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Church Planting Movements In North America?

I was recently re-reading this paper that I wrote in 2004.  I would highly encourage you to read Church Planting Movements by David Garrison.  However, if you can not find the time, I encourage you to give the arguments laid out in my review some consideration.  It is amazing to me how much God used this class, and specifically this assignment that I worked on six years ago, to shape the vision He has placed in my heart for this new work here in Lexington. I have resisted the temptation to make some minor changes and have left this as it was written in 2004.  I would love to hear your comments below.

UPDATE:  A great summary of Garrison’s book is available for free HERE.



A Paper

Presented to

Dr. J.D. Payne


In Partial Fulfillment

Of the Requirements for 33820



Gavin L. Duerson

October 8, 2004


In 1994, David and Jan Watson, two missionaries serving in India reported 1,000 new converts coming to Christ in India with over 100 churches started in new towns and cities across the country. Not only was this report confirmed to be true, but similar reports of the rapid expansion of the Church have also been confirmed in recent years. They have come to be described as Church Planting Movements. This essay will examine some of the necessary components required for the occurrence of the Church Planting Movements around the world as addressed by David Garrison in his book, Church Planting Movements. Secondly, there will be an examination of the changes that are necessary for a Church Planting Movement to occur in North America.

Church Planting Movements

Garrison states that a Church Planting Movement is “a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.” Garrison and his team of fellow missionaries, upon meeting in 1998 to discuss what God was doing in and through Church Planting Movements across the globe, found several commonly held characteristics among every Church Planting Movement they studied. They are as follows:

1. Extraordinary Prayer (leadership holds communication with God as their first priority)

2. Abundant Evangelism (everyone shares their faith on an ongoing basis)

3. Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches (planters do not assume that churches will multiply automatically)

4. The Authority of God’s Word (Bible is held as the ultimate standard and guide to life)

5. Local Leadership (foreigners work only behind the scenes)

6. Lay Leadership (church leaders are unpaid and maintain outside jobs)

7. House Churches (church buildings are not present)

8. Churches Planting Churches (churches plant other churches on their own initiative)

9. Rapid Reproduction (the rate of converts exceeds the population rate)

10. Healthy Churches (worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry present)

Church Planting Movements in North America

Is this type of movement possible in North America? Based on Garrison’s observations, I think so if some changes could be made within our local churches and their leadership structures.

Changes Within The Local Church

If a Church Planting Movement takes place in North America, some radical, “top down” changes would have to occur within at least some of its local churches. While one can see many needed changes within the Church from examining Garrison’s “Obstacles to Church Planting Movements,” I would like to highlight three changes that could help current North American churches pave the way for a Church Planting Movement to occur.

Re-Educating Church Members on the Definition of the “Local Church.” Churches and church leaders must first begin a healthy dialog with their members to reexamine the Biblical essence of a New Testament Church. One end result of this re-education must be that North Americans transfer the culture’s trademark value of “Bigger is Better” into the idea that bigger church planting goals are better than just bigger churches. Another end result of the re-education will need to focus on the elimination of extra-biblical requirements for service in the church that can often be imposed on those wishing to lead.

Foster a Culture of Multiplication. Current churches also need to begin indoctrinating their leaders with the idea of multiplication noting, however, that successful indoctrination will not take place without consistent action. One such way that current churches can exhibit their seriousness regarding church multiplication is through releasing their existing small groups and Sunday school classes to become “churches” with the mission to multiply. Perhaps even taking the radical step of encouraging congregants to listen to the pastor’s messages on tape or video in a member’s home rather than actually coming to the church building could help members to see the church as a community of believers and not a place or location. In addition, using language that addresses small group leaders as “pastors” and “church planters” rather than “small group leaders” would promote the vision of a Church Planting Movement.

Release Control. For many churches and church leaders, an especially daunting challenge will be to release control over certain aspects of the church while maintaining biblically mandated oversight. Some release of oversight is necessary for the occurrence of a Church Planting Movement. America is a culture of subcultures where one size does not fit all. Church leaders must see the value of encouraging indigenous church plants where believers can freely worship in their subculture’s language. In addition, Churches must be willing to allow self-theologizing to occur, which may mean that daughter churches develop a different theology than that of the planting church. This poses tremendous problems for many church leaders who cling tightly to the secondary issues of Scripture that define many of our denominations. However, leaders who are willing to release control of their members and enlist them in ministry will have a greater possibility of developing a Church Planting Movement.

Changes Within Individual Believers

Waiting on our church leaders to start a Church Planting Movement, may mean it will never happen. Thus, individual believers must consider what personal changes they can make to help bring about a Church Planting Movement to North America. By examining the characteristics of Church Planting Movements, there are several applications that can be made on a personal level.

Commitment to Powerful Prayer. Many individual believers must begin to adopt a prayer life that is not only open to divine miracles but in fact begins with expectancy of such miracles.

Commitment to the Authority of Scripture. We must examine the Scriptures for guidance in all areas of life with an understanding that God’s Words are infallible and “God breathed.”

Welcome Persecution. Church leaders and Christians in general must not be afraid of persecution. Instead, we must see persecution as our friend, because believers acknowledge that God has used suffering time and time again to spark a flame of rapid church growth.

Commitment to Personal Multiplication. This begins with bold witnessing for Christ. Not believing that “earning the right to be heard” is something that takes a long time to achieve, but instead realizing that if one shares his/her faith with a total stranger “in love” and with a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” that the “right” is quickly earned. However, witnessing is not the end. Simply getting someone to profess Christ is not the goal, but making a disciple who is committed to making multiple disciples is the goal. By investing in new converts and helping them to understand that being a Christian must involve making multiple disciples, then one is actively applying the Church Planting Movement principles to their life. With a clear understanding of a local church’s function, people can begin to open themselves up to the notion that God may call them to pastor a home church.


If a rapid, multiplicative, church planting movement is to take place in North America, then it will require church leaders to take drastic measures that will undoubtedly look foreign to many believers. As individuals, we too, must begin to apply the lessons learned from Church Planting Movements abroad to our own personal lives and be open to the notion that God may desire us to be key element in bring such movements to North America. In a culture where secularism is the modern way, a Church Planting Movement could be our countries only hope of seeing multitudes come to Christ and our country experiencing revival once again.



Garrison, David. Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian, VA: WigTake Resources, 2004, 21.


Payne, J.D. “What is Indigenous Church Planting?” Classroom lecture, 33820 – Introduction to Church Planting, 2004. Audio/Video compact disc.

[1] David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World, (Midlothian: WigTake Resources, 2004), 15-16.

[2] Garrison, 21.

[3] For brevity sake this essay will not discuss at length Garrison’s characteristics of Most Church Planting Movements.  (To examine these characteristics see Garrison, 222-238)

[4] Garrison, 171-198

[5] Garrison discusses three characteristics of most church planting movements that do seem to be in conflict with our present sociological context.  These are an Insulation from Outsiders, a High Cost for Following Christ, and Family Based Conversion Patterns. Since we live in an open, Christian friendly, individualistic society, it would seem problematic.  However these are only present in most, not all, Church Planting Movements thus would eliminate the possibility of one a North American Context. (see Garrison, 222-238).

[6] Garrison, 239-257.

[7] Dr. J.D. Payne, “What is Indigenous Church Planting?” (classroom lecture, 33820 – Introduction to Church Planting, 2004), audio/video compact disc.

[8]  2 Tim. 3:16

[9] Eph. 4:15

[10] 1Cor. 2:14

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5 thoughts on “Church Planting Movements In North America?”

  1. I think you’re a loon, which is exactly why this journey is going to be incredible and God is going to bless it immensely. When we follow the leading of the Spirit and He speaks and works through us, then the church will explode. Thanks for your faithfulness, Gavin!

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