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Voice Crying in the Wilderness

Voice Crying in the Wilderness

A recent conversation got me thinking about this tongue-in-cheek post that I wrote a few years back. It’s still a good one! Take it in the spirit of humor, please!

Memo

To: Isaiah

From: The Jerusalem Temple
100 East Gate
Jerusalem

715 BC

Dear Isaiah:

Greetings in the name of our Messiah (whom we haven’t actually seen yet, but we take it by faith that He’s coming).  On behalf of the missions committee here at the Jerusalem Temple it’s my honor to greet you – we only wish it were with a holy kiss.

Isaiah, it’s that time of year when we re-evaluate our priorities regarding the distribution of funds to various temple-supported prophets.  As you know, our temple has a substantial commitment to the preaching of the Law.  We have developed a five point system of evaluation that includes the following: teaching the Pentateuch, apostasy return, royalty succession, Baal shaming, and war counseling.

We noticed on your recent evaluation form you indicated that the primary purpose of your ministry was “voice crying in the wilderness.”  You need to know that this is not one of the priorities that we have set for the prophets that we support.  While “crying in the wilderness” is certainly an important ministry, it is simply not one which we feel called to give toward.

We also have some questions about this particular assignment for you.  We noticed that you have been “crying in the wilderness” for sometime now, but there is little sign of fruit.  This makes us wonder if this particular ministry is a match for your particular gifting.  Furthermore, some of our member are concerned that your recent newsletter reported that you are, at times, running around bare-naked.  Unfortunately, we suspect that your sending agency, Propheteers, is not adequately holding you accountable to a reasonable ministry plan.

We did write them and they have indicated that they are unable to remove you from ministry, because that is the role of field leadership.  This is unacceptable to us, and we have, therefore decided to suspend our support for your ministry.

We will continue to send you fatty parts from the sacrifices for another three months, at which time our support will end.

With Love,

 

The Missions Committee

The Jerusalem Temple

5 Stories You Will Read about in 2015 Regarding North American Missions

5 Stories You Will Read about in 2015 Regarding North American Missions

I typically post a “top trends” article as the year begins to flip. This year I offer this list of stories I think we will be reading about next year.

1.  Continued debate over the definition of missions

Under the surface of Great Commission theology is the understanding of what “mission,” “missions,” and “missionary” means. For the past century or so, Mission Dei has been the favorite flavor of missiologists, particularly those from theological institutions. Missio Dei fits well with a modern / post-modern missiology and influential authors such as Leslie Newbiggen embraced it and made their mark on missiological thinking. I think much of this philosophy of missions culminated with Chris Wright’s book The Mission of God as taught at Lausanne a years back.

However, the Evangelical missionary movement globally has grown fastest and deepest when its proponents have not embraced a broad definition of mission. Particularly among Pentecostals and Baptists an alternative view of missions challenges the Mission Dei definition. This alternate view is conversionistic, focused on church planting, sees social action valid only when accompanied by proclamation of the gospel, and is quite theologically conservative. it is closer to fundamentalism than Western missiologists might like.

In 2015 I expect we will begin to see theologians (particularly from the non-Western world) begin to challenge the dominant Missio Dei definition of mission. The fall out will be felt in the North American missions movement as more narrow definitions of mission begin to take hold. This will not happen quickly, but it is ripe to start.

2.  Consolidation, mergers and “acquisitions”

It sounds so Wall Street to talk like this so forgive me. However, the “missions industry” is not immune to the process of growing and aging like any other “industry.” I would commend the book, How Industries Evolve for more information on this. The basic thesis is that mature industries end up with a handful of dominant players. Smaller, niche players will appear in the areas where the larger organizations aren’t interested in focusing. I see no reason why the missions agency sector would be immune from this and, in fact, see why it needs to happen. This has been going on for some years already but will probably accelerate in the next decade.

In 2015 I expect we will see at least a few missionary agencies “merge” into other agencies, increase cooperation substantially for some services, or altogether shut down. This will be encouraged in part by local churches who are not excited about support structures in missions and who are asking for greater efficiencies in the back room operations of organizations.

3.  Security Issues

The world is an increasingly dangerous place for missionaries. Despite the growing danger there is a sustained focus on the part of missionaries to work in the Islamic world where much of the danger exists.

While we have always had stories of missionary sacrifice and martyrdom, I expect that in 2015 there will be a new round of high profile cases that will get our attention.

4.  Growing Local Church Involvement in Missions

There have been a number of starts and stops when it comes to integrating the local church in missions. The exception to this would be in regard to the short-term missionary movement. When I talk with church leaders, they often characterize the short-term trip as necessary but disappointing. At the same time, most missionary agency executives long for deeper involvement by the local church.

I believe the maturing mega-church movement will, in 2015, begin to demand and exercise greater missiological sophistication. Another way to say this is that after decades of asking the question, “Who owns the Great Commission, the church or agency?” (which has setup a false and antagonistic dichotomy). This question is being replaced with, “How do we get this job done?” A good part of this is due to the emphasis on church planting that has taken place in the North American church. In 2015 this will be an encouraging and growing story.

5.  Church Planting Movement (CPM) Controversy

Within missionary agency circles the concepts surrounding CPM have taken a strong hold. I recently read an unpublished research paper in which over 30 agencies were questioned about their  use of CPM strategies. All but one had made strategic shifts to embrace a CPM oriented ministry philosophy.

Within the US there are few churches which embrace the CPM concepts (house churches, decentralization, lack of didactic preaching, etc.). There are also some church structures that are overtly hostile to the leadership paradigms being used globally. I anticipate that we will see a debate emerge over the theological underpinnings of CPM strategies. At the same time, the CPM outcomes are hard to argue with: they form a challenge to our traditional ecclesiology. In 2015 I would expect we see these issues debated and discussed in a healthy and necessary way.

So, there you have it: 5 stories I think you will read about in 2015. I would welcome any thoughts you might have about these items.

China Becoming Most Christian Nation

China Becoming Most Christian Nation

This is no news to readers of this blog or really any missiological information, but the Drudge Report has been running a link to this Telegraph article about China becoming the “Most Christian Nation:”

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an atheist country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek meaning and spiritual comfort that neither communism nor capitalism seem to have supplied.

Christian congregations in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signalled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

Full article here…

I think there are significant dangers to the continued growth of the Chinese church. Two primary issues give me pause: Materialism will grow there as the economy grows and the institutional church is being exported from the US to China.

However, now is the time that we might see a significant shift in missionary sending from China to the world. Below is a link to a field trip I took last year, documenting the need for established missionary agencies to provide support to the Chinese church at this critical point in their development:

Multiply: Pakistan from Jacob Lewis on Vimeo.

Don’t Just Shift from One Sponsorship Program to Another

Don’t Just Shift from One Sponsorship Program to Another

In the wake of World Vision’s announcement that they will now hire married homosexual staff members many Christians are looking for alternatives for their giving. Already I have read a number of comments on websites on the options that are out there and I feel one more should be mentioned.

Rather than shifting from one child sponsorship program to another, I suggest you consider giving to church planting efforts where there are few Christians and few churches.

Do I dislike child sponsorship? No, not specifically. But I would argue that the starting of new churches where there are none is much closer to the definition and intent of New Testament teaching on missionary work. Charitable efforts, whether they are feeding the poor, drilling water wells or child sponsorship are best delivered by Christians when they are done in parallel with the starting of new churches.

Within the pages of the New Testament we find that Paul and his band of missionaries were foremost concerned about preaching the Gospel and forming communities of believers. Nowhere do we see him advocate for charitable efforts apart from church planting or for the support of Christian among whom missionaries had already labored.

So, Christian, if you are re-evaluating your giving, I hope you will consider giving to the cause most in line with the New Testament’s emphasis in mission: church planting among unreached peoples.

Contact me if you want specific opportunities to consider.

The Racist Support Raising System

The Racist Support Raising System

I was alerted to a post over at the website Minister Different on the support raising system. The charge is that the system keeps parachurch agencies white. I am not going to reproduce the main points here so if this interests you, go read the article and then come back to read why I think the author is only half right.

As a missions agency exec at Pioneers I can attest to the difficulty in mobilizing African Americans. While the article lumps hispanics and African Americans in the same group, I think this is an oversimplification. We have had some success with recruiting and deploying latinos and we expect that to multiply in the years ahead as latinos move more into the mainstream of missions in general and our organization (Asian Americans are represented at a much higher rate than either African Americans or latinos in our organization). It is certainly true: we have had very limited success in mobilizing from the African American community. I agree that support raising as a means to funding ministry is a big reason why this is the case. We have had numerous African American missions leaders tell us that unless we fund them they won’t join Pioneers.

The system appears rigged, as the author suggests. But… that system is not just a “parachurch system” as the author implies. The issue is much more deeply embedded in the giving culture of the Evangelical church as a whole.

Churches, like Tim Keller’s (he is heavily quoted in the article), are also a part of the problem. Let me explain.

The article states that the individualized, support raising model depends on social networks to raise funds. True enough, but the local church, at least in our environment, is at the core of this funding model. For a ministry like ours (we may be different from Intervarsity and Cru in this way) the support raising model starts and ends with local church giving. I’ve run the numbers on our donor base: very close to fifty percent of the funding comes from local churches. The largest donors to support raised staff are churches. If it weren’t for generous churches our agency would struggle.

One might argue, “So what? That’s the same problem.” But it’s not. If we wanted to pay salaries to African American staff we would need donors willing to give to that. And they simply aren’t willing to give to “buckets” that aren’t attached to faces. This is particularly true with church giving.

In my entire time at Pioneers USA I can count less than about 4-5 churches which have donated to Pioneers USA’s general fund. They donate to “their missionary.” I am pretty sure that if you checked out Tim Keller’s church budget you would find precious little given to the operations of organizations like Pioneers. It’s not because we aren’t asking. It’s because churches do not see organizational donations as a valid gift type. If our goal was to pay salaries we would need to find that money and that money would not be tied to particular workers. Giving is tied to people. This is at the core of the “individualized support-raised model.”

“Well,” one might counter, “what about the example of Cru? They have this fund, you see…” Yes, a couple of other organizations have raised some funds toward this end. That’s a laudable thing. However, I would question the sustainability of that approach as well as the scope. Very few people, relative to the size of these organizations, will benefit from these funds. It’s simply doesn’t do enough or fix the root causes.

When agencies raise funds through missionaries it comes out of the “service fee” or what I call the “missionary tax.” Trust me when I tell you that churches and other donors do not want us increasing the missionary tax so that we can pay the salaries of a racially selected group of missionaries. We get a lot of pressure to lower these fees. Organizations that rate non-profits look at these sort of fees as “inefficient fund-raising” or “money not spent on programs.” In other words, raising money for salaries like this is a band-aid and not a sustainable, systemic change to the system.

Why doesn’t the author of the article suggest ideas for changing the culture of giving within the African American Church? Surely, this is just as much part of the equation as the organizations doing missionary work. I have heard many excuses as to why the African American Church is not able to give toward global mission and send their own. Until there is a change of heart from within the African American Church I am afraid the solutions will look a lot like failed government programs: unsustainable subsidies that treat the symptoms of injustice and, in the long run, perpetuating injustice.

There is an insipid implication in the article: white organizations are systematically racist because of the support raised model. The support raised model is not an ordained, Biblical model. There are many ways to get involved in mission. Simply because there is the opportunity for some through the support raised model does not mean that others are being forbidden or suppressed from fulfilling the Great Commission. Declaring that African American Churches must adopt the model of the white Evangelical church when it comes to missionary support is also racist. What solutions can come from within the African American Church that better fits their model of ministry and culture?

When missionaries work in other countries to assist them in the mobilization process they should be very careful about introducing the support raised model to the national church. It won’t work in many other cultures and we shouldn’t assume it must for justice to reign among African American Churches.

I recently had a wonderful few days with the founders of Movein.to. Here is a missions mobilization model that sits completely outside of the support-raising paradigm. They have mobilized 250+ people in just a few years. Perhaps this is a better avenue for the African American Church to consider. There are other options out there as well and more that a clever entrepreneur could dream up.

So… yes, there is a problem and yes, it’s systemic. Yes, organizations like Pioneers should be working to overcome this issue. But no, it doesn’t lie completely within the system of support raising nor should we force support raising onto those who have clearly rejected it. This is not an issue of justice. It’s an issue of cultural sensitivity and awareness of differences within the body.

Is Preaching Biblical?

Is Preaching Biblical?

Whoa, now that’s a headline. What I am really asking is this:

Is the vaunted, specialized place of preaching within the Evangelical tradition something recommended by the Bible,

OR

is it simply a vaunted, specialized Evangelical tradition?

Many of my heroes, both from history and in the contemporary church, hold a very “high view” of preaching. I am about to suggest that this “high view” is something developed historically in Evangelicalism and not something that we see much of in the Bible. So, please put on your heresy armor and let’s tackle this.

Today, and for the past few hundred years, we hold a view of preaching that borders on the mystical. Seminaries teach special courses and have institutes on preaching, our theological luminaries tell us that preaching is an ordained art form, and we have magazines on preaching. Our preaching heroes are Edwards, Spurgeon, Whitfield, Moody, Wesley and Calvin. In some traditions, the “pulpit” is raised above the heads of the congregation to show the preeminence of the preached Word of God.

It’s not only good enough to be a preacher: real preachers are expositors. They take a chunk of the text and expertly filet it for all to digest. If one ventures off the expository reservation they are subject to all sorts of polemical wrath. It’s important not just to preach, but to preach in the “right way.”

Last year I read Scot McKnights book The King Jesus Gospel. He notes that most of the preaching in the New Testament is directed at those who don’t follow Christ. It is rarely expository in nature. You will note that I left Billy Graham off of my list, above. Surely his method of speaking topically to those outside of the faith is more in line with the Biblical models we have of preaching.

This last week I came across this list of “sermons” in Outcome Magazine:

  1. Street preaching by Jonah (Jonah 1:2, 3:1-5)
  2. John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness (Matt 3:1-3)
  3. Jesus preaching on a mountainside, and from a boat (Matt 5:1-3, and 13:2)
  4. Jesus’ ministry to demoniac in a graveyard in the Decapolis (Mark 5:1-5)
  5. The gospel of the kingdom being preached in the whole world (Matt 24:14)
  6. The disciples preaching everywhere (Mark 16:20)
  7. Phillip, Peter, and John in Samaria (Acts 8)
  8. Paul preaching in numerous Gentile cities (Acts 13 and 14)
  9. Paul preaching in Athens, to philosophers at the Aeropagus (Acts 17)
  10. Paul preaching the gospel in his prison in Rome (Philippians 1:18)
  11. Proclaim it .. send it out to the ends of the earth.. (Psalm 9:11, Isaiah 48:20, Matt 28:18-20)
  12. Proclaiming peace to the nations and to the ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:10)
  13. It seems that God goes to almost any length to save the lost, even abandoning the ninety and nine to pursue the one last sheep (Luke 15:1-7), and sending out his workers into the highways and byways to compel people to attend the king’s feast (Luke 14:15-23)

The writer makes the point that there was no “pulpit” involved in any of the above. I would build on this to note other differences between the “high view of preaching” and what we see going on in most Bible preaching:

  1. The audience is overwhelmingly not found in a church. There are few examples of “church preaching.”
  2. The audience is overwhelmingly not following Christ and outreach is a goal of the preaching.
  3. The preaching is overwhelmingly topical and not expository.
  4. There is little instruction about the specifics of the preaching form.

I note that Jesus went about teaching, preaching, and healing (Matt 4:23). The original languages use different terms for teaching and preaching. Preaching (krygma) seems to have more of a public and proclamational flair whereas teaching (didach) has more of an instructional aspect. Romans 10:14 says, “And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” The context of that verse is again aimed at missionary work, not church preaching.

Preaching is clearly Biblical.

What I quibble with here is this concept of preaching as an art form, an elevated spiritual practice, or a well defined form and format within the Bible. It’s fine that it is seen in its historical perspective but let us not equate that tradition with the preaching of the New Testament.

One very important point made in the book of Acts was that the Apostles (until Paul joined the team and ruined an otherwise perfect record) were ordinary, uneducated men (Acts 4:13). They were decidedly not seminary taught professional clergy who could preach with incredible oratorical skill. Instead, they were marked as having been with Jesus.

In my humble opinion preaching, as we have come to know it, is more of vaunted, specialized Evangelical tradition. Nothing wrong with traditions as long as they don’t become accepted dogma. I am fearful that within some strands of the Evangelical church this “high view” of preaching is dogma.

The “It’s Western” Ad Hominem Attack

The “It’s Western” Ad Hominem Attack

So, I wrote an article for the International Journal of Frontier Mission in which I state that the pastor-centric model of church we have in the West is Western. You can read the article here: Two Church Planting Paradigms.

Two people are calling me out on that charge. Thanks for doing so! Here is an email exchange for those that are interested:

Hey Ted…just read your article. Thanks for writing it. I think it was helpful.

One question for you…you talk about proclamation and hierarchal leadership as if they are “western” several times in your article. Do you have examples where the primary phenomenon of the church in an eastern context or in the first 1500 years of the church did not lean towards a proclamation or that had a flat leadership structure that is preferred by the CPM model? It seems to me that “western” is used as an ad hominem attack almost subconsciously in these types of discussions…its the one thing you would never want to be…and certainly there is a lot of the phenomenon that is post-enlightentment German university influenced that we should be wary of but I don’t personally see flat leadership structures and discovery models in the east or in church history. In fact, I’d say that the West is much flatter in its leadership structures than the east if you look into East Asia and the Muslim world…it makes me wonder if the CPM model isn’t actually more of a western cultural phenomenon than the proclamation model.

Obviously I’m just thinking out loud here.

– Not buying it

Any my response:

Dear “Not buying it”,

2nd time I have gotten the same question.

Yes, using “Western” could be a problem when considering the vast expanse of the church through history. I would say that you could easily look at the era leading up to Constantine as a non-pastor-centric time in the life of the church.

Other notable “Western” examples could be the conversion of the Nordic peoples, the rise of the Huguenots in France, the Moravians in Bavaria, certainly the early Wesleyans were non-heirarchical, and many Brethren movements. Some consider the Quakers falling into this category as well, but I think sociological studies call that into question somewhat. Better than all of those, though, is probably found in the spread of Christianity among the Celts in the 3rd century. Other than Patrick himself there is virtually no evidence of church hierarchy for almost 300 years following the mass conversion of the Irish. A resource on this movement is the book “The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West–Again” by G. Hunter.

I do think “Western” is the correct term, though, because of the Reformation. The current model of church (which I call “Sola Pastora”) reveals an almost Catholic-like devotion to the idea that one man rules them all.

Consider the use of the term “pastor” in the New Testament. It is used once. It is more likely referring to gifting than an office of the church. If anything, plural eldership is the model of the New Testament and, within that model, there probably weren’t elders on a “per church” basis. I think the most likely scenario that we find for early church leadership is that there were numerous house churches meeting across a city. All of the house churches were loosely connected through relationships, and there were elders appointed in the city, overseeing a network of churches. This is quite different than our current model of the pastor acting as defacto leader and, within the past 30-40 years, the elder board supporting that leadership (a relatively recent phenomena). The Reformation, coming out of Catholicism, reformed theology but didn’t reform the concept of Sola Pastora. In fact, it cemented it.

A great book on early church practice is “The First Urban Christians” by Wayne Meeks. There is a follow-up book on the topic as well, showing how good the academic work in Meeks’ writing was (he wrote about 30 years ago). Another contemporary writer is a prof at Baylor named Rodney Stark. He’s written a bunch on the topic but his best overall work is called, “Cities of God: the real story of how Christianity became an urban movement and conquered Rome.”

The further we get theologically from the Reformation the more likely we get movement (I am personally a five-pointer – I don’t have anything against the Reformation’s theology). The more you get away from Sola Pastora the more likely you will get movements. Look at the growth of the Pentecostal church in Africa (and globally). Congregational Baptists in the early 1800s, and perhaps most important of all, the rise of the decentralized Han Chinese house church movement are further examples. I think that the Han movement will wane now as we see the leadership of the networks get training from the West and teach them that the megachurch model is the model to pursue.

From my study I have concluded that certain elements have to be in place for a movement to occur. One of those elements is grassroots leadership and activism. Without it, you won’t have a movement. Western concepts of Church, flavored by Catholicism and the Reformation’s view of the priesthood / laity dichotomy, is a problem for movements. Within Protestantism as a whole, I do think it comes straight out of the Western, North American, European founded view of pastor as leader.

I think you make a good point about “Western” being an ad hominem attack – I should search for a better term perhaps. But I do think it reflects the reality of who we are as Western missionaries and how we are influencing the global church.

I hope that helps! I think you make a fair criticism and it’s worth discussion.

– Ted

Arrogance and Church Planting

Arrogance and Church Planting

Bruce Wesley wrote a piece that Christianity Today published on their blog with the provocative title, The Arrogance and Impatience of Church Planters. Go read it: he makes a number of really good points.

He also assumes a particular model of church planting in his analysis. That assumption may be one reason why we don’t see churches planting churches at much higher rates that we do in the US.

Now, to be fair, his model is the THE model for most US based church planting efforts. But I would argue that it’s not the arrogance of church planters that is the problem: the model itself increases the potential for arrogance.

US church planting usually begins and ends with “the man.” That particular man who starts, waters, grows, prunes and, eventually, harvests. It sees the process of church planting as a visionary, linear process which must be strategically thought out and planned. The man must be qualified, have the right lifestyle and exhibit a particular set of gifts. The man gets a vision. The man prays. The man is selected. The man starts the work. The man teaches, preaches, disciples, etc. If the man is able to overcome he will one day sit atop a successful church (the word “successful” here can usually be replaced with the word “large”). This model of church planting is based on the theologically thin (but widely practiced) idea that churches are led by pastors.

Let me state clearly that I don’t believe that this model of church planting is “wrong” or “unbiblical.” It’s one way of doing it, though, and not the only way. In fact, I think it is contextualized to our Western church tradition and thus enjoys some success in the US. Most church planting networks and denominations use it. But, let’s also recognize that it has problems. An easy one to identify is the rise of celebrity pastors. The teaching-centricity of this model means that discipleship is often reduced to knowing instead of being. Could it be that this model, focused as it is on “the man,” creates the sort of arrogance that Wesley describes? Yep, I think so.

As I travel globally I see a very different model being utilized. The organic model of church planting which focuses on discipleship and small house churches is very different. It doesn’t employ the singular leader style of church that we see in the USA. Leaders are secondary to followers: in fact, it’s often the role of the church planter to NOT teach, to NOT lead, to NOT take the stage in any way, and to NOT be the center of the church planting process. Instead, the small house church structure encourages all believers to exercise their gifts and not simply to give “the man” the opportunity to express his.

Just like the previous model, this model has issues. Churches are not institutionalized and recidivism is high (the churches don’t last a long time, they tend to come and go). They don’t wield institutional power like the traditional church model can (which can, of course, be a good thing as well as a bad thing). They aren’t easy to lead in whole. But from my personal observations, where movements of church planting churches are actually happening it is through this organic model, not the leader-centric model we see in the US.

The leader-centric model requires selection and screening, copious amounts of training, lots of coaching and oversight and has a high failure rate. This is because we aren’t only planting churches: we are, in fact, planting institutions and the requirements for institution planting are necessarily high.

Wesley, referencing the Acts 29 network, writes, “As a movement, church planting must look to the growth of its established churches, not the number of churches it has started, as a gauge of success.” Now, I love the Acts 29 network.  Just a few years ago I would talk about church planting and eyes would glaze over. Nobody really “got” what I was talking about. Acts 29, Catalyst and a host of others have changed that dynamic and I am thankful for it – very thankful. However, I don’t think Wesley’s gauge of success is the best one to use. In fact, I think it’s the opposite.

In the US we do not need more large, established churches. We need ordinary disciples that see themselves as church planters. By deconstructing this idea that we are to plant institutions we can empower just about anybody to be a part of church multiplication. To do this, we would need to move from our focus on “the man” and look to empowering ordinary pew-sitters and turn them into extraordinary disciple-makers. If each Christian saw that they were “the man” we might see a revolution of churches planting churches across the USA.

That’s something I could be very excited about.

Can that happen? Yes, I believe I have personally walked among a movement or two that has achieved this dynamic. In one of these movements I was amazed at the way they had implanted a church planting vision in each person. I asked dozens of people, “What do you do here?” It didn’t matter if they were secretaries, Bible teachers, or business people. They all responded, “I am a church planter.” It was almost cult-like!

True movements like this are rare. It is a lofty dream to think that we could see this in the US church, I know. I love the church in ALL of its forms, from mega to micro. We will always have large churches and we should. However, I don’t believe they will be the standard bearers of a movement of church planting. Perhaps their greatest contribution will be in freeing up their human capital to plant thousands and thousands of organic, disciple-making churches. I challenge these churches to see this as the real gauge of their success, not, as Wesley suggests, the ongoing building up of large, institutionalized churches.

And that is asking a lot.

CPM Rebuttal Case

CPM Rebuttal Case

A few months ago it fell on me to give the rebuttal case to church planting movement strategy. I prepped a list of my top objections and presented them even though I am personally not on board with these critiques. The entire conference was captured on video and will soon be made available on the Pioneers website.

Jerry Trousdale, author of Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus, was on hand to give the main presentations. He and I will be videotaping a follow-up session on these objections.

Here’s the list if you are interested:

  1. Too much emphasis on methodology – do we believe in the Holy Spirit anymore? This is a “silver bullet” approach that replaces the importance of why we do things with the how.
  2. Teaching and preaching is paramount in scripture and overlooked in this strategy. Person of Peace is not common but preaching is, why the imbalance?
  3. Unbelievers should not lead Discovery Bible Studies. If you are of the Reformed camp this is particularly important.
  4. You raise expectations that will later on be smashed by the realities of frontier missionary work.
  5. This is only happening in a few select places and there are 3,000+ unengaged UPGs, let along all the 7,000+ UPGs that have yet to be reached. Anybody could plant churches in these few places: Ethiopia, Siera Leone, N. India, and China (among the Han).
  6. There is little contextualization in a method that is to be used in many people groups with little modification.
  7. You are creating an environment in which heresy will multiply.
  8. The numbers are suspect at best, downright lies at worst.
  9. Church definitions are very loose.
  10. The examples are cherry picked and only focus on the “last few years” when in fact, these UPGs have a long, long history of missionary suffering and contribution. Why don’t we also focus on this longer time frame?
  11. This focuses on the “easy” places in terms of receptivity. It is a “going where God is working” approach when the need is to go to the spiritual deserts of the world.
  12. Why the emphasis on speed: what’s the big deal about going fast? Should going deep be a more strategic approach?
  13. This is no more than a fad (typically accompanied by a statement like, “I have been in missions a long time…”).

Keep in mind that there are good rebuttals to these rebuttals!