The goal of any CPM (Church Planting Movement) is healthy disciples who are leading to healthy churches. The movement from discipleship to church formation can best be discussed by the use of a pendulum illustration. To begin with here in the USA context, we initially emphasized a lot of one on one discipleship relationships. But as we increased the number of these relationships our individual bandwidth began to run out. We were left trying to maintain a handful of small or one on one discipleship gatherings that were having a difficult time reaching what we call critical mass (enough people gathering together so that if one or two are missing from an individual gathering, that the meeting time can continue and be fruitful). In other words, healthy church size.
We also have to realize that gathering once a week for discipleship is not enough whether we are talking about a legacy church environment or a smaller harvest church gathering. One day a week is not enough to lead to transformation and discouragement can easily set in when these discipleship gatherings begin to have a hard time moving to church identity.
The pendulum began to swing away somewhat from an emphasis on Field 3 Discipleship and moved over to an emphasis on Field 4 Church Formation. But with a continuation of once a week meeting times, the lack of strong discipleship would continue to hinder healthy church formation. A swing over to church formation without adequate and frequent discipleship will interfere with church formation and health.
We need to raise up local pioneers/leaders who are discipling others themselves within the church so that we increase discipleship bandwidth. A 1-3-9 model might be helpful. One person discipling and pouring into 3 who are in return discipling 3. Many people discipling in your church means upping your leadership capacity.
Also each of us knows some individuals who are on the fringe and not coming to any of our gatherings. Maybe these people need a little more time having people pour into them. If you start to have a cluster of these people then it is possible that these persons could become a church. The key to all of this is Field 3 Discipleship. Lack of adequate discipleship is what is hurting us in the USA context. We must be careful that in the midst of swinging to church planting that we don’t neglect individual and small group discipleship.
One helpful thing that I (Kevin) personally have seen is that I encourage cross pollination between the discipleship gatherings therefore there are more contact moments happening throughout the week. They get discipleship time with me in our weekly 3/3 Commands of Christ gathering but also assist in facilitating these gatherings in other contexts as well as harvest with one another in various areas. They also help each other train 411 across the network. This helps create a more than once a week discipleship scenario. We are learning as we go and making changes as we go.
The above is a synopsis of the discussion we had with Jeff Sundell this past weekend at our Florida Mid-Level. Please watch the video to get the full discussion and context.