For each known CPM, prayer has been overwhelmingly important. Usually, prayer is the foundation for the missionary’s plan of reaching his or her people group, though the health of the missionary’s own personal prayer life is crucial. The new church and its leaders will imitate the prayer life it sees in the missionary. Prayer is the greatest resource the missionary brings to the movement, and when it’s clear from the beginning that prayer is the missionary’s source of power, it makes it easy for the local Christian leadership to share in that power and take ownership of the movement with prayer.
Abundant Gospel Sowing
“If you sow abundantly, you will also reap abundantly.” There are no known CPMs where evangelism was rare or absent. In CPMs, hundreds and even thousands of people are hearing the claims that Jesus Christ has on their lives. Often, mass media evangelism is spreading the gospel, but there is always an element of personal evangelism with clear testimonies that reveal the power of the gospel to radically change lives. The opposite is also true. Whenever governments or social forces have been able to eliminate Christian witness, the CPMs have seen dramatic loss or have disappeared altogether.
Intentional Church Planting
For each CPM, there was a specific and intentional strategy for planting churches before the movement began. There have been times when other crucial elements were present, but the movement failed to go forward when the leader lacked either the skill or vision to oversee it. Once this was changed, though, the results were remarkable. There is evidence around the world of many thousands of people coming to Christ, but these conversions only result in churches and CPMs if there is an intentional strategy for church-planting.
Authority of God's Word
In each known CPM, the Bible has been the unquestioned authority and guiding force of the church. Even in non-literate cultures where the Bible is received and continued through oral storytelling, the Bible guides doctrine, church policy, and everyday life. Most CPMs had the Bible either orally or written in their own language.
If a missionary is seen as the primary church planter or pastor, it is difficult for him to shift out of that role ever again. When the missionary walks alongside the local church planters, they are helping to establish local leadership for the church. It takes self-discipline for a missionary involved in a CPM to mentor local church planters rather than to do the church planting themselves, but their role is still valuable. Local church planters receive some of their best training when they watch a missionary model Bible studies that engage non-Christian seekers.
When a movement relies on seminary-trained or highly educated pastors, the work will always have a leadership shortage. When CPMs rely on lay leaders, there is a larger pool of available church planters and cell church leaders. These men and women usually represent and resemble the societies they serve, and typically also have normal jobs in addition to their work as church planters. As the movement continues, churches will often begin paying pastors, but most of the movement and growth will continue through lay leaders.
Cell or House Churches
Church buildings do appear in CPMs, but most of the churches continue to be small, reproducible cell churches of 10-30 members who meet in homes or stores.
There is a difference between cell churches and house churches. Cell churches are connected to one another in a type of network that usually combines to create a single church identity. House churches look like cell churches, but they are usually more independent and are not part of a network of connected churches. House churches don’t have the structure a cell-church network provides, but they are often more adaptable and active. Each model has advantages. It is easier to create a unified movement with cell-church networks, but house churches can more easily exist in hostile situations. Both types of churches are common in CPMs, and the even regularly both appear in the same movement.
Churches Planting Churches
In CPMs, the local believers are active in winning the lost and planting new churches. The first churches in a CPM are usually planted by missionaries or leaders that the missionaries trained, but when the movement really starts to multiply, it’s because the churches are planting churches on their own. For this to happen, the local church members have to believe that it is natural and simple to start a new church, and that no outside help is needed.
Most church planters involved in CPMs believe that rapid reproduction is required for the movement to continue. They argue that when reproduction slows down, the CPM weakens. When a movement is reproducing quickly, it shows how urgent and important it is to come to faith in Christ. When reproduction is happening quickly, it is certain that the churches are not being weighed down with unnecessary elements and that the local leadership is confident and capable of participating in this work of God.
Most church-growth experts agree that a healthy church should demonstrate the following five purposes: worship; evangelistic and missionary outreach; education and discipleship; ministry; and fellowship. Each known CPM shows evidence of these five core functions. Many church planters believe that when these five health indicators are strong, the church naturally grows. Though more could be said about each indicator, for a CPM, the significant factor is the church’s missionary outreach. Through this impulse, churches are extending the gospel among remote people groups and are overcoming barriers that have continually withstood Western missionary efforts.