The CPI Story
The early years
Church Planting International grew out of the missionary work of Steven and Christy Shepard in Mexicali, Mexico. Steven and Christy met at seminary in Anaheim, California and got married in 1978. During those years they participated in “street evangelism” and in short evangelistic trips to Mexicali, five hours away. They were deeply moved by both the openness of the Mexican people and by the shortage of laborers.
As Jesus said in Matthew 9:37, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” They became increasingly grieved by the superficiality of the evangelistic methods then commonly used. Often people were pressed for quick decisions and then forgotten. The Shepards began to see that the work of the Great Commission can only be effectively done by local churches. God’s work done through local churches is not short-term, haphazard or superficial. It has an enduring impact on the community. Each church becomes a beachhead of the Kingdom from which the Gospel is preached, disciples taught and the needy helped. But as they looked around Mexicali in the late 1970s, they found no churches where they felt comfortable sending the people. So much was happening on these short Mexicali trips. Crowds listened eagerly to the Gospel, and many seemed to respond. Yet there was no opportunity for follow-up. The Shepards wondered, “What might happen if we could live down here full-time?”
Planting the first church
As a result, with the blessing of their own local church, Steven and Christy moved to Mexicali in 1982. They had two small children with another one on the way and only $15 a month pledged in monthly support. They did not realize at the time how reckless or bold their actions appeared to others. They were convinced that there was a great opportunity to reach people for Christ and, as they put God first, He would provide. To this day, they’ll admit that this is not the ideal way to go to the mission field, but God used their unique experience to build a faith necessary for their calling.
The Shepards’ goal was to start a church, and they learned early that this is not a task that human beings can do. Jesus said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18)
They worked very hard and tried a lot of things. Yet the work always seemed to be hanging by a thin thread. They felt like giving up. Then God showed them that they needed to stop all activities that made the work dependent on them. The key was to work toward a self-sufficient church dependent entirely on God and led by national leaders. By His mercy, God formed a work in Mexicali through the Shepards, which is still going strong to this day. During their four and a half years in Mexicali, they saw the supernatural provision of God. He not only provided for their personal needs, but also for the construction of a two-building church facility. Many of the people who attended this church were among the poorest of the poor, sometimes living in cardboard shacks or even in the city dump.
CPI was formed
In 1985, Doyle Claxton heard Steven speak at his church in California and offered to start a tax-exempt organization for the support of the Shepards’ ministry. He asked Steven to write a statement of purpose, give the organization a name, and he would do the rest. Though the Shepards barely knew Doyle, they decided to go forward. By the time the organizational work was done in 1986, Steven and Christy had concluded it was time to return to the States and had moved their growing family to Ohio. Still, they felt that the Lord had a purpose for this organization. During those first few years, the Shepards ran CPI part time; Steven worked as a painter and pastored a small church, and Christy homeschooled their children. Organizationally, CPI was used for the new church plant in inner-city Toledo, occasional projects and short-term mission trips.
Leading teams from the States
In 1996, Steven began to devote himself full time to the work of CPI and established a home office in Bowling Green, Ohio. Initially CPI mostly led short-term mission trips. These developed gradually over time out of their love for the church in Mexicali. Steven made periodic trips to visit the native workers, and enjoying the company of traveling companions, he often invited others to join him. Interest in the mission trips spread rapidly. Soon CPI was leading numerous trips each year. CPI could have easily become exclusively a short-term mission trip agency, but the Shepards realized that they needed to return to their original vision and passion of church planting. Through the years, God performed a deeper work in their hearts by imparting to them a fuller understanding of the biblical Gospel. This revelation transformed their lives, as they came to recognize the transforming power in Christ and that this transforming power will come to any person who accurately understands and embraces the Gospel. The message of the Gospel became their core motivation.
CPI’s current work
CPI has continued to work in Mexico and in 1999 began working in Peru. We currently work with numerous native workers who are touching many villages that have no other churches. CPI’s projects have included training pastors in the Amazon jungles, reprinting New Testaments in the language of a Mexican tribal group, church construction, leadership training conferences, the support of a children’s home in Mexico, and helping to build homes for the needy. Each year CPI takes mission teams to serve in churches and orphanages.
We believe that God has given us a biblical message, a clear vision, a comprehensive plan and sound missionary methods. CPI is now poised to go into all the world to proclaim the Gospel and to aid in the planting and multiplying of churches wherever God calls.