The Church Planting Movement

Whitepaper by Dr. Ray Noah, DMin

Why Church Planting?

In recent years, the Church Planting Movement[2] has become a much-discussed topic among American pastors, denominational leaders, missiologists, and theologians. Why is the idea of church planting such a big deal in modern Christianity? Is the concept something new, more of a modern invention? And why should my church and I give our attention to it?

I believe the answer to each of those questions is found in what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 16. This is the first time God the Son revealed what His plan would be to return a redeemed creation to its rightful owner, God the Father. And all other aspects of how Jesus’s disciples would fulfill these plans on His behalf would flow from this single revelation:

“on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)[3]

So why is the Church Planting Movement such a big deal? Because Jesus called for it. Is it something new to modern Christianity? Obviously not—it was part and parcel to the marching orders for world evangelization that Jesus issued to is original twelve disciples—and by extension, to you and me, to your church and mine. And why should my church and I prioritize all that we do—our time, energy, and resources—to take part in the Church Planting Movement? Because Jesus said it was the authority of the Church that would be the key to heaven’s invasion of earth to restore creation to His Father. Note what he says in the verse that follows:

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)

The Church, made up of disciples, planted in a place, empowered by the Holy Spirit (“But you will receive power … [to] be my witnesses,” Acts 1:8), would be the voice proclaiming the gospel to all creation (“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” Mark 16:15). These disciples would take this gospel even to the very last place on earth to be reached (“to the ends [Greek eschaton—the extreme last] of the earth,” Acts 1:8). And they were commissioned to turn those who believed into fully devoted Christ-followers (“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” [Greek ethne—people group[4]], baptizing them in the name [of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19).

The Apostle Paul proclaims in Colossians 1:26-27 that this is, in fact, “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them [the disciples who make up the Church] God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles [the lost] are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you [the Greek is plural, thus, the Church], the hope of glory.” The Apostle John, as he describes the end of redemptive history, says that people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” (Revelation 7:9) will be those who make up “the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2), the beautiful Bride of Christ—the Church.

That, my friend, in this current age, is why planting churches that share and show the Good News in every nook and cranny on Planet Earth, within walking distance of every human being, should occupy the time, energy, and expenditure of every current disciple who makes up the Church! And as Jesus says, when “this gospel of the kingdom [has been] preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations [Greek pasin tois ethnesin—all the ethic/people groups], the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) That is the missio Dei and therefore the mission of the Church, and the completion of that mission is what will conclude redemptive history and usher in the unfettered eternal reign of Almighty God.

Now, we could easily stop right here since the answer to the church planting question has been clearly revealed in Jesus’s words. But there is so much theological energy, meaning, and instruction that flows from it that we would do well to give our utmost attention in plumbing its depths in order to become passionately convinced that this should be the driving missional conviction of our lives, both personally and corporately. So, let’s take a biblical journey into the why of the church planting mandate.

Scripture, from creation in Genesis to the consummation in Revelation, reveals that God does all that He does for the sake of exalting His glory throughout the earth. This is what we call the missio Dei. Thus, God’s mission informs the mission of God’s people, the Church, which is missions. Missions, practically speaking, means crossing boundaries,[5] whether literal, nationally, or figuratively, through “cultures, ideologies, religious traditions, and social, economic, and political systems” to communicate the gospel of God’s glory in word and deed to those who live within these various boundaries.[6]

While that mission never changes, tracing Church missiological praxis over two millennia reveals that its missiology certainly does. In each era of Church history, at definite times and in strategic ways, the Holy Spirit unleashed new and different waves of missional advancement as He inspired His people to preach the gospel to the “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), that is, unreached people groups. Studying the Church’s missiology in each period reveals that no missiology remains concrete; it often changes in response to the opportunities, needs, and challenges of new places, cultures, and unique resistance to the gospel.

Likewise, no missiology is perfect. No flawless insight exists for implementing missions, not even from renowned missiologists. Missiology reflects sincere people’s best understanding of how the Church can carry out the mission of God. Missional thinkers put forth their best but flawed effort to translate into missional action what Johannes Verkuyl calls “the salvation activities of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit throughout the world geared towards bringing the kingdom of God into existence.”[7] Nevertheless, with the advantage of hindsight, those who think about such things can build current missiology upon what truly glorified God in previous strategies and correct those that did not. Which brings us to the missiology of the twenty-first century Church. Current missiological thinking is quickly shifting to embrace the Church Planting Movement, especially among the previously unreached, which will ultimately lead to greater Kingdom advancement than at any time in Christian history.

A new breed of missiologists began to analyze and correct the missteps of the prior 1,500 years. Roland Allen exemplifies this new thrust, writing what was to become a classic in 1911, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Allen calls the Church to return to Paul’s church planting mindset and methodology. He concludes with a sobering rebuke of the missiology of his day, arguing that missionary efforts everywhere exhibit “three very disquieting symptoms: (1) Everywhere Christianity is still an exotic…. (2) Everywhere our missions are dependent…. (3) Everywhere we see the same types.”[8] In other words, Allen criticizes missiology for not producing indigenous churches that become self-supporting and self-propagating, and for its one-size-fits-all approach that does not contextualize the gospel to the unique conditions and needs of each place where mission advancement is attempted.

Around the same time, almost from the inception of the Assemblies of God (AG), a movement born out of the early 1900’s Pentecostal outpouring, AG leaders began to confess a heart for missions much like Roland’s description of Paul’s missiology, as noted by missiologist Greg Mundis: “The 1921 General Council of the Assemblies of God began to recognize (1) The Pauline example will be followed so far as possible, by seeking out neglected regions where the gospel has not yet been preached, ‘lest we build on another’s foundation (Rom 15:20)’; and (2) It shall be our purpose to seek to establish self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing native churches.”[9] Venerable missiologist Melvin Hodges, in his seminal work, The Indigenous Church, represents this missiological approach:

New Testament preaching and practice will produce a New Testament church wherever the gospel is preached. People of other lands can be won to Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry on the work of the church equally as well as Americans. God himself designed the gospel, so it fills the need of the African, the Northern Asian, or the Indian. As a result, no place on earth exists where the gospel seed will not produce an indigenous church if it is properly planted. The Holy Spirit can work in one country as well as in another. To proceed on the assumption that an infant church in any land must always be cared and provided for by the sending mission is an unconscious insult to the people we endeavor to serve. This way of thinking is evidence of a lack of faith in God and in the power of His gospel.[10]

American missionary Greg Beggs concurs with the assessment of Mundis and Hodges: “In a time when colonialism and totalitarianism were the order of the day, the Holy Spirit directed early AG missionaries to plant indigenous churches…. [Not] dependent on the West for governance, finance, and reproductive vision, these Pentecostal forefathers initiated churches that could, with the Spirit’s help, stand under their own strength.”[11] As a result of a passionate missiology that remains strategically indigenous, the Assemblies of God grew worldwide, from around 300 in 1914 to “68.5 million adherents in 367,287 churches served by 392,018 ministers and meeting in 256 countries, territories or provinces.”[12] Many of these indigenous Assemblies of God denominations are now self-sustaining and self-propagating, fulfilling early denominational pioneers’ missiological hope.

However, since no missiology is flawless, a gap continues between Assemblies of God missiology and praxis. As with most Western denominations and missions agencies, they give missional priority to the already reached, observable in how they allocate their missional resources, both human and financial, as Michael Jaffarian notes: “Most of the largest missionary-receiving countries in the world are relatively wealthy, free, and Christian. The real, demonstrated sending priorities apparently emphasize helping Christians become better Christians … rather than helping those who have not heard the gospel to hear it.”[13] Currently, this missions reality has not changed appreciably. According to the Joshua Project in 2020, “Giving to foreign missions for work among already Christian groups [was] 87%, giving to foreign missions for work among people that live within reach of the Gospel but haven’t responded  [was]12%, [while] giving to foreign missions for work among unreached people groups [was] 1%.”[14]

However, a growing number of missiologists, scholars, and pastors of local congregations recognize this missional inequity. Consequently, they have redirected both human and financial resources to missions frontiers, places where unreached peoples reside.

Missionary-scholar Alan Johnson rightly notes that “while all people are equally lost, not all people have equal access to the Gospel.”[15] Seeking to inspire and inform this missiological new wave to the unreached, Johnson advocates for what he calls “apostolic function.” Rather than defining apostleship by an ecclesiastical position in the Church, that is, apostolic position, true apostleship must be defined by what it does, that is, pushing the gospel outward into unreached areas. This is apostolic function. He notes that a missionary team functioning this way “shapes their labor around the ultimate apostolic goal of bringing the believers, local churches, and the entire national church movement … to embrace the vision of reaching not only every person in their sociocultural setting, but of taking the Gospel to places where it has never been.”[16]

Regarding Johnson’s appeal, Delonn Rance concurs: “All missionary calls are valued and affirmed, but obedience to the call must always include the priority of the apostolic function of making Christ known where he is not.”[17] As current missionaries and missiologists increasingly discover robust, self-sustaining, and self-propagating national churches, their tried and true cross-cultural missiology is, by necessity, adapting to give increasing focus to an indigenous missiology, which the following section addresses.

Indigenous Missiology: A Contemporary Model

In 2003, eighty-four-year-old Charles Blair led a small group of American pastors and lay people, none of whom were current or former missionaries, to accept an invitation to plant one thousand churches in one of Ethiopia’s nine federal states, the Benishangul-Gumuz Region, located on the country’s western edge bordering Sudan.[18]  At the time, the population of this region of 51,000 square kilometers numbered 656,000, and the religious makeup of Benishangul-Gumuz was 78 percent Muslim, 2 percent Ethiopian Orthodox, and .01 percent, or just 6,500 people, who professed evangelical faith.[19] The capital city of the region, Assosa, a primitive and under-resourced city of approximately 20,000, was the site for training and launching indigenous church planters throughout the region.

The invitation to plant these churches came from the president of the region, Yaragel Aysheshum. Elected at age thirty-eight, Aysheshum was the only evangelical Christian in a predominantly Muslim cabinet. The challenge of planting the church in villages dominated by non-Christian religions would be great, but Aysheshum believed that God had promoted him to his prominent position to spread the gospel in this remote and unreached region. At the time, most of the region’s Christians worshipped in five evangelical churches in Assosa. The president reasoned that if he could plant one thousand churches in his villages, they would reach the other two thousand unreached villages, and thus his region would be won to Jesus Christ.

With only two years left in his term and the likelihood of a new president not friendly to evangelical Christianity taking his place, Aysheshum sought the help of several national Ethiopian denominations, all of which declined the request due to lack of financial and human resources. After hearing about the Blair Foundation’s work in Ethiopia, which had provided leadership training for Ethiopian pastors during the previous decade, he reached out to Dr. Blair, who accepted the invitation.

Blair recruited six pastors and three laypersons from across the United States, who agreed to help with this church planting project. They developed a budget of $1,850,000 and a plan to train, resource, and launch indigenous church planters, or missionaries as the Ethiopians refer to them, and the American team began the work. With no money in the bank, they raised the $1,850,000 (1,000 churches at $1,850 per church plant) and within two years planted one thousand churches.

Five years after the initial launch, these 1,000 churches birthed another 350 churches, which continue to reproduce. The churches rapidly grew, numbering 65,000 new converts. Within six years, the indigenous overseers of the project reported that the number had grown to 1,600 churches with over 90,000 new converts. By 2007, the Ethiopia’s Central Statistical Agency conducted a census that showed Benishangul-Gumuz’s Protestant adherents had grown to 13.58 percent.[20]

In Apostolic Function, Alan Johnson offers a challenge for rethinking current missiology: “As Christians we can do all the right things for the right reasons, in the right way, but if we are not doing them in the right places and among the right people, we are missing something that is very close to the Father’s heart for the world.”[21] The leaders of the Blair Foundation, witnessing this rapid reproduction of churches and commensurate growth of new converts, reasoned that they did all the right things for the right reason, in the right way and in the right place among the right people, those who had never heard the name of Christ.

They also discerned that the Holy Spirit had birthed a new church planting movement with a new missiology: an indigenous missions strategy, which, by definition, “does not send missionaries from one nation, people group, or culture to another; rather, it works through missionaries that are native to the people group in which they are ministering.”[22] By partnering with several national denominations to train and send indigenous missionaries, they unleashed a Church Planting Movement that transformed a previously unreached region.

After Blair’s death in 2009, Petros Network formed in 2012 to carry forth the mission to plant churches among other unreached villages throughout East Africa through this indigenous missions strategy. From its inception, the network remains interdenominational and currently partners with one-hundren-forty-eight national denominations to train indigenous missionaries. Records indicate that by the end of 2023, 6,841 churches have been established in unreached remote villages, primarily in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, and South Sudan, as well as in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). To date, this collaborative effort between national denominations and the Petros Network has resulted in 1,401,497 converts. The Holy Spirit has unleashed a Church Planting Movement among the world’s unreached people groups.

In their analysis of this phenomenal growth from the beginning days in Benishangul-Gumuz to the present moment throughout East Africa, the Petros Network team realized that they had unintentionally discovered a missiology—indigenous missions—that remains both practically beneficial and highly bless-able. They believe the benefits of partnering with indigenous missionaries to reach their own people is accurately articulated in the HeartCry Missionary Society’s missiology. Notably, HeartCry stresses that this indigenous missiology “is not an either/or, but a both/and situation. We are not arguing for a moratorium on Western missionaries but fully recognize the need for thousands more on the field! We are simply seeking to prove that the indigenous missionary strategy is equally viable in certain contexts.”[23] From its experience, Petros Network has identified with HeartCry’s five benefits of the indigenous strategy: 1) human resources, 2) financial resources, 3) language and culture, 4) identification, and 5) no difficult transitions.[24]

Increased Human Resources

First, there exists the ongoing human resource challenge of world evangelization. Jesus said as much: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:1). HeartCry puts the need in perspective: “If every Christian in America were a cross-cultural missionary, there would still not be enough missionaries to preach the gospel to all peoples!”[25] However, when considering the number of believers in a foreign context, especially in the context of the growing number of believers in East Africa who feel passionate about sharing Christ with their fellow citizens, the potential number of indigenous missionaries is unlimited. Pew Research confirms this reality: “If demography is destiny, then Christianity’s future lies in Africa. By 2060, a plurality of Christians—more than four in ten—will call sub-Saharan Africa home, up from 26% in 2015.”[26] That means the number of Christians will double in that part of Africa alone to over 1.1 billion people. Pew predicts that Christianity in many other regions of the Southern Hemisphere will likewise experience tremendous growth. There will be no shortage of workers; Jesus’s prayer will be answered. However, if Western Christianity constrains the idea of missions to a cross-cultural missiology of American missionaries going to foreign fields, then much of the world will continue to remain unreached.

More Effective Uses of Financial Resources

Second, simply put, sending and keeping an American missionary family on the mission field requires an enormous amount of financial resources. The Evangelical Free Church of America explains the financial burden of the traditional model: “The average cost to support a missionary family from North America is $10,338 per month. However, support needs range from a low of $4,000 a month up to $16,000.”[27] By contrast, the average salary of an indigenous laborer “is often less than $200 a month,” [28] a salary that enables the indigenous missionary to live within their community’s economy.

For Petros Network’s indigenous missionaries who serve in remote villages in which the cost of living remains exceedingly low, the monthly stipend is even lower, between $50 to $60 per month.[29] Jon Olson concurs with the financial benefits of indigenous missiology: “Another key argument in the support of nationals is that they often require far less funding than that of their Western counterparts. This argument is not new, but rather one that has been a topic of debate for over a century.”[30]

Hodges and others would disagree, however, arguing that creating an indigenous Church while funding that Church from the West remains mutually incompatible; it creates a national church that is perpetually dependent on the West. Building upon Hodges’s indigenous principle, Beggs notes that “a self-supporting national church needs to support itself financially and does not rely on outside funding to carry on its work, but rather encourages its people to give in devotion to Christ and the work of ministry.”[31] As Hodges notes, “Surely God does not intend for the church in any country to be so dependent upon a sponsoring mission that it sickens and dies when help is removed.”[32]

While not disagreeing with Hodges’s general idea, however, a growing number of missiologists and local pastors partnering with national churches to plant indigenous churches view the issue from a practical economic reality. Michael Jaffarian explains, “This argument has a great appeal to many no-nonsense, business-minded, efficiency-loving, bottom-line, North American donors.”[33] Given the lower cost and greater efficiency, Jaffarian argues for a significant reallocation of financial investment into indigenous missions. Petros Network has adopted this approach, offering start-up costs and a sustainability project to their indigenous church planters for the first three years of their assignment. With the expectation of sustainability, funding stops at the end of that period. Along with a growing list of other missions organizations, Petros Network understands that while cross-cultural missionaries from the United States certainly remain needed, to increase the number of missionaries required to reach the world will necessitate a different economic equation. An indigenous missions strategy drastically increases the economic sending power of missions giving.

No Language and Culture Barriers

Third, the indigenous missiology removes barriers of language and culture. While cross-cultural missionaries spend years learning the language of their assigned country and even longer developing sensitivities and understanding of cultural nuances, an indigenous missionary can readily and immediately embed in their assigned location: “From his [or her] very first day on the mission field, the indigenous missionary is able to concentrate on two priorities—evangelizing the lost and establishing churches.”[34] As it relates to learning the language and culture, an indigenous strategy offers a far more effective economy of time.

Immediate Identification

Fourth, as HeartCry notes, indigenous missionaries identify with those in their communities and they with them, for the “missionary lives in the same neighborhood, takes the same bus, and sends his [or her] children to the same school.”[35] Further, if the community rejects the missionary, it will not be because of nationality. The cross-cultural worker, however, often works against deep biases: “There is a great deal of anti-American and anti-European bias in many of the least evangelized countries of the world,” which makes missions impossible because the missionary “is rejected for nationality long before [having] the opportunity even to communicate [the] message.”[36] In most respects, the indigenous missionary has the possibility of immediate incarnational identification.

No Difficult Transitions

Fifth, for a variety of reasons, missionary transitions from their assigned fields are all to frequent. Missions organizations often reassign Western missionaries to different ministries or different countries not long after they have begun their assignment. At other times, they leave for personal reasons.[37] For compelling but nonetheless disruptive reasons, missionaries leave the work they have begun, the workers they have recruited, and the people they have won to Christ and are discipling. These missionaries tell heart-wrenching stories of these transitions, with tearful goodbyes in one location and the vicious cycle of starting over in the next. On the other hand, indigenous missionaries will typically plant and lead their church from beginning to end, or at least long enough for a seamless transition if they leave for another assignment.

Petros Network’s Seven Missional Convictions

These five benefits of an indigenous missions strategy has enabled the Petros Network to develop a missiological foundation that “supports their calling to missional work while at the same time enabling their global partners to advance their missional calling to evangelize their own people.”[38] However, as important as a sound strategy is, the question remains: will God bless it? Petros Network, looking back on the phenomenal success that God has showered upon them, has discovered the reasons for divine blessings. They have codified these blessings into a missiology, calling them their Seven Missional Convictions: 1) church planting, 2) unreached people, 3) intentional indigeneity, 4) cooperative partnerships, 5) rapid sustainability, 6) organic reproduction, and 7) redemptive lift.[39]

Church Planting

The first and foundational value of the Petros missiology centers on church planting. They state, “Since Jesus is the only hope of the world, and since the best and most compelling expression of Jesus is the church planted in a community, our core missional conviction is to plant local churches throughout the world!”[40] Church planting remains their primary business. They reason that since Jesus is the only hope of the world then the church is the only hope of the world, as Paul articulates: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27). The Greek word “you” in the phrase “Christ in you” is plural (Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν); that is, Christ, the hope of the world, is revealed to the world as the world observes Christ in the Church. Therefore, reaching the world for Christ requires establishing local churches in communities within walking distance of every human being throughout the world.

This remains the first principle for building all other missiological convictions and methodologies. Likewise, planting churches should be the first principle of every local church’s, denomination’s, and missions sending agency’s strategies, financial expenditures, and organizational activities. As Michael Pocock notes, “The main objective of most missionaries involves some aspect of evangelism and church planting—that is, the communication of the gospel in a way that results in biblical, indigenous, reproducing congregations of disciples of Jesus Christ.”[41] To not be about planting churches is anathema to Petros Network’s leaders. To put it even more strongly, these leaders agree with York’s muscular assertion:

The starting place for missions, then, is simply the extension of the local church—throughout its immediate environment and onward throughout the entire earth. Consequently, the process of church planting is central to the mission statement of any national church anywhere in the world. To fail to have a plan for opening new churches, or cells of believers, is to signal betrayal of the mission of God.[42]

Petros Network’s primary business is not only planting churches; it is their conviction that church planting must be, or must become, a driving value and the expected outcome of every Christian church, denomination, and missions enterprise.

Unreached People

Within the context of planting churches, Petros Network’s missiology places the highest priority on reaching unreached people with the gospel: “Since God places a high premium on reaching people who have never heard His Word, our core missional conviction is to preach the Gospel and plant churches among unreached people.”[43] Their missiology defines unreached people as those who have no access to an evangelical witness within walking distance from home. They contend that the missio Dei’s compelling call as generally observed throughout Scripture, and specifically in Jesus’s commission to His disciples, is the undeniable push to the outer bands of humanity, to those who have never heard Jesus’s name or His offer of salvation by grace through faith.

They see in His Great Commission language—“all nations” (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, Matt 28:19-20), His prophetic word in the Olivet Discourse, “to all nations” (πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, Matt 24:14), and Luke’s use of the phrase “to the ends of the earth” (ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς, Acts 1:8)—as a clear expectation to saturate humanity with the good news, from Jerusalem outward to everywhere beyond its borders. Given that 42 percent of the 17,409 distinct people groups in the world remain unreached (i.e., 7,402 groups totaling 3.27 billion people), the work of missions remains far from complete, according to the Joshua Project.[44] In the eyes of the missional Trinity, who with all of heaven stops to rejoice over the repentance of even one soul (Luke 15:7,10,32), it remains intolerable for nearly half the world to remain unreached after two thousand years of Christian missions. As Petros Network passionate believes, “where a person is born should not limit their access to Jesus.”[45]

John Piper explains the holy discontent that exists when unreached people remain:  “Every time a board of world missions begins to get comfortable with the ten or eleven fields where they are planting churches, John 10:16 is like a bugle call: ‘I have other sheep,’ there among the thousands of peoples yet unreached by the gospel.”[46] Russ Turney powerfully describes the impetus for Petros Network’s driving passion for unreached people: “The prophetic voice of the database of the world’s peoples is clear … believers now know where the Church does not exist and where there are the fewest or no Christians.”[47] The missio Dei, along with the prophetic voice of the world’s database, demand that reaching the unreached must be prioritized.


Third, the Petros Network remains intentional about indigeneity. Since a local community’s language and customs can most effectively express the gospel to its members, the network’s core missional conviction is to value, encourage, and empower the culture of those among whom they work. Rather than planting and nurturing churches to look and act like American churches, the network plants churches that will look and act like churches that make sense to the local context.

Hodges refers to this approach as “reaching them on their own level.”[48] He asserts that God’s intent was for the indigenous to reach their own people. Commenting on Hodges’s indigenous principle, John Easter adds, “As the Church moves out into the world, the gospel becomes contextualized.”[49] While contextualization in missions is a rightly debated issue, Petros Network would simply assert that the biblically faithful proclamation of the gospel in both word and deed through the witness of the planted church must make sense to the local culture.

Cooperative Partnerships

Petros Network values and fosters cooperative partnerships between Western resourcing churches and indigenous denominations. Enoch Wan refers to this as a “‘Strategic partnership’ [that] is desperately needed in the context of 21st Century when the center of Christianity is shifting to the Southern Hemisphere to replace Western paternalism and Euro-centric missions.”[50] He describes partnership as “working with the Triune God and the Body of Christ to accomplish the missio Dei under the power and direction of the Holy Spirit … [through] partnership characterized by wise use of God-endowed resources and God-given opportunity to His glory and for Kingdom extension.”[51] By experience, Petros Network realizes that in their missional efforts they cannot do church planting alone. They need partners, and they need to be a partner.

As the number of Petros Network partners grows, they witness to the fact that collaborative effort among God’s people, often difficult to attain and maintain, reflects God’s heart. Collaboration is a faithful and visible witness to His Word and expresses His longed-for unity within His family. Their stated missiology reflects this value: “Our core missional conviction is to give priority effort to maintaining harmony as we serve the indigenous church.”[52] They have observed the divine favor that comes from achieving unity, as David declares in his Psalm of Assent: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…. For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore” (Ps 133:1,3, NKJV). Petros Network attributes God’s blessings upon the numerical fruit and financial growth from inviting partners into their missional work, serving the indigenous Church, and fostering unity. They realize that as God’s family works in harmony, especially giving effort to fulfilling the missio Dei, then He is indeed pleased.

Rapid Sustainability

Fifth, Petros Network’s missional conviction is to intentionally plant churches that rapidly reach sustainability. In the broader sense, they define sustainability as “self-governing, self-sustaining [or self-supporting], self-reproducing, self-missionizing, and self-theologizing.”[53] Narrowly defined, they emphasize sustainability as independence from international partners. They believe these indigenous churches are healthiest when able to survive and thrive on their own. This requires planting churches with an intentional effort that quickly develops their leadership structure (self-governing) and has strategies for contextual sustainability (e.g., sustainable farming, livestock management, economic empowerment, etc.). The self-sustaining church should be able to plant three to five churches in nearby unreached villages within five years (self-propagating), begin sending their own missionaries (self-missionizing), and interpret as well as apply the Bible within the contexts of their culture and their insights into biblical culture (self-theologizing). Referring to the latter, Greg Beggs affirms the necessity of self-theologizing among indigenous churches:

Many missionaries have realized that it is not enough to characterize a church as indigenous only because it is self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. As a national church grows and matures, it should also learn to appropriately apply the Word of God to the lives of its members in light of the unique issues, situations, and experiences of the local people as the Holy Spirit illuminates and quickens a community of faith.[54]

In other words, sustainable local churches simply represent God’s desire that His people should “no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, [they] are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:14-15). Sustainable churches are mature theologically.

Organic Reproduction

Petros Network’s sixth missional conviction calls for organic or natural reproduction. Since God calls Christians to not merely evangelize but to also make disciples, the network’s stated outcome is to equip churches to make disciples who make other disciples, winning and discipling the lost to replicate what they teach, and empower them to plant churches that plant other churches. Their acid test for successful church planting, then, is aptly stated by missiologist JoAnn Butrin: “The value of building indigenous churches includes those churches sending their own missionaries to unreached peoples.”[55] The network agrees with the need to implement a church-planting movement that replicates exponentially, as Wolfgang Simson asserts:

Nothing short of the very presence of the living Christ in every neighbourhood and village of every corner of the nation will do. He has come to live amongst us—to stay on. We therefore need to initiate and promote church-planting movements that initiate and promote other church-planting movements, until there is no space left for anyone to misunderstand, ignore, or even escape the presence of Jesus in the form that He has chosen to take on earth—the local church.[56]

As a condition necessary for His return, Jesus prophetically states in Matthew 24:14, “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” To speed the Lord’s eschatological timetable, Petros Network builds into their missiology a methodology for unleashing church planting movements through the rapid reproduction of local churches that proclaim the gospel among the unreached.

Redemptive Lift

Seventh, Petros Network believes that the most compelling apologetic of their missiology resides in what they term “redemptive lift.” They coined this phrase at their organization’s founding, a phrase, to their knowledge, that remains unique to their missiology but has its origins in Donald McGavran’s combined use of the concepts of “redemption” and “lift” to describe “the transformative power of the gospel on people’s lives, especially their socioeconomic condition.”[57] Simply put, since the kingdom of God serves as the best catalyst for holistic transformation, Petros Network’s final missional conviction endeavors to plant churches that become change agents in all aspects of the life of a community.

Churches should not only proclaim the gospel in word but in practical work, through life-giving deeds that lead to community transformation, such as better health and hygiene practices, fairer governance, women’s empowerment, children’s rights, widow and orphan care, economic growth, sustainable farming and livestock management to provide food security for all, and stewardship of the environment. When the gospel comes to a village and when believers begin to live out Kingdom principles, becoming authenticating witnesses to their faith before non-believers, all of life will noticeably improve for all the people of the village, believers and non-believers, alike.

This has the potential of reshaping the economic disparities between rich and poor nations or at least reducing the blight of poverty among the world’s poor, since planting the church among the world’s unreached requires planting it among the world’s poor. John Piper notes the strong correlation between the unreached and the poor:

We must go toward the unreached and toward the poor. And these two groups of people are almost the same now. Eighty-five percent of the poorest of the poor live in the 10/40 window (from West Africa to the Pacific Rim, ten degrees north to forty degrees north). And ninety-five percent of the least-reached peoples live in the 10/40 window. Globally speaking, the most unreached peoples and the poorest peoples are almost the same; therefore, a call to the unreached peoples is almost the same as a call to the poorest of the poor.[58]

Since the unreached and the poor are one and the same, the Church planted in poor communities in the unreached world becomes the solution to world poverty at the local level.

It is within this context that Petros Network started with a few church planters, equipping and sending them as indigenous missionaries into unreached East African villages to share the gospel. The testimonies of these church planters proved remarkable with stories of miracles, healings, deliverance from demon possession, and the dead being raised, but now accounts of social and economic transformation in both villagers and villages follow their church planting activities. Husbands now remain faithful to their spouses; men marry only one wife; switches once used to beat children into submission are no longer present; drug and alcohol abuse declines; shops begin to expand in the marketplace; and other indicators of uplift occur. With regularity, community leaders now report that when a church establishes, peace and prosperity increase in their areas, while uprisings, violent crimes, drug addiction, and harmful cultural practices diminish.

Increasingly, even secular government officials testify that when a church comes to a village, everything in the community improves for the better—redemptive lift makes a difference. The indigenous church planters become respected community leaders, and as they compel people to follow Jesus, they also begin leading social transformation within the community. Unintentionally, they serve as agents of change, central not only to their village’s spiritual transformation but also to its social and economic lift. They become synonymous with transformation within the community. They do not intend to become social reformers; they simply care for the people and direct them to Jesus.

Additionally, they lead with an intentional focus on restoring souls but soon discover their role in God’s divine plan to renew the world. They begin noticing that disparity within the village requires spiritual answers, as noted by Butrin: “There is an imbalance in our world, where some have abundant access and others do not have any…. There is a compulsion of the Spirit to address that imbalance” with the gospel and all that it promises.[59] Redemptive lift addresses that imbalance, to which history testifies:

The work of conversionary Protestants (missionary church planters) was the single largest impact in ensuring the social and economic health of nations, … the crucial catalyst, initiating the development and spread of religious liberty, mass education, mass printing, newspapers, voluntary organizations, and colonial reforms, creating the conditions that stabilized democracy.[60]

Convinced of the benefits of an indigenous missiology that reflects their seven missional convictions, Petros Network believes they participate in a movement of the Holy Spirit, the Church Planting Movement, that will enable them to become “the greatest conduit for the completion of the Great Commission the world has ever seen” in every transformative aspect Christ envisioned—spiritual, social, and economic.[61]


Over its two-thousand-year history, the Church’s missiology has proven to be characteristically adaptive. To meet the challenges and seize the missional opportunities of the twenty-first century, the Western Church must adapt and prioritize an indigenous missiology that focuses on unreached areas, giving birth to Church Planting Movements. Alan Johnson asserts that the Church must “revitalize the conception of missions as planting the church where it is not found.”[62] The mission of bringing glory to God by planting churches among the ethne remains the central feature of salvation history—the purpose for which Jesus was born, why He died, why He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and why He will return.

Informed by God’s missional passion for the unreached, Petros Network has committed to an indigenous missiology that partners with national churches at far less cost, far greater efficiency, and, as evidenced by their missional fruit, an astonishing level of effectiveness. God has called them to expedite indigenous church planting movements among the unreached by calling other churches, denominations, and missions agencies to join them. As nineteenth-century Anglican missionary Henry Martyn said: “The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”[63]

Petros Network’s clarion call is for the contemporary Western Church to become intensely missionary in its zeal to equip the indigenous Church to reach the unreached.


[1] This article is adapted from Ray Michael Noah, “The Missionary Mandate and the Missio Dei: A Strategy for Sending Indigenous Missionaries to Plant Reproducing Churches Among Unreached Peoples,” (DMin diss., Springfield, MO, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, 2022).

[2] Missions Frontiers, , , accessed January 11, 2024. Missions Frontiers defines Church Planting Movement as “a rapid and exponential increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.”

[3] All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from English Standard Version.

[4] Missions Frontiers,, accessed December 29, 2023.

[5] David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (New York: Orbis Books, 2011), 51.

[6] J. Kevin Livingston, A Missiology of the Road: Early Perspectives in David Bosch’s Theology of Mission and Evangelism (Cambridge, England: Lutterworth Press, 2014), 74.

[7] Johannes Verkuyl, Contemporary Missiology: An Introduction, ed. and trans. Dale Cooper (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), 5.

[8] Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s Or Ours?  2nd ed. (N.p.: Patiano Classics, 2018), 110.

[9] Greg Mundis, “Introduction and Background,” in Mission, Vision, and Core Values, 22.

[10] Melvin L. Hodges, The Indigenous Church and the Indigenous Church and the Missionary, (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2012) Loc. 297., Kindle.

[11] Greg Beggs, “Indigenous Church Principles and Partnership,” in Mission, Vision, and Core Values, 61.

[12] “Five AG Stats You Need to Know,” Influence Magazine, August 11, 2017,, accessed August 9, 2021.

[13] E. Michael Jaffarian, “The Statistical State of the Missionary Enterprise,” Missionary: An International Review 30 no. 1 (2002): 28.

[14] Joshua Project, “Mission Trends and Facts,” accessed November 2, 2021,

[15] Alan R. Johnson, Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions. The J. Philip Hogan World Missions Series (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), Loc. 1126, Kindle.

[16] Ibid., loc. 1157.

[17] DeLonn Rance, review of Apostolic Function in 21st Century Missions, by Alan R. Johnson,  Mission Nexus, April 1, 2010, accessed August 9, 2021,, 2010.

[18] Charles Blair had recently retired from his church, Calvary Temple, which he had pastored in Denver, Colorado for over fifty years. He formed the Blair Foundation, a non-profit ministry dedicated to planting churches in rural Ethiopia. The author of this article, while pastor of a local church in the Bay Area of California at that time, served as the president of the foundation.

[19] “Ethiopian Demography and Health,” accessed May 15, 2018,; The Joshua Project, “Berta in Ethiopia,” accessed August 2, 2021,

[20] Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Population Census Commission, “Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census,” Ethiopian Review, accessed August 2, 2021,

[21] Johnson, Apostolic Function, loc. 273.

[22] HeartCry Missionary Society, “Comparative Strategies,” accessed July 25, 2021,

[23] HeartCry, “The Advantages,” HeartCry Missionary Society, accessed July 28, 2021,

[24] Ibid.

[25] HeartCry, “The Advantages.”

[26] Pew Research Center, “Sub-Saharan Africa Will Be Home to Growing Shares of the World’s Christians and Muslims,” April 19, 2017, accessed August 3, 2021,

[27] Daryl Anderson, “Understanding Missionary Support,” EFCA ReachGlobal,, accessed August 3, 2021.

[28] HeartCry, “The Advantages.”

[29] The Petros Network, “Why Invest in Launching a Church Planter?” accessed August 3, 2021,

[30] Jon Olson, “Rethinking Missions: A Pathway for Helping the Next Generation to Fulfill Christ’s Great Commission,” George Fox University Digital Commons, 2010, accessed August 10, 2021,

[31] Beggs, Mission, Vision, and Core Values, 62.

[32] Hodges, The Indigenous Church, loc. 297.

[33] Michael Jaffarian, “The Statistical State of the North American Protestant Missions Movement, from The Mission Handbook, 20th Edition,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 32, no. 1 (2008): 38.

[34] HeartCry, “The Advantages.”

[35] Ibid.

[36]  HeartCry, “The Advantages.”

[37] See Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Missionary Retention, ed. Rob Hay, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library), 2006, accessed November 2, 2021,

[38] Jay Jarboe, “Current Issues in Global Missions: Engaging a Changing World with an Unchanging Mission,” Missio Dei Journal (Winter–Spring 2017): 17. Jarboe calls for the rethinking of missiology given the changing opportunities and challenges in the current world context that allows for a missional “win-win” for both Western and global Kingdom partners.

[39] Petros Network, “Sharing and Showing the Gospel Equals Redemptive Lift,” accessed August 1, 2021,

[40] Ibid.

[41] Michael Pocock, Gailyn Van Rheenen, and Douglas McConnell, The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2005), Loc. 4117, Kindle.

[42] John V. York, Missions in the Age of the Spirit, (Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 2000), 205.

[43] Petros Network, “Sharing and Showing the Gospel.”

[44] The Joshua Project, “Global Statistics,” accessed August 4, 2021,

[45] Petros Network,, accessed January 1, 2024.

[46] John Piper, A Holy Ambition, 62-63.

[47] Ross Turney, “Proclamation to the Unreached,” in Mission, Vision, and Core Values: RPTS Missiology Series, ed. John L. Easter, et al. (Springfield, MO: Assemblies of God World Missions, 2016), 107.

[48] Hodges, The Indigenous Church, loc. 1777.

[49] John Leonard Easter, “The Spirit, Context, and Mission: The Contextualization Practice of the Malawi Assemblies of God, with Implications for Pentecostal Missiology” (PhD diss., Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO, 2011), 35.

[50] Enoch Wan, “Rethinking Missiology in the Context of the 21st Century: Global Demographic Trends and Diaspora Missiology,” Great Commission Research Journal 2, no. 1 (Summer 2010), 3-4.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Petros Network, “Sharing and Showing the Gospel.”

[53] Boyd S. Powers, “An Interdependence Model for Mission: Alliance between the Oregon Ministry Network and the Malawi Assemblies of God” (PhD diss., Springfield, MO, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, 2008), 4.

[54] Beggs, “Indigenous Church Principles and Partnership,” 63.

[55] JoAnn Butrin, “Holistic Missions in Word, Deed, and Spirit,” in Mission, Vision, and Core Values: RPTS Missiology Series, ed. John L. Easter, et al. (Springfield, MO: Assemblies of God World Missions, 2016), 108.

[56] Wolfgang Simson, Houses That Change the World (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Publishing, 2001), xxvii.

[57] Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990), 213.

[58] Piper, A Holy Ambition, 145.

[59] Butrin, “Holistic Missions in Word, Deed, and Spirit,” 107.

[60] Robert D. Woodberry, “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” American Political Science Review 106, no. 2 (May 2012): 244.

[61] Petros Network, “Sharing and Showing the Gospel.”

[62] Johnson, Apostolic Function, loc. 327.

[63] David Shaw, “Martyrs: The Crown of Life,” Fulfilling the Promises, accessed August 11, 2021,

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