One of the concepts we were taught at IMB Strategy Coordinator training when I attended in Germany back in 2001 was what was referred to as "end-visioning". The definition of "end-visioning" from our manual reads as follows:
Viewing the phases within a linear process from the end to the beginning in contrast to the normal means of viewing them, which is in succession from the beginning to completion.
The "end" we are "end-visioning" in our missionary strategy has a very signficant impact on the various steps we take in order to arrive at that "end". Many times in missionary work, we find what is at hand, what we like to do, what we are able to do, and start doing that without any real "vision" of what is the ultimate "end" to which we are working.
The whole concept of Church Planting Movements is very much tied in to the idea of "end-visioning". If we are to be the best stewards of the resources with which God has entrusted us, it is no longer good enough to just evangelize and plant churches one at a time. In order to get to the ultimate goal in mind, whether it be described as the "saturation" of a country or a people group with New Testament churches, or self-perpetuating, indigenous "church planting movements," there are certain steps that should be taken. It is also important the order in which these steps should be taken. And the best way to determine this is to start at the end, and to trace your steps back from there, until you reach the beginning.
From a biblical viewpoint, the example of Paul in Ephesus and Asia Minor as cited in Acts 19.10 is held out as a commendable "end-vision": And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. I personally love Paul’s strategy in Ephesus. Many of our present ministry goals are modeled after the "school of Tyrannus" (v. 9).
But, as I have meditated more on missionary strategy from the perpective of "end-vision", I have become convinced that Paul’s ultimate "end-vision" for Ephesus and Asia Minor was not merely that "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." I believe the real "end-vision" of Paul is better captured in Ephesians 4.1-16, especially verse 13: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
As I understand it, according to this, neither Saturation Church Planting nor Church Planting Movements, in and of themselves, are an ambitious enough "end-vision". They are important steps along the way to the "end-vision", but they are not the complete "end" to which we are working. Paul’s "end-vision" for the work in Ephesus and Asia Minor was nothing less than complete spiritual unity, discipleship, and maturity of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in that geographical area.
If this is the "end-vision" we have in mind, it will dramatically affect the steps we take to reach it. We cannot settle for methodologies that will perhaps help produce numerical growth, or even spontaneous multiplication of indigenous congregations, if these same methods in any way short-circuit the ultimate "end-vision" of unity, discipleship and maturity of the believers.