Friday, November 23

CPM concepts revisited

A lot is being said and written about 'church planting movements' (CPM). But the reality is there are only a handful of people in the world who have actually experienced CPM and can speak with authority about them.

David Watson is one of those few.

In one of his recent blog entries entitled The Secret Ingredient for Church Planting David shares some very helpful thoughts about CPM that are not only instructive but affirming to me and the direction our team is sensing God's guidance...

God began to teach me through many failures that I had to focus on making Disciples of Christ, not followers of my church or denomination, and teach them to obey all the commands of Jesus, not my church/denominational doctrines or traditions. And this is what led to the breakthrough that has resulted in more than 40,000 churches among a people who were once considered unreachable.

Many people use the term “CPM” to describe or justify what they are doing. But, on closer examination, I find that many groups who use this term are simply applying it to what they have always done. CPM is not a method! It is an observation of results. In my experience, and this is what I teach, CPM is the result of obedience-based discipleship that sees disciples reproducing disciples, leaders reproducing leaders, and churches reproducing churches. If this is not happening, it is not CPM.

True CPM methodology is about being disciplined in education, training, and mentoring to obey all the commands of Jesus, regardless of consequences. The results are not quick. They only appear to be quick because of exponential growth. When one is truly engaged in the process that leads to observable CPM, then one is spending years investing in leaders. The typical investment timeline is two to four years. But, because of the replication process due to obedience to make disciples and teach them to obey, in this same two to four years, as many as five more leaders, who are also developing more leaders, will emerge. Each leader is investing two to four years in other leaders who invest two to four years in other leaders, and so on. The apparent result is explosive growth that does not seem to take much time and energy. But appearances are misleading.

CPM is extremely time and energy intensive. Leaders invest a major portion of their time in equipping other leaders. Churches invest in starting more groups that will become churches as they obey the teachings of Christ and begin to fulfill the nature and functions of church, which means they teach others to do the same.

There were no visible or measureable results the first four years of my ministry among a very resistant unreached people group. My mission was ready to discipline me for failure to do my job. But during those years I was equipping five leaders. These five leaders began to equip twenty-five more leaders, who in turned equipped hundreds of other leaders.

A few churches became more churches as leaders were equipped and trained to obey all the commands of Christ. More churches became hundreds of churches as the leadership equipping process continued. Every leader has years invested in him or her by other leaders. Nothing is quick. It only appears to be quick because more and more leaders are being produced in obedience to the command of Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)

So, CPM rapid multiplication really isn’t. We go slow in order to appear to go fast. We invest extensively in one in order to reach and train many. Our goal is to add at least two new leaders to our mentoring process each year, and equip the new leaders to do the same every year. As leaders multiply, churches grow and multiply.

If you really want to have CPM anywhere in the world, invest in teaching, training and mentoring leaders to obey all the commands of Christ. If you want to evaluate a so-called CPM, examine the discipleship and leadership equipping process. Real and lasting CPMs invest heavily in leadership and training. CPM is a result, not a cause.

The above words affirm the direction our team senses the Lord leading us. After years of deliberate church planting emphasis, we are restructuring ourselves into what we are calling the "Centro de Apoyo Para la COsecha" CAPCO (Harvest Support Center.)

We understand our task as primarily that of "making disciples." We do this by teaching, training, and mentoring of leaders. To be honest, it has caused me to panic in that our primary focus is NOT church planting. How will we ever plant churches if that ceases to be our focus? But the conviction is strong amongst our team that if we stick with the very things David is talking about above, we will position ourselves to be on the road to seeing a genuine CPM here in Ecuador.

The past few months we have thoroughly examined and revamped our whole discipleship and leadership equipping process. Will it pay off? Time will tell. David speaks of little visible or measurable results until after four years. We have been at it for seven now without the longed for results. With our change in focus, are we now looking at an additional four years before we begin to see the true fruits coming forth from our labors? Only the Lord knows, but we are excited about the coming days and what we sense God will do to bring glory to His Name.


Bill Lollar said...


Normally, I struggle with a lot of the discussion centered around the CPM concept, because it's usually couched in terms of "how can we make this happen in our area?" I like the final sentence in Watson's quote: "CPM is a result, not a cause." I would describe it as a phenomenon of the Holy Spirit more than the right mix of human effort and leadership training. Sometimes God just shows up and does things no one else could have expected!

So I'm a little concerned that dedicated missionaries like yourself are expected to embrace, for lack of a better term, "the CPM vision;" and I'm also fearful of the discouragement factor that can set in when you do everything "by the book" and you don't see the results you hope for.

Watson's confession, "My mission was ready to discipline me for failure to do my job," sends cold chills up my spine. And they would have if things had not begun exploding around him. I have lived in such fear myself for failure to produce, to show value for money invested (in my salary, benefits, etc).

Thanks for sharing this! I have never read Watson before, but he sounds like someone I would love to spend the afternoon with.

Bill Lollar
The Thin Edge of the Wedge

GuyMuse said...


There continues to be a huge ongoing discussion centering around the pros and cons of cpm methodology, especially amongst SBC missionaries, since CPM is the basic church planting methodology that most of us are working with around the world.

While a majority of us embrace the concepts, there are plenty of others who honestly question them.

Recently in the Spring 2007 "Journal of Evangelism and Missions" (MABTS), the entire issue was dedicated to CPM issues. The most controversial article in there is one by Jeff Brawner
An Examination of Nine Key Issues Concerning CPM
. IMB M bloggers like Ken Sorrell have done an excellent job debating the authors widely held views. Ken in particular has taken it to task to address each of Brawner's 9 issues. These have likewise been debated extensively over at the Church Planting Forum (you're welcome to check it out and join if interested.)

All of this to say, anytime you get a handful of church planting missionaries together for more than 10 minutes CPM will come up. Some will be all for it, and others will be shaking their heads.

Jim Palmer said...

Guy and Bill,
I have always said that CPMs where descriptive not prescriptive. We can’t take someone else’s strategy and duplicate it in our situation with much success. However, CPM methodologies are different. Yes, there is much discussion about CPM methodologies. But we must all agree that the number one methodology is what Watson is pointing out, leadership training. When we began targeting a unevangelized people group eight years ago, we developed several strategies to the best of our ability. Once we got started we quickly realized that nothing would be as important as training leaders. So, we shifted gears and put all of our eggs in one basket, leadership training. For eight years 100 % of our financial resources and 50% of our time has been dedicated to leadership training. It has been frustrating. We have lost what we thought were good potential leaders. We have struggled with doctrinal issues. We have struggled with issues of practice. We have started over several times on training materials. Yet, the more we train, the more churches are planted. Isn’t it amazing that Jesus never said “go plant churches”, instead he said, “go make disciples.” Why has it been so hard for us “church planters” to figure that out.

GuyMuse said...


Excellent insights. I know what you mean about the frustrating part of training so many and yet so few following through. Our primary focus has also been training. What I feel need to go hand-in-hand are prayer and training; training and prayer. I think it was Wesley who said, God never does anything except in response to prayer.

Our training and materials are constantly evolving and adapting. But I agree with you, the more people we train, the more churches get planted. I have often said, I could go out and maybe plant 1-2 new churches per year, but would rather invest my time into training 50-100 others so that there might be 50-100 new churches planted.

Paul Watson said...

Guy and Jim,

I'm enjoying the conversation. I would like to know a couple of things: How are you training leaders? What materials are you using?

David Watson, myself, and some other church planters are currently working on several Scripture-Only discovery guides for training church planters, every member discipleship, and leadership development. I am interested in what you are using as well as pros, cons, and what areas of leadership development you deal with most frequently. What are the tough spots in leadership development? Why are key leaders dropping out? Etc.

Paul Watson

GuyMuse said...


What an honor to have you visit our little blog! I can't speak for Jim in Central America, but what we use here is what we call our "Ruta Discipular" (Discipleship Route). There are actually TWO routes. One for new believers and another geared more towards leadership training intended for church planters. As I mentioned before these have continuously been evolving over the years to meet the needs as we see and understand them.

The "tough spots" in leadership development tend to be that those who are trained do not put into practice what they have received. The distractions of everyday life tend to overwhelm their call to serve the Lord. I don't mean to sound critical. Most of the people we work with live with problems and circumstances I have never had to face.

Another reason leaders drop out is because the churches they come out of are not in favor of the kind of church planting/ministry we seek to instill. Most churches want to see their own church grow larger; but are not interested in seeing new works planted. Those that seek to start new works are quickly brought back into line by telling them their "first loyalty" is to their home church.

I could go on and on, but that is a quick intro to some of our local issues over the past 7 years of walking these trails.

Paul Watson said...


I've been stalking your blog for a couple of years. I enjoy reading your posts and praying for you and your family.

I have some additional questions. Be forewarned - I could ask questions all day long, so stop me when you get tired. :)

What do you do with leaders who do not practice what they learn?

Do you find that most of your leaders come out of a church culture? Are there people in your area who have never been exposed to church - whether Protestant or Catholic? Do you have to deconstruct the idea/concept of church with your leaders before you train them to plant churches? Would a deconstruction guide - through Scripture - be beneficial to people working in areas similar to yours? Have you/are you doing this already?

About how long do you work with a brand new believer before you release them to plant churches?

Thanks, Guy, for your input. I really appreciate it.

-Paul Watson

Bryan Riley said...

Isn't it fanstastic how Jesus' commands and encouragements really work? :) Wow, make disciples.... what a concept. :) Good stuff, Guy.

GuyMuse said...


What do we do with leaders who do not practice what they learn? Usually nothing. We focus on those who are responding and give them the time, not the ones who do not practice what they have been taught.

Do you find that most of your leaders come out of a church culture? Yes. Most coming for training come to us out of an existing church culture. That is what makes it hard! You mention a deconstruction guide through Scripture. That would be great to have! I confess, we used to spend a lot more time on deconstruction issues, but have backed off in the past couple of years in that too many were simply turned off and would leave without ever doing anything. We figure some kind of church is better than NO church at all.

About how long do you work with a brand new believer before you release them to plant churches? They are free to plant churches as soon as they would like. We do not put a time frame on anybody. Yesterday, for example, a woman who has been a believer about one year, was assuring me she is praying hard to begin a new work in her community and asked me to pray with her. She seemed embarrassed that it is taking so long.

GuyMuse said...


We are the ones who have made things so complicated. I don't know if it is just our culture, or our degree of education, or what. But something in us wants everybody to know everything that we know, right now! Those who conform to our understanding of the Gospel, pass. Those who do not, fail.

Paul Watson said...


Thanks for the feedback. I'll let you know if I have more questions. This information is great to have for our upcoming meeting.

-Paul Watson

Ross Garner said...

Hello Guy

I found myself blogging today for the first time in six months! I remain inspired by your work and what you have quoted here from David Watson.

I am still involved in Kingdom ministry and am at present trying to lead my church forward into a closer walk with the Father which will include receiving and using the spiritual gifts. Much of the past year has been taken up with intensive leadership training / disciple making. As mentioned in your post this does not at the moment look like much fruit, but the tree is now considerably more healthy and the fruit will come soon.

I am hopeful that this coming time of renewal will raise up some folk who want to be involved in church planting along the lines that you are talking about.

GuyMuse said...


Good to hear from you again. Thanks for the kind words.

I too was encouraged by the article and that's why I posted it on the blog. We have felt this is the direction we must focus on if we are ever to see a cpm in our midst. I just hope we have the long-term patience to hold out till we begin to see the anticipated growth and fruit from our labors.

Chris L said...

Hey Guy,
What you describe, about focusing more on making disciples than on planting churches, is much the same as what we've been sensing lately. Good to know there are others in the same boat. Thanks for pointing us to David's blog. I hadn't seen it before, and it's good stuff. God bless!

GuyMuse said...


Welcome back to Ecuador (I assume you made it back!) Yes, David's website has a lot of helpful stuff.

Chris L said...

Sorry, different Chris. I'm Chris Leake from Mexico.

GuyMuse said...

Chris Leake,

Sorry for the mix-up! You'd be welcome to come to Ecuador as well, though!