Kingdom Kernels: The Engine That Sustains Movements

Kingdom Kernels: The Engine That Sustains Movements

by Steve Smith

Imagine that you are responsible to insure the training and personal development of a growing number of new pastors each year. This year it is 500, added to 300 from the previous year and 200 from the year before. However, these leaders must remain on the job, not leaving their locations for any extended period of time, since they are in charge of their flocks. Finally, circumstances dictate that they cannot connect consistently to online education due to the lack of connectivity and lack of resources. What will you do?

This is the primary question that faces Church Planting Movements (CPMs) and discipleship multiplication movements. From time to time we see promising church planting that has grown from zero to a couple of hundred churches based on principles we’ve looked at in previous articles:

  1. Finding God-prepared people
  2. Reproducing evangelism
  3. Reproducing short-term and long-term discipleship
  4. Reproducing churches

Yet failure from the beginning to develop a system to train the dozens, then hundreds, of emerging leaders has hamstrung a number of these budding movements. They plateau generally at the capacity of the missionary and initial leaders. Leadership overload, in which these leaders pastor several small churches each without raising up new leaders, stifles the expansion. At this point the missionary and key national leaders work frantically to address the need for more leaders, but it’s often too little too late. The expansion grinds to a halt with the majority of the population unreached with the gospel.

To fulfill God’s vision of His kingdom coming to every neighborhood, town and village, CPM practitioners must focus on a fifth principle prior to the beginning of the first church: reproducing leadership development. Leadership development is the engine the Spirit uses to sustain movements. In fact, sustained Church Planting Movements are by default leadership multiplication movements.

Paul’s Movements as a Precedent for Leadership Development

The church planting and discipleship movements in the six Roman provinces of Paul’s journeys illustrate the importance of developing and multiplying leaders from the beginning and throughout the life of a movement.

  • About one third of Paul’s epistles are addressed to leaders he was mentoring (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon). These were men who grew into leadership out of the harvest of his work. While Paul exhorted churches, he mentored leaders.


  • The majority of the individuals Paul names in his letters were leaders who grew out of his harvesting work with over thirty individuals who partnered with Paul in his apostolic team ministry in addition to the leaders of churches. From the beginning, Paul held a value of raising up leaders out of the harvest to guide the movements when he moved on.


  • Acts 20:4 illustrates the diversity of this group of leaders: Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. (Acts 20:4 ESV)

This group accompanied Paul with his gift for the church in Jerusalem. They are an amazing cross-section of the new leaders he developed over his 8-10 years of ministry in three journeys:  Gaius and Timothy the harvest of Journey #1 (8-10 years earlier); Sopater, Aristarchus and Secundus the harvest of Journey #2 (6-8 years earlier); Tychicus and Trophimus the harvest of Journey #3 (3-5 years earlier). In even a few years’ time, Paul was able to point to men who could guide the movements apart from his constant oversight.

  • When pressed to spend time with either leaders or an entire church, Paul chose the former. Four to six years after the movement began in Ephesus and spread throughout the entire Roman province of Asia (Acts 19:10), and Paul had time to return for only a short visit, he chose to meet only with the leaders (Acts 20:16ff). Conscious of his time constraints, he chose to develop them as leaders who would guide the movement in Asia. When pressed, Paul chose to develop leaders who could minister and equip rather than personally engage in the work they could do themselves.


  • These illustrations provide an expanded perspective on 2 Timothy 2:2. While this verse certainly applies to discipleship, it clearly illustrates Paul’s value to not only develop leaders but to do so in a way that can multiply endlessly. Paul chose to develop an ever-expanding system of leadership development rather than to center the training around his personal finite mentoring capacity.

Principles for Developing Leaders in an Ever-Expanding System

We must have a plan for leadership multiplication before our first discipleship groups and churches ever start. It must be a system that allows leaders to mature quickly in the midst of ministry and brings training to new tiers of leaders with no limits upon how far it can expand.

Movements grow no further than the bounds of their leadership development systems. If your system has a capacity to train 100 pastors, that is the extent to which it will grow. A number of sustained CPMs around the world implement principles to foster continued expansion and maturation of leaders.

  • On-the-job training – Recognizing that it will kill the movement to pull leaders of churches and CPM networks out of their contexts for months or years at a time, CPM facilitators devise a system to bring training to locales where the leaders can easily travel. This requires more work on our part to decentralize the locations of trainings. It means we live on their schedule and in their worlds rather than ours. This is a sort of Theological Education by Extension on steroids as training reaches further and further into the expanding edges of the movement.


  • Just-in-time training – CPM facilitators bring training to leaders as they need it in the context of ministry rather than mandate that leaders only be trained in one extended period of months or years. CPMs reveal that retention and application is much more effective when leaders receive training more frequently for shorter durations. They are able to apply it to their ministries immediately and receive frequent trouble-shooting help along the way.


  • Numerous applications abound of the two previous principles. In one CPM in which the churches are all within a one to four hour ride away from a training site, leadership training occurs monthly on Friday night and Saturday. In another geographically widespread CPM, fruitful leaders gather for 4-10 days two, three or four times a year in many different cities. Farmers can sometimes gather for ten days whereas city-dwellers sometimes gather for four-day weekends or on holidays. In a third context, a largely rural CPM, in addition to monthly meetings, conducts rainy-season training conferences in which hundreds of leaders descend upon a location central to their area for three to four weeks.


  •  Retain the DNA of a movement – CPM practitioners spend a large amount of every training discussing the vision God has given the movement for His kingdom to come to every locale. Many encourage the leaders to develop generational maps to keep track of the expansion of the movement and identify areas that need to be reached or display weaknesses. The CPM leaders are careful to guard the movement from extra-biblical teaching that might dampen the movement.


  • Failure to do this can stall a CPM. A missionary couple were delighted when a movement suddenly erupted through a woman they were discipling. She took the gospel to her home village and that village began evangelizing other villages. The couple was careful to begin training the emerging leaders and encourage the continued expansion. However, when the couple left their country for a couple of months, a traveling teacher got wind of this budding movement. He visited the new churches and chided them for practicing the ordinances of baptism and communion without “properly credentialed” leaders from outside. These young believers naively accepted this and the CPM ground to a halt.


  •  Focus on fruitful leaders – In CPMs, the leaders that need the most attention are those responsible for multiple churches and multiple generations of churches. These fruitful leaders have much larger oversight. Without giving them the encouragement, counsel and equipping they need at each new stage, they will burn out. Effective CPM practitioners structure their training (“mid-level training”) for these leaders that have greater responsibility. Failure to do so means reducing the depth of training and failing to meet their needs.


  • In one CPM, the missionary conducted mid-level trainings with such leaders on a monthly basis. His training was quite extensive in personal, pastoral and theological development. Before long, members of churches who did not have the same level of evangelistic fruit or pastoral oversight began to attend, eager for more training. The result was the need to keep going over basic discipleship ideas rather than deeper concepts and the continued expansion of the movement (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:2). The movement began to slow down. When the missionary recognized this situation, he limited this training to only fruitful mid-level trainers while ensuring that basic discipleship was carried to the rest of the church members. The engine was restarted and the movement began to expand again.


  • Develop a system in which new layers of leadership development can expand without limitations – Effective CPM practitioners have developed systems whereby their top national leaders who have gifts to oversee a whole stream of the movement can reproduce the mid-level training in their stream. CPM practitioners focus on week-by-week mentoring of these top leaders giving special attention to enabling them to become effective mid-level trainers. In time, these top overseers raise up other apostolic leaders with gifts to do the same. The result is a system whereby mid-level trainings can expand endlessly as the movement expands. In one large CPM with over a million believers, over thirty apostolic leaders oversee large streams of the movement. These men empower mid-level trainings in their streams to the extent that there are dozens of mid-level trainings occurring every month in various places in the region. The movement has no limits on how far it can expand.


  •  Deal with the whole person—In our zeal to see more people come to Christ, it is easy for us to position mid-level trainings mainly as evangelism and church planting training events and often do so in a sterile classroom environment. When this happens, mid-level leaders burn out. Effective mid-level training addresses the whole. They give time to worship, rest, personal counseling of each participant, feeding them from the Word, interpersonal interactions and generally enabling mid-level leaders to encounter God in a powerful way. They address similar issues to those Paul addressed in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus – the whole counsel of God for all of life. The result is leaders who mature in all areas and are able to continue as Christ-like disciples.


  • Give deep spiritual truths in bite-sized pieces—One of my early mistakes in mid-level training was to squeeze my entire seminary education into a four week training. After days of confused stares, I saw the error of my ways and opted to give a few deep truths in a way that could be understood. Proverbs 15:2 became a principle of my life: “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable.” (NASB) A fruitful CPM trainer, Kevin Greeson, prescribes the Straw Principle of Training: “You can provide all the pastoral training you want as long as you divide it into small pieces that can fit through a straw. By giving it in digestible pieces, leaders can grow consistently.”


  • Maintain contact with multiple levels of leaders – It is not unusual in the harsh environments of persecution and spiritual assault for the top national leader(s) of a movement to be taken out (prison, flight to another context, death, job move, moral failure). CPM practitioners whose only contact with the leaders of a movement is through one top leader (often because of a noble desire to encourage indigenous leaders not to rely on a foreign teacher) will find it difficult to continue leadership development when he is removed from the leadership chain. It is critical from the beginning to maintain contact with multiple generations of leaders knowing that at any time any leader may leave the movement. It is also critical to encourage mid-level leaders to network together so that they create multiple opportunities for interpersonal development. If these things happen, then leadership development continues without significant interruptions.

These are principles and applications that must be thought through before churches begin. If you begin with an expanding leadership system in mind (which will morph along the way!), you will likely equip the movement to grow for decades to come by the power of the Spirit. 

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 4×4 Movements, March/April 2014  page 31-34. It was used here with permission.

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Friends of God

Friends of God

In India, God continues to rescue Banjara people from darkness and mobilize them for His Kingdom! In the process of learning their value before God, their lives change dramatically. Before following Jesus, they have no hope, believing they deserve only to live among trash and sewage, unable to rise above their station. But when they become children and friends of the King, they learn that God has provided work for them to do, and they joyfully do it!  Five months ago, Mr. and Mrs. Jothi turned their backs on their idols and committed themselves to following Jesus while attending a Discovery Bible Study group. Though poor and illiterate, they have since birthed eight churches among other Banjara families. The new disciples in those churches all recently took baptism.

One of the baptized men is the village head in a nearby area. His whole family worships idols, but he told Mr. and Mrs. *Jothi, “I [also] want to do the work for this God.” He has faith that one day all 37 families in his community will become followers of Jesus.

Pray for more Banjara people – and those from other people groups – to discover the God who gives them dignity, and calls them His children and His friends.



The leaders estimate that every day about 50% of the movement faces persecution in some form: verbal abuse,
read more …

In North India, a young follower of Jesus tutors in the home of a neighboring Sikh family read more …

Ranbir met Chara, a woman interested in discussing spiritual matters. He invited her to a Bible study to  read more …

What is the Role of a Pastor in Disciple-Making Movements?

What is the Role of a Pastor in Disciple-Making Movements?

Brian* and Ellie’s* local partner, Hom,* felt pretty discouraged after visiting a friend who is the pastor of a local church. As they talked about the early church, as seen in the Book of Acts, Hom pointed out how leadership roles were different from what modern, traditional churches often have.The pastor was fearful that Hom was teaching heresy and told him to be careful. 

Brian recalls following up with Hom, “I could tell he was confused. He asked me, ‘Brother, what is the role of the pastor in a disciple-making movement?'”

“We first discussed the priesthood of ALL believers, and that ALL disciples have authority given to us by Jesus to baptize, and to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20). We also talked about how Paul and Barnabas appointed elders at each church in Acts 14:23, house churches included. We discussed the qualifications for an elder and the spiritual gifts, specifically the gift of teaching. He was encouraged to know that each house church in the early church had leaders. There is a role for the gift of teaching in disciple-making movements (DMM). There is a place for every spiritual gift.”

Hom has come to a critical decision point. Does he continue to share these DMM paradigm shifts with other local leaders? He knows they might reject him if he continues.

Brian concluded, “When Jesus talked to the disciples in John 6:58-66 about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many walked away. Jesus did not chase after them. I have not yet had to “dust my feet off” from long-time friends who I care about, but this is something Hom might have to face. Pray for him as he considers these things.



If you really wanted to do something better, and could study under the world’s leading expert, would you? read more …

One team of disciple-makers in Indonesia had been praying and pondering how they could send out more national  read more …

By following Jesus’ 10 transferable and reproducible movement strategies, indigenous churches can read more …

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.

Interested in ways to get involved?  Talk to Us
Want to Learn More About Movements? Watch our Six Simple Shifts Video

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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