The first article is probably the most controversial with an IMB missionary, Jeff Brawner, making 9 tough observations about the IMB's CPM methodology. You will either find yourself saying AMEN to what he writes or watch your blood pressure rise in disagreement!
In AN EXAMINATION OF NINE KEY ISSUES CONCERNING CPM, Brawner's first observation is...
1. The movement often pushes missionaries to plant churches and disciple leaders more quickly than the biblical pattern. Sitting at the IMB International Learning Center a few years ago during my first furlough, a CPM trainer explained to me how to approach discipleship on the field. He used the illustration of a mother duck and her ducklings. The mother duck leads (representing the missionary), and she guides the first duckling. Each successive duckling follows their sibling in front of them rather than the mother duck. Each duck stays a few steps ahead of the other. As missionaries, we should teach our disciples sound principles, and each disciple should begin to pass those principles to others as quickly as possible. In this form of discipleship, each disciple stays one step ahead of the next generation of disciples. I questioned the speaker on the biblical pattern of discipleship. After all, if Christ invested three years in his disciples, doesn’t that mean we should spend a great deal of time with our disciples? In my view, a young disciple is not ready to lead others immediately...Christ was preparing leaders that would go out and start multiple churches around the world. Is that not exactly what missionaries are supposed to do today?...how can we, in good conscience, not thoroughly pattern our ministries after Christ’s example?...Should we take three years with our disciples? Scripture does not mandate that we spend that length of time; however, one can see from the Gospels that it takes time to mold solid, godly men. From experience, one can see that Scripture holds true-new believers are extremely susceptible to temptation, backsliding, and heresy. Is it not obvious that Paul understood this as he gave us guidelines of who to promote to leadership levels in 1 Timothy 3?We would fall somewhere in the middle on agreeing with this first of nine critiques. What is the biblical pattern for discipleship? When is a disciple ready to plant a church and/or disciple leaders? From our experience it has little to do with the amount of time one is a believer. We have had new believers who have been Christians only a few months begin new works. Likewise we have seen believers with years in the faith start new churches. To us the key is more about how much the believer obeys and puts into practice that which they know. It doesn't take a lot of knowledge to "go, make disciples, baptize, and teach..." What it does take is obedience. Those who put into practice the little (or much) that they know, will bear fruit.
The idea that CPM "pushes" otherwise unready believers into the harvest fields has not been our experience. What HAS been our experience is that we can't expect ALL believers (new or old) to realistically go out and start new works. It would seem some believers are "wired" to do this kind of work, and others are not. Our task is to find, motivate, equip, and send out those chosen few. To find those few "wired" individuals, we have to train and deal with a lot of people. While not anywhere near exact, it would seem that about one out of every ten believers we train (whether new or old) turn out to be effective church planters/workers/laborers/disciplers, etc. What that means is that if we want to see ten new churches started this year, we are looking at having to spend the time and train around 100 potential willing-to-be-trained workers.
Any comments or observations about #1 above from your own perspective and experience?