Church Planting Movements – Part 2: Foundations

By D Stewart

D Stewart coaches church planting movements and lives among the unreached. He can be contacted at

Part 1 of this series provided an overview of the Church Planting Movement (CPM), Christ’s love for the Church, and His commitment to build the Church. It described the organic nature of the Church and recognized the fact that organic things naturally reproduce and multiply or become extinct.

It also acknowledged that God produces both physical and spiritual growth, with Him lies the secret of life. God allows us to participate in the process, but we are not the Master, just the servants. This article will expand on the topic by focusing in on the proper foundation for CPM.

CPMs are inherently spiritual. A true CPM is the result of the outpouring of God’s Spirit, the Spirit that blows where He will like the wind. However, God’s Holy Spirit uses means to accomplish His ends. He normally chooses to work in and through His people to accomplish His will on earth.

We have a role to play, but we must remember that Jesus was, and is, primarily concerned with the glory of the Father. If we seek to glorify ourselves or our methods we will build on the wrong foundation. Rather, we must humble ourselves before God and not usurp His role as the Lord of the Vineyard.

We must be about His will, His agenda. This requires a humility that is not easily cultivated or maintained in our age of individualism and individual accomplishment. It is helpful to be reminded from time to time that the story is not about us.

This is God’s work, God’s world, and God’s story. CPM is God’s work and we must be willing to have people look past us to see the Hand of God at work — sometimes even disregarding our contributions.

We must be willing to let God have all the glory, and not allow our worth to be calculated by the amount of recognition, status, accomplishment, or control we have. We have a part to play in the drama, but it is His Kingdom and Glory that we are pursuing.

I have found Andrew Murray’s classic “Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness” to be particularly helpful in understanding and seeking to develop the unheralded virtue of humility.

Humility is the foundation of right relationship with God, and a growing, vibrant, and conversational relationship with God is the foundation of CPM.

[1] This might seem obvious, but my own experience, as well as the experience of many ministers and missionaries, all too clearly demonstrates that we often neglect our relationship with God even as we strive to serve Him.

I recently received an e-mail from a friend in which he reflected on how he had neglected his personal relationship with God over the last few years because he was too busy with ministry. He realizes now that his pursuit of God is the most essential element to knowing and doing the will of God.

CPM is God’s will and work. We need God. Not just as a principle, and not just to save us. We need Him every day. We must pursue Him, pursue Him as a real person who wants a relationship with us, and from whom we have much to learn in all areas, including CPM.

If building the church is God’s prerogative and purview then our life and work will be characterized by pursuit of and submission to, Him. If this is His work, then we really ought to be seeking His direction and perspective. We often talk with each other about our plans, but not enough with God.

It’s not enough for me to learn from others about the things that He has asked them to do. It’s not enough to develop strategies based on our observations or the experiences of others. It’s not enough for me to read His Word and discern principles to be practiced.

We were meant for something more! He wants to hear from us and speak to us. I need to know what He would have me do. We must tune our ears to His voice. We must train ourselves to discern the will of God. One of the best ways to do this is to bathe our minds in His Word.

His Word is the unchanging standard, the only pure, untainted, unadulterated source of truth. By familiarizing ourselves with the Word we will begin to learn how to discern between good and evil, but more than that, we will learn to discern His voice among the cacophony of voices competing for our attention and allegiance.

As we study the Word we become familiar with the timbre of His voice and we become the sheep who know the voice of the Good Shepherd.

The Word is the primary way that we discover the general will of God, our minds are renewed, principles are discerned, wisdom is gained; however, we must also relate with the God through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the only right interpreter of the Word and promises to guide us into all truth.

Some have rejected the voice of the Spirit from fear of being led astray by voices from their flesh, or from demons. There are many counterfeits out there, and we must be on our guard, but we cannot allow fear to keep us from pursuing our birthright as children of God.

We have been born again into a real conversational relationship with God, and we cannot trade our birthright for something less, even if it seems safer. We lose more than we gain.

Our relationship with God is the foundation for CPM and prayer is an integral part of that developing that relationship. Through prayer we affirm our dependence on Him and ascribe to Him the glory that is due His Name. Prayer keeps us, sometimes literally, on our knees before our God.

Prayer, as my father used to say, keeps me from getting too big for my britches. It reminds me of my proper place in the universe. Prayer also humbles me and reminds me of my right relationship to the King. I am not the King. I am a servant, a supplicant, and a soldier of the King.

One of the main causes for my failure to pray is feeling too busy. Imagine a kingdom where those who serve the king work too hard to be able to listen to his commands, or perceive themselves as too busy to seek his input. I am serving a King and I need to get my orders from Him.

The general outline of His battle plans and principles of warfare are available through His written Word, but my specific role in the battle is often less clear. I need to know where He wants me today.

Prayer is how we get our orders from the King, but prayer is also a weapon that we use in our service to the King. We have been entrusted with weapons that demolish strongholds. Prayer is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal as Christians.

We have been commanded to pray, we have been instructed how to pray, we have been given examples of prayers, we have been admonished about the potential power of prayer. But still we neglect the very weapon that could win the battle because we are too busy trying to win the battle.

I do not pretend to understand how or why prayer works, but this much is clear: Prayer does a work in me, and is also a powerful and effective means that God uses to accomplish much.

In prayer we take our requests, our visions, our desires, our resources, our talents, everything we have and everything we are, to God and we place them before Him.

We submit ourselves to Him and ask Him to fill and control us, to lead and empower us, to do His will in and through us.

Through prayer we do battle with the forces of evil. Historically, prayer has been the starting place, humanly speaking, for virtually every great move of the Spirit for revival or awakening. This is true from Pentecost right through to the birth of the original Student Volunteer Movement. Prayer is central to CPM!

In my experience members of the missions community tend to emphasize one of two approaches. Either they plan carefully and intentionally or they attempt to follow the Spirit’s leading without devoting much energy to planning.

They act as if to be strategic is unspiritual, or to be spiritual is to reject deliberate action. We must reject this false dichotomy! It is not a question of following the Spirit or being purposeful about our work; following the Spirit is the first step towards being purposeful about our work.

CPM strategies are discovered more than they are developed. We must depend on God to provide the strategies that He would have us follow. Jesus is our example of dependence on God.

He often rebuked those around Him because they wanted to do things, or wanted Him to do things, that were not part of the plan. His plan was to do and say everything that the Father had for Him and nothing else. Our primary task is to listen and look for what God is doing and get on board with His plan.

God has generated dynamic growth in the past; he is doing so now. Many of his servants have walked this road before us and we can learn from them. The next article will describe some of the principles that He has used.

[1] I borrowed the term “conversational relationship” from Dallas Willard’s book “Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship With God”.

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