Monday, November 5

Keys to sustain a church planting movement

Recently a friend and co-laborer was in Cuba investigating the remarkable church planting movement that continues to flourish on this island of 11-million people. While there he asked one of the leaders who has been at the center of this movement what they thought were the keys in bringing about and sustaining the church planting movement that has being going on now for close to 20 years. His response was the following in bold (the comments after are my friend's observations which he shared with us):
1. Extraordinary prayer is fundamental.  Prayer is the fuel that powers the church planting movement in Cuba and the key to its success. Each of the last four years Cubans have participated in 50 days of prayer and fasting for spiritual renewal, evangelism and church planting. More importantly, prayer is not a once a year program, but a daily part of Cuban life. Like the early church, members pray in the temple, in homes, and on the street. Multiple prayer groups meet daily; prayer vigils are common; “Mothers Who Pray” meets weekly to intercede for the youth of the country; and Wednesday night prayer meeting is actually that, a protracted time of prayer. Prayer is also part of the Cuban evangelism strategy. Church members establish friendships with their unsaved neighbors, ask how they can pray for them, pray for the neighbors’ felt needs, not just once, but continually throughout the week, determine how God is responding to the prayers, and as God answers, look for open doors to share the gospel.

2. One must never lose the vision of planting churches.  The second thing that impressed me about the work on the island of Cuba is the singleness of purpose. It doesn’t matter which church you visit – historical, cell, or house – each has the same goal: MPI (movimiento de plantación de iglesias) [CPM-church planting movement.] They want to see a church within walking distance of everyone on the island.  How did all churches come together to have a common vision and work together for the same end? According to Cuban leaders there are two key factors:
  1. The MPI began as a spark passing from pastor to pastor not from the convention or association to the churches. It spread from below, not from above. Their advice is “don’t argue or struggle to convince others of the vision; make it so attractive that others become envious of what you are doing. Spend more time praying for the pastors who oppose the new paradigm than you spend debating with them about its merits.”  
  2. The MPI did not create a divorce between the historic church and the house church. Both are biblical patterns, and it serves no purpose in arguing that one model is better than another. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Each model appeals to different people. The key is that each church, no matter the type, multiplies itself by starting a new work where none exists.

3. Evangelism must be systematic and strategic.  Without question, the thing that impressed me most about my visit to Cuba was the passion of the people to do the work of the Lord. All--from the youngest to the oldest--are using their God-given talents and gifts to extend His kingdom. Cubans have the same demands of work and family as all of us, plus the added burden of inadequate public transportation. Nevertheless they find the time everyday to pray, share their faith, and participate in a house church, outreach event, or social action program.

4. Continuous training is essential, using people who are dedicated full-time to this task.  Leaders of groups find time to get training and to train others. Over and over it was emphasized that no plan or program we present, no matter how good it may be, will be successful if not accompanied by a passion to do the work of the Lord. Where does this passion come from? What motivates the people? According to the leaders I interviewed, this passion does not stem from focusing on the number of lost people around us.  Instead, it stems from a great love for Christ.  Only our love for Him is capable of motivating us to obey, and only when we are obedient will we love others and seek to make them disciples.

5. Keep the new churches focused on reaching out, not focusing inward on their own needs and structure. While my friend did not comment on this particular point, my own experience of visiting Cuba twice in the past is that the focus was all about those around them who had not yet come to know our Lord. The attention, prayer, visits were for those outside the church. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" was something I felt personally being in their midst as love was poured upon me without expectation of anything in return. This same kind of love was contstantly poured out on those around them.

6. Avoid a divorce between the traditional and house church.  The church planting movement in Cuba is based on unity. Historic churches, cell churches and house churches not only co-exist but work cooperatively to extend the kingdom of God. How did this come about? Some say that it evolved based on the government’s prohibition against new church buildings; others attribute it to the government’s tacit approval of small groups meeting in homes. While both of these factors influenced the present situation, the most important factor was the conviction, after carefully studying God’s word, that each model of church has a scriptural basis and there is no room for debate over which model of church is correct.
To read more in detail about the Cuban CPM that continues to flourish, Cuba's Great Awakening: Church Planting Movement by Kurt Urbanek is a must-read. My own copy is heavily high-lighted and highly recommended reading for anyone involved in church planting. The Spanish version of the book can be purchased here.



Darrell said...

Guy that sounds awesome. I would love that. Do you know what kind of training the do? In my experience all the training I have received and given is mostly about starting simple churches that multiply. It requires people to GO. When pastors learn that people in their congregation are going to leave to go plant churches they run away. What do the traditional churches in Cuba do to work with the house church gang?

J. Guy Muse said...


The book link in the last paragraph answers many of those kinds of questions. The short answer is they each see one another as valid representations of church and do not try to change one another's minds about the best way to do church. The book goes in to a lot of detail about these matters. Because there is so much unity for advancing the Kingdom, little seems to be the differences they have with one another.

Darrell said...

Good I already ordered 2 of the books! Thanks!

peter newman said...


You have had far more experience working with house churches than I have. I have been involved with a dozen house churches since the 1970s - in different roles - as a brother and a shepherd and a church planter. Most house churches seem to last only 2-3 years. Although I have seen some house churches last 20-30 years, usually they no longer have Christ's zoe life sustaining them even though they keep meeting together. After 40 years of experience and observation, I am convinced that what is missing is solid and accurate teaching on the spiritual meaning and practical application of the cross of Christ. I have specifically addressed this problem in our website (see Q&A #33 and Teaching Tracts #10, 20 and 30). I hope this can be of some help.

In Christ's love,

J. Guy Muse said...


Looks like an interesting website with a lot of good material. Is any of it available in Spanish?

I would add to your "I am convinced that what is missing is solid and accurate teaching on the spiritual meaning and practical application of the cross of Christ." that we have become accustomed to a Christianity that is about knowledge and beliefs, but little of it carries over into life. It is less about what we know and more about what we do with what we know.