God Told this Man to Plant Five Million Churches
We had the opportunity to interview Paul and Cathy Becker, the leaders of Dynamic Church Planting International, and hear about the vision God gave them to plant five million churches around the world.
Paul and Cathy Becker lead Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI), an organization that has trained more than 240,000 church planters in 131 countries. They have a vision to plan five million churches, and currently have planted over 647,000. Paul started DCPI in 1994, and is the Founder and President of the organization, while Cathy serves as the Vice-President of Advancement.
Church planting is a challenging and often lonely field. People may think the church planters have it all together, but they actually often experience failure and are crippled by a lack of skills and community. DCPI exists to train leaders for these challenges and provide a community, empowering church planters and setting them up for success.
How did you get the burden to equip church planters? What led to the founding of DCPI?
Paul: I started my ministry of church planting in 1980, and by 1988 the Lord had led me to plant four churches. As I was planting those churches, I was looking at my friends, people that I loved and cared about, who were also church-planting. Many of them were failing. And when they failed, one of two things would happen. One was the church would die, and the second was that the church planter would pursue a secular job. I thought this was tragic, in terms of the loss to our kingdom work.
And so the Lord laid upon my heart a deep desire to help other church planters be successful. This culminated in 1994, when I was on a prayer retreat. I’ve had this specific spiritual discipline for about 40 years. I would go on prayer retreats about four times a year, for about 3 days and 2 nights each time. I prepare myself spiritually, and then my favorite part of the retreat is taking a walk in the mountains and just listening for the still small voice of the Lord.
While on my prayer walk during this retreat, I was climbing a mountain called Stone Wall Peak, a small mountain in San Diego county. I was just asking the Lord to communicate with me about my future ministry. The Lord then said to me, “You need to take off your other ministry hats, and start a new organization that equips leaders to plant dynamic churches worldwide.”
The vision given during that prayer walk, in that particular prayer retreat, is what really became Dynamic Church Planting International.
When you were first starting DCPI what were the biggest challenges in getting such an ambitious endeavor going?
Paul: The first one was that we were not a denominational church-planting or training organization. So, at the beginning, we couldn’t look to any association, denomination or mission for financial support. We had to look to our friends, for prayer support and financial support to begin to build the ministry.
Interestingly enough, what began as a weakness of our ministry has become an enormous strength, because we train any Bible believing Christ-centered leader, church or organization. This means we work across the board with God’s family around the world. That’s been such a wonderful, unifying force in our mission. And actually, it’s served to improve our potential to receive funding, because funders love the fact that we’re not narrow, that we’re not denominational, that we’re all-encompassing when it comes to the Christian world.
How has the work of DCPI unfolded through the years? Would you say the vision has expanded?
Paul: I feel like I need to go back to that prayer retreat and mention something that’s very important about that time. 1994 is when the vision came for DCPI, and 1995 was when my first wife had her second bout with cancer. From 1995 until 1999, she was sick and kept getting sicker, and eventually died. This was the very time when DCPI was being born, and it was incredibly difficult. By all rights, I suppose our mission should’ve died during the same time because it was so hard.
But I had friends. I had many friends in the church-planting world that would come and would help me make DCPI what it is today. They traveled when I couldn’t travel, went when I couldn’t go, and it was a beautiful thing to see that kind of fellowship and strength.
I love the people that God has brought together to fulfill our major visions for church-planting around the world. For example, when we started in 1994, our vision was to see 1,000 churches planted by 2020. We thought that was huge, we thought that was unattainable. But we prayed for it, we believed God for it, and then we started exceeding that.
We had some friends that came to me and said, “Paul, you have got to re-envision your mission.” So in June of 1997, during one of my regular prayer retreats, I took a prayer walk and I asked the Lord, “Lord, what is your new vision for DCPI?”
I was making a turn, on a trail, and the Lord impressed upon my mind’s eye, “Plant a million churches.”
I was frankly terrified. I thought, “How in the world can we possibly do this?”
At this point in my prayer walk I came to this huge oak tree on the trail. It was a big oak tree, I’d never seen a bigger one. The most amazing thing about it was that the trunk came down and enveloped a granite boulder, and then went right into the ground, roots and all.
“I was making a turn, on a trail, and the Lord impressed upon my mind’s eye, ‘Plant a million churches.'” -Paul Becker
And as I stood there in shock over this vision, the Lord said, “DCPI is just a small little sapling right now. But over time, if DCPI is founded on the rock that is Christ, just like this tree is founded on this rock, then the branches of DCPI will go all around the world.
Actually that prophecy has already been fulfilled, because we have trained in 131 countries of the world at this point. The branches of our ministry, of the Lord’s ministry, has already enveloped the world. It’s been a great thing.
Cathy, when did you first receive the desire to be involved in church planting? How did the Lord call you into this work of partnering with Paul?
Cathy: Oftentimes, people assume I’m involved with DCPI just because my husband is the founder. But the reality is, before I knew him, I was a single missionary woman serving in a church plant in New Hampshire (a state in the northeastern part of the United States).
My home church in Indiana sent us out to be part of this church plant, and they gave us the tools from Dynamic Church Planting International to go and plant the church. We used the Dynamic Church Planting handbook written by Paul Becker – we literally went page by page through that book to start our new church. I had not met Paul and I didn’t know who he was, other than his book – I was a new believer.
My home church in Indiana had a vision to plant a new church every year for 20 years. Forty percent of the resources that came into this church were set aside for missions. So as a new believer, who only had come to the Lord as an adult, I thought every church planted new churches and that every church was that strongly invested in mission.
When I discovered that was not the case, I was flabbergasted – how could you not be involved in helping others to know who Jesus is? It’s a crime, it’s so sad for people not to know Jesus.
“When I discovered that [not every church is involved in church-planting], I was flabbergasted – how could you not be involved in helping others to know who Jesus is? It’s a crime, it’s so sad for people not to know Jesus.'” – Cathy Becker
As we planted that church in New Hampshire and started to see success, people were calling us from all over the USA, saying, “What did you do? How did you do this?” We would say, “First, we prayed, we were on our knees night and day. Second, we used the tools from DCPI out in California.” We would refer people to DCPI over and over again. So my love for DCPI is born out of my own discipleship, and of being exposed to church planting from the very beginning, being a new mission-minded believer who had no church background whatsoever.
So interesting that you first heard of Paul through his book! How did the two of you actually meet?
Cathy: As a single woman, I felt very comfortable in my singleness. I knew God was my husband, and I felt called to the ministry. When I looked around I said, “Well, there’s no way I’m going to marry.” I didn’t want to stop doing the work I was doing, and I knew I would only consider marriage if the man was truly involved with church planting and ministry as well.
And little did I know that, 3000 miles away, there is this church planter who wrote the book that we used to plant our church. He had lost his wife to cancer and was running a church planting organization, and through some divine appointments, God allowed me to meet him personally.
Let me take a moment to explain this – every year DCPI gives out what is called the “Penny Penhollow Award”, given to the church planter that has had the greatest impact in mentoring and equipping mentors and leaders in the given year. The award was named after Paul’s mentor, Dr. Penhollow, who had been a pastor and church planter. Dr. Penhollow had 6 sons, and one of those sons went into ministry and moved outside of Oregon.
I tell you that because it was my missions pastor – the same missions pastor who had sent me from Indiana to New Hampshire – who introduced me to Paul Becker. And that missions pastor happened to be the son of Paul’s mentor, Dr. Penhollow!
You can’t make that up! Only God can knit those things together.
Lo and behold, the Lord brought us together as husband and wife. So, I have the privilege of serving as wife, but I also have the practical and personal experience of serving first as a church planter, and understanding the effectiveness of DCPI before I had the joy of coming along and serving with Paul all these years.
Check out Part 2 of our interview with Paul and Cathy, where they share incredible testimonies of champion church planters who are transforming their communities.