Friday, May 23

Understanding Church Planting Movements

I recently Googled Church Planting Movements (CPM) to see what came up. Steve Addison has done us all a favor by collecting several David Garrison podcasts to help us understand various aspects of church planting movements.

I encourage you to click on these short podcasts as an introduction to CPM and learn what God is doing in today's world.
So, what do you think about CPM principles? Is there anything in these podcasts that caught your attention? Do these principles translate into all contexts of church planting?

9 comments:

Baptist Theologue said...

Guy,

First, I want to say something positive about New Directions/SD 21/CPM methodology. I arrived on the field as an IMB missionary in March of 1996. I was one of the only church planters in our mission. Many of our other IMB missionaries there were in liaison sork with the national convention. Thus, I think a positive outcome of the new paradigm was to move many missionaries back into a more direct church planting role.

Now the negative. . . . I'll summarize my concerns and then talk about each of them in more detail:

1. New converts serving as pastors
2. The vision thing
3. Lack of emphasis on receptivity

David Garrison's book (Church Planting Movements) has been viewed by many of us as the definitive description of the methodology, so I'll quote from it.

1. New converts serving as pastors

"Relying on local leaders can be difficult for missionaries. . . . Those who are reluctant to transfer this kind of authority quickly point to Paul's instructions in 1 Timothy 3:6 where Paul advises young Timothy that a bishop 'must not be a recent convert. . .' However, Timothy's church was already well established enough to reference several generations of believers (see 2 Timothy 2:2). In such an environment it was natural for Paul to delegate church oversight to those who had been closest to the original message delivered by the apostles, but nowhere does Paul place church authority in the hands of outsiders. When a new church is started, Paul does not hesitate to appoint local leaders right away. . . . Likewise, he urges Titus to appoint elders, local men with families whom everyone new for every town of Crete. Meeting with the Church Planting Movement taskforce we posed the question, 'When do you pass the torch to new leaders?' Their unanimous response was, 'In a Church Planting Movement you begin with the torch in their hand.' The nods of approval around the room testified to the shared experience." (pages 187-188)

Thus, Garrison is saying that Paul's instruction in 1 Timothy 3:6 not to use new converts as pastors is not normative for us today. The 2000 BF&M, however, lists 1 Timothy 3:1-15 as a relevant passage as part of Article 4, which describes the office of pastor. Also, Titus 1:9 says that the pastor must hold "fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (NASB). This is not the description of a new convert. Titus was supposed to appoint pastors on the island of Crete in new churches there. Some Cretans were converted on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11) so there were some qualified men on the island. Speed should not be overemphasized to the detriment of Scriptural guidelines for the pastoral office.

2. The Vision Thing

"Vision Driven -- Church Planting Movement practitioners often speak of their vision or end vision. This describes where (sic) they hope to see when God's vision for their people or city is fulfilled. One brother put it this way, 'If you can't see it before you see it, you're never going to see it.' Jesus filled his disciples with great expectations and a vision of the end fulfilled. He taught them to pray for the vision's realization, 'Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'" (page 200)

When I want through IMB strategy coordinator training in May of 2000, we were instructed to obtain a detailed endvision first and then work backwards from that vision. Our endvision was required to contain a CPM. Now, consider the fact that only about 2% of our IMB missionaries have seen a CPM. If the other 98% have not seen their endvision come to pass after years of work, then it is obvious that their morale would be adversely affected. In the Bible, the word "vision" when used in this sense always refers to supernatural revelation. In the Old Testament, it normally referred to detailed prophetic predictions/revelation that became Scripture, and such visions always came to pass exactly as God described. In the New Testament, a vision was still supernatural, but it might be a short message such as Paul's vision of the man from Macedonia asking for help (Acts 16:9). What we have called an endvision seems to really be a prayerful, detailed goal for the future. Why don't we call it a goal instead of a vision? There are warnings in the Old Testament about predicted visions that do not come to pass (Jeremiah 23:16, Ezekiel 13:9)

3. Lack of emphasis on receptivity

"The Church Growth Movement has directed many missionaries to focus on perceived 'harvest fields' or 'responsive fields' at the expense of unreached and what may appear to be unresponsive fields. By contrast, our descriptive analysis reveals that God has chosen to launch most Church Planting Movements among the least likely candidates--unreached people groups, which have often been dismissed by those looking for responsive harvest fields. . . . The Church Growth Movement advocates pouring resources (particularly missionaries) into responsive harvest fields. The rationale being that there are limited harvesters and so we should conserve them from difficult areas and invest them instead into people groups that have already proven to be responsive to the gospel. Once again, as you'll see in the case studies that follow, the approach of pouring more and more resources into the harvest is actually contrary to what we see God doing in Church Planting Movements." (page 25)

Actually, the receptivity principle which Garrison opposes is simply another way of stating what Henry Blackaby has said: Join God where you see Him working in a special way (paraphrase mine). This CPM paradigm does say that the missionary should look for receptive individuals (men of peace, Luke 10:6-7), but it ignores the command in the same passage to quickly leave resistant/unreceptive groups (Luke 10:8-12). Paul shook off the dust during his missionary journeys when he encountered resistant groups of people (Acts 13:51, Acts 18:6).

GuyMuse said...

BaptistTheologue,

Thanks for the thoughtful response and taking time to write out the above pros and cons to CPM from your own experience. I value what you have to say in that you have 'been there and done that' as a missionary, and not just reading from books. I agree with a lot of what you have to share, but see some things you share a bit differently.

Many of your observations are things we too have discussed at length over the past 8-10 years. One question that continues to intrigue me is what a CPM would look like in our own Latinamerican context. We have concluded that it probably would not look much like the Asia-type of CPMs taking place amongst UPGs that are often described in the literature.

What we have benefited from is taking the CPM principles and applying them to our local context.

Since you mention three that you do have a problem with, I will seek to address only these and not others...

1) New converts serving as pastors. The question we struggle with is how long is 'new' new? When is a new convert no longer a 'new convert' and could be considered a potential leader/pastor? Of course the extreme we find here in Ecuador is that to be a pastor, one must jump through a whole series of extra-biblical requirements that are no where to be found in Scripture. This greatly hinders a cpm from ever taking place when one requires MORE than what Scripture actually teaches in ITim3.

2) The vision thing. I actually agree a lot with what you have to say on this point. Like you mention, only a very small percentage of missionaries have seen/experienced cpm. We too have found it difficult to make/force our vision/goals to happen. In the early years we tended to be quite meticulous with our Master Plans, End Visions, etc.

As the years have gone by, we are far less detailed in our goals, and action plans. What continues to drive our work is what we call our "Vision Statement" which is really (as you point out) the goal we feel the Lord leading us to pursue:

500,000 new disciples in five years in newly planted NT churches.

To reach this "vision" we focus on four steps: 1) praying the Lord of the Harvest for laborers, 2) every church plant a new church every year, 3) every believer win/disciple four others every year, 4) repeat #1-3 until we reach the goal of 500,000.

We do feel that our "vision" for 500,000 comes from the Lord. We spent nearly an entire year in prayer, fasting, and ongoing dialog with the brothers until we came to the consensus this is what the Lord would have us do.

3) Lack of emphasis on receptivity. My own observation is that it is a both/and situation. We are to seek to reach the unreached, but at the same time not abandon the harvest fields (like Ecuador). I believe the IMB is saying the same thing. At least I have sensed their support for South America (SA is the IMB region of focus for 2008). If you spend any amount of time around me, you would hear loud and clear the need to be pouring attention onto harvest fields. Nearly 100 years have been invested in reaching Ecuador. Lives of missionaries like my parents were spent sowing the seed, without a lot of visible fruit. Now, though, it is harvest time. We need everyone possible to be down here helping us bring in the harvest. Now is NOT the time to be pulling out of harvest fields; rather we should be pouring everything we've got to reap what has been sowed.

So in conclusion. We probably agree more about these issues than you might think! Our team has benefited much from the changes implemented ten years ago. Things are far from perfect, but we are headed in the right direction. From what I am beginning to hear, it would seem more changes are in the wings. The coming months ought to be interesting!

Baptist Theologue said...

Guy, this is a good and important discussion. I realize that when the CPM paradigm was implemented, the level of implementation of the method in particular regions depended on the level of enthusiasm for the method held by particular regional leaders. You said,

“One question that continues to intrigue me is what a CPM would look like in our own Latin American context. We have concluded that it probably would not look much like the Asia-type of CPMs taking place amongst UPGs that are often described in the literature.”

It seems to me that a CPM in any context necessarily implies a rapid multiplication of churches. That emphasis on speed seems to be a key characteristic in every area, although recently there has been reference to the “left side of the graph” as a concession to a slow pace before a CPM occurs. You also said,

“What we have benefited from is taking the CPM principles and applying them to our local context.”

This statement is very important. Some regional leaders would permit such an approach, but other CPM purists would not (at least in the past). The application part is tricky. Does that mean I can change (apply or contextualize) the paradigm to fit my situation better? A CPM purist would answer negatively, I think. When I was trained, my impression was that the teachers were saying that the pure method would work well everywhere. Obviously, the pure CPM method does not work well everywhere. In regard to new converts serving as pastors you asked,

“The question we struggle with is how long is 'new' new? When is a new convert no longer a 'new convert' and could be considered a potential leader/pastor?”

I would argue that Titus 1:9 gives us the answer: “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (NASB).

When he reaches that theological level, then he is no longer a new convert, and he is qualified (as far as his theology is concerned) to be a pastor. The amount of time needed to get a convert to this level depends on the convert’s background. Garrison mentioned Lystra on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 14) as being an example of the appointment of recent converts as pastors. John Nevius, the great missionary to China who successfully trained the early missionaries in South Korea, commented on this issue:

“The Apostolic usage of ordaining elders soon after their reception into the Church, under circumstances very different from ours in China, is apt to mislead us. The work of the Apostles in heathen lands commenced for the most part in the synagogues of the Jews resident in those lands. Even in such places as Lystra, where there seems to have been no synagogue, there were Jewish families and their influence had been felt by the native population. Among the first converts to Christianity were both Jews and Jewish proselytes who for generations had been freed from the thralldom of idolatry. They were sincere worshippers of Jehovah, familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures and waiting for the long promised Messiah. From such persons the first elders of the Christian church were no doubt largely drawn. It is not strange that, as a rule, we in China have to wait for years before Christians of the same intelligence and stability of character can be had.”

Nevius, The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches (N.p.: 1886; reprint, Hancock, NH: Monadnock, 2003), 72.

What Nevius did missiologically, and what the early missionaries in Korea successfully did, is very interesting. Rather than calling the first groups of Christians “churches,” they referred to them as “stations.” These stations had volunteer, unofficial leaders at first. The missionaries visited the stations on a regular basis, provided some leadership, and conducted the ordinances. The CPM/people movement in Korea started in 1895 and ended in 1910. The first official Korean pastors, however, were not in place until 1907. When a pastor was in place, the station became a church. The Korean pastors were all trained well in doctrine. The Koreans experienced 100 years of solid growth, and their Korean pastors were never new converts. You also said,

“We are to seek to reach the unreached, but at the same time not abandon the harvest fields (like Ecuador). I believe the IMB is saying the same thing.”

I believe the IMB in the past said this and called it the “dual mandate,” a dual emphasis on the responsive harvest fields and the places where very few people are Christians. I sensed during my 10-year tenure with the IMB that responsive harvest fields were de-emphasized. You may remember an exercise that all IMB missionaries did years ago where we took a map of the world and placed missionary units according to particular priorities. The high priority went to those places where there is a low percentage of Christians. The low priority went to responsive places. Ideally, it can be a “both/and” rather than an “either/or” situation. People groups that are both responsive and unreached can receive top priority.

GuyMuse said...

BaptTheo,

Continuing our dialog, I asked...

When is a new convert no longer a 'new convert' and could be considered a potential leader/pastor?”

You answered...

I would argue that Titus 1:9 gives us the answer: “Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (NASB).

Good point. But I have also had it pointed out to me that Matthew went from being a new follower of Jesus in 10:1 to being an apostle in 10:2. One verse from disciple to apostle!

I think we all recognize the importance of an elder/pastor/bishop being able to exhort and refute in sound doctrine, but cannot a new believer (like Matthew) go out and share what they know with those who know nothing? If they are living in obedience to the little they know, cannot they go out and start a church? Mind you I did not say pastor a church but plant a church.

The reason I say the above is that we have so many examples of this right now where new believers go out, win others to Christ, begin to faithfully disciple, and start meeting together with these new converts. Granted, it doesn't look much like the kinds of churches we are familiar with, but they are exciting, vibrant ekklesias. Often when I visit it is difficult to even know WHO is the recognized pastor/leader/elder. They just 'do it' without getting all tangled up in the details.

The Nevius quotes are indeed interesting and helpful, but is this the only way to deal with new church plant leadership issues?

If you get a chance, check out one of my recent blog posts entitled What if you only had 3 years of ministry left? The servant leader of this church has so trained and discipled everyone into active ministers, that a visitor would find it very difficult to identify who the pastor is. Everyone in that church is literally 'on mission with God.'

You write, I sensed during my 10-year tenure with the IMB that responsive harvest fields were de-emphasized. That may well have been true several years ago, but I believe the pendulum has swung back to giving equal attention to harvest fields.

Thanks again for your good comments. I have also enjoyed reading your comments on others blogs as well. If you plan on being at the SBC in Indianapolis, please stop by the IMB booth. My wife and I will be "on duty" and would love to meet you in person!

Baptist Theologue said...

Guy, you said,

“I have also had it pointed out to me that Matthew went from being a new follower of Jesus in 10:1 to being an apostle in 10:2. One verse from disciple to apostle!”

Remember, however, that Judas Iscariot (a non-Christian) was an apostle (Matthew 10:4). The requirements for becoming a pastor are in some ways higher than were those for becoming an apostle. To be a pastor, you must be a Christian, and you cannot be a recent convert. Apostles such as Peter and Paul had a great deal of authority, but we cannot forget that Judas was also an apostle. You asked,

“Cannot a new believer (like Matthew) go out and share what they know with those who know nothing? If they are living in obedience to the little they know, cannot they go out and start a church? Mind you I did not say pastor a church but plant a church.”

A new believer who knows very little can indeed share what he knows with those who know nothing. This type of sharing, however, is somewhat limited in scope. The biblical pattern is for extensive discipleship to prepare leaders to disciple others. Jesus exhibited this pattern by spending most of his time with the twelve rather than the masses. Jeff Brawner criticized the limited type of discipleship that he was taught by an IMB speaker:

“He [an unnamed IMB speaker at a CPM seminar] told us that we must visualize our ministry as if we were a mother duck leading our ducklings down the road. . . . Each successive duck isn’t focusing on the mother; he is focusing on the baby duck ahead of him. . . . He advised us that we must follow the same idea with our new believers in our respective countries. . . . We are to teach a new believer a principle as quickly as possible; send him out to do it, and he is to train the next person in what he has been taught. He might only have a little more of Christ then (sic) the person he is guiding, but he’ll always be one baby step ahead of his new convert. This is a key thought in CPM methodology. . . . This is an attractive concept on paper. Unfortunately, there are two inherent flaws in this part of CPM thought. First of all, this in no way follows the pattern that Christ set out in Scripture. It is true that the Apostle Paul did ‘commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others’ (2 Tim 2:2). Paul certainly multiplied his ministry through his disciples, but HOW did he prepare those disciples? Did he follow the example of Christ and take a great deal of time eating, sleeping, walking and ministering alongside his men, or did he follow the ‘duck principle’. . . . I’m betting that he followed the first option. . . . The vast majority of believers need time, patience, and guidance from someone older in the faith. After a span of time that does not have to be years, the believer can start, not only to reproduce, but to multiply. However, the idea that he can start from day one and give up his idols, passions, or secret sins from his “old self” and begin to multiply spiritually flies in the face of reality for most believers. Can rapid multiplication happen? Of course it can. However, is it valid to base an entire ministry on this kind of quick discipleship? The pattern in the Gospels and Acts points to the contrary.”

Jeff Brawner, “Planting Churches in a Harvest Field–Brazil,” Journal of Evangelism and Missions 4 (Spring 2005), 70-71.

You also said,

“Granted, it doesn't look much like the kinds of churches we are familiar with, but they are exciting, vibrant ekklesias. Often when I visit it is difficult to even know WHO is the recognized pastor/leader/elder. They just 'do it' without getting all tangled up in the details.”

There’s a difference between a church and a Bible study. As the 2000 BF&M states, a New Testament church is a group of baptized believers, associated by covenant (written or unwritten), observing the two ordinances, operating under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes, and having the two offices of pastor and deacon. A church always has the two offices, but the two offices can be temporarily vacant. If no recognized biblical office exists, then the group is not a New Testament church.

You also asked,

“The Nevius quotes are indeed interesting and helpful, but is this the only way to deal with new church plant leadership issues?”

No, this is not the only way, but it is a biblical way. To start a church with a recent convert as pastor is clearly unbiblical.

Finally, you said,

“If you plan on being at the SBC in Indianapolis, please stop by the IMB booth. My wife and I will be ‘on duty’ and would love to meet you in person!”

Thanks for the invitation, but I won’t be going this year. One factor is the expense—high fuel prices, hotel, etc. I am beginning to think that we seriously need to take a look at Internet participation options for the future.

GuyMuse said...

BaptTheo,

Thanks for the follow-up on my previous comment. I read with interest your related comments over at Bart Barber's blog and am understanding a bit better now where you are coming from.

One of the reasons CPM/New Directions came about is that the way we were previously doing things was not getting the job done. Back in the early years of '97-'98 many of us (including myself) had many serious reservations about the changes being implemented from Richmond down to the field. We lost many good missionaries during those early years of folks who simply could not make the changes being enforced.

All the above to say, I do understand your concerns, and where you are coming from when you say them.

But...

From someone who has "survived" the changes and now entering their 10th year with CPM/ND methodology, I can honestly say that the changes HAVE BEEN GOOD. The Albert Einstein definition of insanity very much applies here:

Insanity: Doing the same things over and over but expecting different results.

Before CPM/ND (even with all their flaws and weaknesses) studies showed that the average Baptist church in Ecuador was baptizing 7 people per year. We were planting in the country an average of 4-7 new churches per year. The average net gain per church, per year was 1.2 people.

To continue to work in the way we were doing at the time, would inevitably lead to repeating the same unacceptable growth figures.

Something had to change!

What most M's I know agree on was the WAY those needed changes were implemented overseas. It was, and even continues today, to be a "tough sell" to our existing Baptist partners.

Granted, many of your concerns (not even to mention my own) are valid points needing discussion. But to have continued in the same general patterns that were in place back pre-'97 would have led to a complete stalling out of the work (IMHO).

What I think is extremely important is that pastors like yourself, and some really innovative thinkers like Marty and Alan are again beginning to stir the waters of what needs to be changed in order to reach this world for Christ.

Going back to the "good old days" is not the answer. We need to get back to the truly ancient days of the 1st Century Church to rediscover what drove a small band of 12 disciples to eventually lead to Christianity becoming the major dominate world religion in only a few centuries.

What many of us are trying to do, is truly understand what the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles are really saying, and how those truths apply today. We are not there yet, but we continue to try and understand. The parts we understand, we try to implement.

Thanks for your prayers. We need them more than ever.

Baptist Theologue said...

Guy, I'll certainly be praying for you and your ministry there.

Kevin, Somewhere in South America said...

Guy,

I am not even sure that those good men and women that witnessed these movements fully understand them, much less we who try to read about them and dialog with others who have seen it firsthand.

It's kind of like a marriage, to me; you can talk about marriage and family and sound authoritative. But that one who has lived it speaks with a greater authority. The rest of us just try to figure out how to fit into the puzzle.

That being said, one of the most valuable things we can do is read and try to understand these great truths.

GuyMuse said...

BaptTheo,

Thank you for the prayers and dialog the past couple of days. It has been good to hear your thoughts on this subject. BTW, I agree with you on the SBC needing to be opened up to internet participation. I believe a lot more people would be involved if it were--I know I would be on those people!

Kevin,

You guys are in much the same boat we are here. I am beginning to get a better grasp as of late as to what I believe CPM might look like in S. American context. I think this question should be brought up amongst SCs and hear one another's thoughts on how this might look in a Latin American context.