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Church Planting Movements are acts of God, but it’s amazing how much mankind is capable of interfering with them. As with most of God’s works among us, He allows us to actively cooperate with Him or become obstacles—consciously or unconsciously—to His desired purposes. Missionaries involved in Church Planting Movements have identified several very human courses of action that tend to obstruct, slow or otherwise hinder CPMs. Even though we cannot create a Church Planting Movement, we can certainly work to avoid blocking their emergence. Here are some of the most prominent obstacles to Church Planting Movements facing missionaries today.
1. Imposing extra-biblical requirements for being a church
When a mission, union or convention attempts to require a congregation to have extra-biblical things such as land, a building, seminary-trained leadership or paid clergy before granting them full status as a church, a Church Planting Movement is obstructed. Christians may have the best of intentions when they impose preconditions before officially constituting a church—preconditions usually aimed at ensuring viability of the church before leaving it to its own devices. However, requirements such as building, property and salaried clergy quickly can become millstones around the neck of the church and make reproducing itself all the more unlikely.
2. Loss of a valued cultural identity
When a people have to abandon their valued ethnic identity and adopt an alien culture in order to become believers, the cause of church planting won’t go far. Around the world, many churches that look culturally out of place in their setting serve as testimonies to this obstacle.
In too many instances, church planting has become cultural warfare, as missionaries and local Christians attempt to conquer and change the culture rather than the hearts of the people. Whenever one must become like a Russian, American, European, etc., to become a Christian, there is little chance that the movement will spread rapidly among a non-Russian, non-American or non-European people.
3. Overcoming bad examples of Christianity
Unfortunately, the spread of the gospel around the world has sometimes produced churches that are poor examples of the faith. If older churches in an area have non-regenerate members who engage in worldly and immoral behavior, it will be difficult for new believers to convince the lost that the Christian faith is holy and capable of redeeming their world.
Some patterns of church behavior may not be immoral, but still compromise and undermine the spirit of a Church Planting Movement. Whenever older churches in the area feel no compulsion to spread their faith, new believers may question why they should be passionate or urgent in evangelism.
4. Non-reproducible church models
Whenever missionaries begin planting churches with components that cannot be reproduced by the people themselves, they have undermined a Church Planting Movement. The temptation is always there: it seems quicker and easier to import a solution for a local challenge rather than search for an indigenous solution. Extraneous items may be as innocuous as cinderblocks for construction, electronic sound systems or imported folding chairs.
Authentic Church Planting Movements always take on the appearance of their context.
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