHIP relationships, sometimes one-on-one, but usually in new small groups.  They begin a well-defined process of simple short term discipleship sessions that they immediately pass on to those to whom they are witnessing through a very reproducible process.  Eventually they enter into a pattern of long term discipleship that enables them to feed themselves from the whole counsel of God’s Word. It is essential that we have a process that works in our context for new believers both to grow spiritually and to pass on to others.

Most reproducing discipleship processes use the elements of a three-thirds format (e.g. Training for Trainers – T4T) in which believers take time to look back through loving accountability, worship, pastoral care and recalling the vision. They then take time to look up to see what God has for them that week in Bible study. Finally they look ahead to determine how to obey God and pass on what they have learned through practicing it and setting goals in prayer.

Field 4: Reproducing Churches 
[Represented by bundles of harvested grain] (Acts 2:37-47)

In the discipling process, believers are formed into small groups or reproducing CHURCHES. In many CPMs at about the 4th or 5th session, the small group becomes a church or part of a church. CPMs have a simplified process to help the believers develop the basic covenant and characteristics of church in a biblical and culturally appropriate manner for them. Many use the church circles diagram in this process [See T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution chapter 16 or the recent Mission Frontiers article, “The Bare Essentials of Helping Groups Become Churches]

Center Platform: Reproducing Leaders
[Represented by farmers or shepherds] (Tit 1:5-9; Act 14:23)

Some of the believers will prove themselves to be reproducing LEADERS that are appropriate for that stage of the work. Some will lead one church, some multiple groups, some whole movements. Each will need mentoring and training appropriate for his/her level of leadership. CPMs are as much leadership multiplying movements as they are Church-Planting Movements.

The Arrows
Many believers will go on to REPEAT various parts of the four fields – some will look for God-prepared people, some evangelize, some disciple/train, some form new groups and some train them to repeat the process. Not every believer goes on to the next stage [represented by smaller arrows into each new field]. In CPMs it is amazing how far believers go not only in their own discipleship but also in ministering to others.

The spiritual triggering effect of all of this is DEATH (John 12:24) – the willingness for believers to boldly persevere, even die, to see God’s vision fulfilled [represented by a grain falling into the ground].  Until believers are willing to joyfully count the cost, this all remains theoretical.

Though it is difficult to describe a complex movement adequately in an article, the Heart and Four Fields gives the basic essentials. Effective CPM practitioners build momentum by making sure each part of the process naturally leads to the next through the way they disciple and train believers. In this manner, they raise the sails for the boat to keep moving. As I draw out the Heart and Four Fields for friends, they are amazed at the depth and richness of a CPM. It is much more than an evangelism or church planting method – it’s a movement of God.3  

Can you reproduce this drawing on a napkin with a friend? 

About the Author: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019.

This article was first published in Kingdom Kernels: CPM Essentials On a Napkin pages 29-33. It was used here with permission.

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Kingdom Kernels: CPMS – The Counter-intuitive Ways of Growing God’s Kingdom

Kingdom Kernels: CPMS – The Counter-intuitive Ways of Growing God’s Kingdom

by Steve Smith

The King’s ways in this world are counterintuitive. Intuitively we think His kingdom should follow a certain path or principles natural to us, but we find that it is quite the opposite. The primary way to discover the counterintuitive ways of the kingdom is to meditate on the Word of the King—Scripture. We think we should curse our enemy, but King Jesus says bless (Luke 6:27-28). We think that by elevating ourselves, we will succeed, but the King says to humble ourselves (1 Peter 5:5-6). We think that resources, education, and connections are the paths to breakthrough, but the King tells us that the weak, the have-nots, and the are-nots will find the ultimate victory in this world (1 Cor. 1:26-29).

Perhaps it is in this last reference that we, as a North American church, are challenged most. We are so accustomed to the power of education, resources, and fortitude to change the world that we’ve become much too self-reliant and too little God-reliant. If we ask ourselves the question, “Am I doing anything right now that absolutely requires faith in the Spirit to sustain me as opposed to my own personal abilities?” we often find ourselves at a loss.

I recall a group of twelve East Asian believers I worked with in a Church-Planting Movement. Their people group, on many economic scales, was classified as the poorest group in the country. Many individuals had one, perhaps two sets of clothes. Most had little, if any, money. The average educational level ranged between third and sixth grade. Illiteracy was at 86%. Drunkenness was rampant. They brought nothing to the table in their effort to reach their people group with the gospel—no resources, no education, no connections. And this brought great despair in a society in which connections were everything.

When I first saw them, clothes ragged, hair disheveled, teeth missing, I almost lost hope that God could do much with them. But then God gave me these counterintuitive promises for these precious new believers:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor. 1:26-29 ESV)

I told them: “You’re the poorest tribe in this country!” Their shoulders slumped. “You’re the most despised in this country!” Their eyes looked down at their toes in realization.

Then I told them, “So rejoice! That is why God is going to use you to win the world! You are in these verses. You are the weak, the poor, the despised to whom God will give grace. God gives grace to the humble, and there is no group more humbled than you! Take up your calling.”

At that, a deep, Spirit-prompted identity rose up in the hearts of this “insignificant” band as they laid hold of that promise. These were their verses. God had shown them their place in the cosmic plan for the redemption of this world. They took up this mantle and began to spread the kingdom of God from village to village and from valley to valley.

The counterintuitive nature of the kingdom joyfully catches us by surprise.

The Mustard Seed of Kingdom Growth
CPMs are kingdom movements that operate in the power of the Spirit on kingdom principles. Because we don’t naturally or intuitively understand kingdom ways, Jesus painted many word pictures of the kingdom in the form of parables, starting most of them with “the kingdom of God is like….” Each is a kernel of truth about the overall mystery of the King’s reign. 

Jesus answered [His disciples], “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted…. But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. (Matt. 13:11, 16, NASB, emphasis added)

Parables are a mystery to those outside, but to those who come like little children, God will disclose the mysterious nature of the kingdom. Surrender your pre-conceived ideas to Him and ask Him to speak afresh to you. We must be very purposeful if we would live King-centered rather than human-centered ways of ministry.

A foundational kingdom kernel is the mustard seed. 

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matt. 13:31-32 ESV)

What is more insignificant than a mustard seed? What was more insignificant than this little band of barely literate, ignored believers in East Asia who sought to change the world?

The parable teaches us that large movements start from small beginnings. In this manner, God most fully receives the glory. Powerful transformation comes through those we would deem weak. It is not the resources, education, and connections that enable us to succeed but rather the recognition of our spiritual bankruptcy and absolute need for Jesus every day.1

What transformed that humble band of twelve into the early apostles was their recognition of their insignificance and their utter dependence on nothing but the Spirit of God. They had no other options. Like Peter, they could say, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee.”

The CPMs around the world have nothing to do with earthly socio-economic status and everything to do with spiritual socio-economic status.

This bursts a common myth about CPMs: that they only occur in poor societies. They more often occur in poor societies, perhaps because their physical poverty helps them recognize spiritual poverty. But CPMs are also taking place in educated communities and professional arenas. The key is not economic status but the status of the heart.

The King’s ways are to take the spiritually bankrupt when they rely on Him and His Word in absolute dependence and use them to spread throughout the world as His change agents. In the West, we find it hard to imagine that a small group of poverty-stricken or poorly-educated believers and churches could grow like a mustard tree and become the largest tree in the garden. We find the speed of Church-Planting Movements of the world unbelievable precisely because we forget how the kingdom operates. It does not depend on human resources or engineering.

And that’s what I love about CPMs: God taking bedraggled have-nots and shaming the haves. That’s our King! If we plant the right DNA of the kingdom in the right types of individuals, the growth of the kingdom is inevitable. It is critical that we get the beginnings right! We must start with the counterintuitive ways of the King.

About the Author: Steve Smith planted a church in Los Angeles and then helped initiate a church planting movement (CPM) among an unreached people group in East Asia. He trained believers in CPM and worked with the International Mission Board (SBC) in reaching Southeast Asian Peoples. Steve graduated to heaven in March 2019.

This article was first published in Equipping the People of God for the Mission of God, May/June 2013 pages 28-31. It was used here with permission.

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Want to Learn More About Movements? Watch our Six Simple Shifts Video