Church Planting Movements: How Fast Do They Grow?

 “A Church Planting Movement is a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.” (Garrison, CPM, 8).

Church Planting Movements, by definition, evidence exponential growth or growth through multiplication, not addition.  Although I’ve read a number of CPM case studies, I do not remember seeing Average Annual Growth Rates (AAGRs) provided.  So to find out how fast these CPMs are growing, I have calculated the AAGRs for the following case studies which I’ve read over the last few months.

Cuba

Here is a case study from Cuba that one of my blog readers, Dr. Kurt Urbanek,  pointed out to me. Dr. Urbanek, author of “Cuba’s Great Awakening: Church Planting Movement in Cuba” (available from www.amazon.com) provided me with surprising news about what is happening in Cuba. He begins chapter 1 of “Cuba’s Great Awakening”  by saying:

“In the face of staggeringly difficult political, social, and economic circumstances, Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented movement of God. This inspiring movement has seen hundreds of thousands come to faith in Jesus Christ and thousands of new church starts. Congregations among Baptists alone have multiplied from 238 to 7,039 churches, missions and house churches in just 20 years. Among the Assemblies of God, the increase has soared from 89 churches in 1990 to 2,779 in 2010 and this number of congregations is augmented by 7,997 house churches. Total Assembly of God membership (including adherents) has increased from 12,000 in 1990 to over 688,931 in 2010. This spiritual awakening continues and promises even greater blessings in the days to come.”

For this example the Baptists achieved a Church Planting AAGR of 17.4%. The Assemblies of God Church Planting AAGR is over 22% – not including the 8,000 house churches; the Christian AAGR is 18.8%.

David Garrison, who serves with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, also provides several case studies of in his writings about Church Planting Movements.  It is possible to determine growth rates for several of these.

China

“When a strategy coordinator began his assignment in 1993, there were only three churches and 85 believers among a population of more than 7 million lost souls. Four years later there were more than 550 churches and nearly 55,000 believers” (Garrison, CPM, 15). Later Garrison gives 1991 as a starting point for this work. So I used that year to calculate the following AAGRs. Here the Church Planting AAGR is an astounding 110.5% and the Christian growth rate is even greater at 152% AAGR.

Latin America

“By 1989, the northern union had a membership of roughly 5,800. That same year, they began to experience an awakening as membership climbed 5.3 percent and then 6.9 percent the following year. By the end of the 1990s, the northern union’s membership had grown from 5,800 to more than 14,000. Over that same period, the number of churches increased from 100 to 1,340. At last report, there is little sign of this growth slowing down.”  (Garrison, CPM, 11).

For this example, the Christian AAGr is 9.2% (the lowest of any example noted here), and the church planting AAGR here is 30%.

Garrison provides a summary of another Baptist union in Latin America:

 “Similar developments were also unfolding in the southern union. In 1989, they had 129 churches with a membership of just under  7,000. With 533 baptisms recorded that year, they were showing signs of vitality. By 1998, their membership had risen to nearly 16,000 with annual baptisms of almost 2,000. The number of churches increased during the same period from 129 to 1,918, a remarkable 1,387 percent growth rate for the decade.”  (Garrison, CPM, 11)

For this example the, church planting AAGR is 35%; the Christian AAGR is 9.6%.

The Bholdari of India

Garrison also includes a case study of the Bholdari of India (Garrison, CPM, 20-22). This is the work that David Watson started (http://www.davidlwatson.org ). It is reported that the work grew from 28 to 2000 churches from 1989 to 1998 (60.7% AAGR) with over 55,000 conversions. From what I understand, this work continues to grow with more than 11,000 new churches and nearly 1,000,000 new believers in less than ten years.  (WIGTake Resources 2010).

Cambodia

Garrison includes a case study form Cambodia (Garrison, CPM, 25). I include Cambodia here because it is on the “Top 20 Hot Spots” list. From 1992 to 1998 the churches studied multiplied from 6 to 94, the AAGR being 58%.

China

The final case study I will mention here comes from the book T4T: A Discipleship Revolution by Steve Smith with Ying Kai. This particular case study is considered to be the largest recorded CPM, according to David Garrison who wrote the forward to the book. In a ten year period, the number of churches grew from 3,535 to 53,430 (35% AAGR) and membership grew from 158,368 to 1,738,143 (30.5% AAGR) (Smith, 21).  Recent update indicates that they have now seen nearly two million baptisms and more than 80,000 new church starts in less than a decade.

CPMs are Happening Even among Muslims

David Garrison recently published a new book about Church Planting Movements among Muslims: A Wind in the House of Islam (WIGTake Resources).  This thumbnail sketch is astounding:

As Garrison reports, in the first 1,300 years since Muhammad, there was only one voluntary movement to Christ among Muslims of 1,000 or more believers. In the last 20 years of the 20th Century, there were eight. In just the first 12 years of the 21st Century there have been 64. That is not a misprint. As of 2012 there were at least 64 documented movements to Christ taking place among Muslims, each with over 1,000 baptized believers and 100 worshiping fellowships. And the number of these movements is growing. (http://www.missionfrontiers.org/blog/post/something-is-happening  Accessed 9/30/2013)

One example would be a movement among Muslims in North Africa which grew from 22,000 baptized believers in 2003 to more than 160,000 in 2009 (WIGTake Resources 2010). The Christian AAGR is 39%.

CPMs Document Exponential Church Growth

The CPM case studies mentioned here document exceptional and exponential growth. The church planting AAGRs for these CPM case studies range from 17% to 110% and the Christian AAGRs range from 9.2% to 152%. Keeping in mind that the global average for Christian growth is basically 0% (actually an indication of losing ground because global population growth is 1.47%) and the highest  50 year estimations for Christian Growth are in the neighborhood of 10% AAGR, it is no wonder that these church planting movements, which are now taking place among what have been historically resistant people groups, and the factors that are producing such results are being viewed with great interest.

If you wish to better understand the dynamics that produce CPMs, I would recommend David Garrison’s writings because they describe in detail the factors that help, as well as hinder, exponential church growth.

Selected Bibliography

Garrison, David. Church Planting Movements. The International Mission Board, 1999. (Garrison has also written a longer book by the same subject.  Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World. WIGTake Resources: Monument, CO, 2003.)

Garrison, David. A Wind in the House of Islam. WIGTake Resources: Monument, CO, 2014.

Mitchell, Russ.  “The Top 20 Countries where Christianity is Growing the Fastest”, https://discipleallnations.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/the-top-20-countries-where-christianity-is-growing-the-fastest/

Smith, Steve with Ying Kai. T4T: A Discipleship Revolution. WIGTake Resources: Monument, CO, 2011.

Urbanek, Kurt, Cuba’s Great Awakening: Church Planting Movement in Cuba. 2012. www.Amazon.com

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2 thoughts on “Church Planting Movements: How Fast Do They Grow?

  1. Asking questions are actually good thing if you are not understanding anything entirely, but this post provides fastidious understanding even.

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