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The “Man” in CPM

The “Man” in CPM

In the circles I run in (which is a pretty small circle, I know) we talk about “the man” approach to church planting. In the US, “the man” approach is the most exercised of church planting strategies. It goes like this: To plant a church, you have to find the right “man.” They have to be vetted, have an obedient and submissive wife/family, the proper training and mentoring. You find the man: you plant the church.

If you don’t believe me please attend _____ conference on church planting.

Well… in cross-cultural church planting we work hard not to have “the man.” We want the indigenous people to be ones who lead the church. If you have a hankering to preach on Sundays then you should stay here in the USA. It’s just not what makes movement of churches planting churches happen.

In CPM (church planting movement) strategies, the big idea is to see indigenous disciples reproduce themselves. The church springs into existence because you have disciples (which is backwards from our North American model: we tend to think that churches make disciples but it’s actually the other way around).

I do wonder, though, if we are creating a new “man” model within CPM. I keep hearing about the same 4-5 individuals as the gurus of CPM. They call themselves “catalyzers” and emphasize all things Kingdom. They often use phrases like “in the movements we see…” and everybody leans in on their every word.

There are many ways to do movement-focused ministry. Let’s not let a small cabal of insiders take over as the experts because they emphasize a particular methodology. I would prefer people understood the broader concepts behind movements and let the specifics of how it plays out in a local context be handled locally.

We don’t need another “the man” approach to church planting.

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.

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!

Book Review: Miraculous Movements

Book Review: Miraculous Movements

Miraculous Movements: How Hundreds of Thousands of Muslims Are Falling in Love with Jesus
by Jerry Trousdale

For the past 10 years it has been impossible to be involved in the worldwide Christian movement and not be aware of church planting movement (CPM) strategies. Miraculous Movements is a new book by Jerry Trousdale of CityTeam International about these movements. There are many organizations that have been focusing on movements over this past decade. CityTeam and Trousdale have been at the center of the spread of the Gospel through these efforts and this book reflects their expertise.

This book is a good introduction to the ideas behind CPM strategies. In the 1st chapter we get a glimpse into exciting, life transforming events that are taking place in a substantial way among Muslims. Through the use of one man’s story, the author frames his topic and then broadens it to a discussion of movements that are happening worldwide. This is not a scholarly, statistical, scientific survey of the spread of Christianity among Muslims. Rather, it is a motivational and inspirational window into what the Holy Spirit is doing in ways that will amaze the rest of the global church.

In the bulk of the book Trousdale covers the whole range of topics that are commonly discussed in CPM training sessions that I have attended with missionaries. Those have that already been exposed to CPM efforts this book will not find this to be particularly groundbreaking. However, along with David Garrison’s Church Planting Movements, I know of no single source that will get you a better overview of CPM methodology. I expect that Miraculous Movements will become required reading for anybody working to share Christ with Muslims. This book will be a big seller.

The topics included are: Jesus’ disciple making strategy, prayer, why Muslims are attracted to Jesus, the importance of discovery Bible studies and obedience-based discipleship, the power of simple churches that are easily reproduced, and how God is using the supernatural to break through to Muslim cultures. You’ll be treated to testimonies of incredible breakthroughs as God has worked in ways that are not normative for the Western Christian. Chapter 11 is titled, “Ordinary People Achieving the Impossible,” and it shows how the things you just read about have been seen in the lives of new converts. Trousdale suggests that there are a number of significant paradigm shifts that we must make in order to adequately apply the CPM strategy. These reinforce the message that has already been delivered. A practical chapter on getting started with this type of strategy in your own context mirrors what seasoned missionaries are trained to do all around the world.

Having been a critic of CPM strategies when I 1st heard about them I am a bit fearful that Trousdale’s treatment of the topic lacks a theological section. I personally do not need to be convinced about the application of CPM strategies. I know, though, what the objectors will say. Particularly for those coming out of the traditional Christian environment these sorts of ministry strategies can be very counter intuitive. I anticipate that for those who are already convinced CPM ideas this book will serve to bolster their confidence. It will be, however, critiqued by detractors. A work about the theological basis and implications for CPMs remains, in my view, an unconquered challenged.

Miraculous Movements is an excellent overview of CPM strategies as currently being taught in missiological circles. I highly recommend it.

Too Much Emphasis on Islam

Too Much Emphasis on Islam

Here is a question I have been pondering lately.  

Is there too much emphasis on Islam in missiology?

Let me state up front that I am NOT talking about too much of a focus on Islam in the church, particularly the North American church. I can only hope and pray that churches would be more and more concerned about their attitude and posture toward Muslims, particularly those that live with us in the USA.  I am also burdened by the large numbers of Muslims that will never know a Christian or understand the gospel through a believer.

No, what I am asking about is this: Are we allowing Islam to overshadow a Christian missiology?

Why would I ask such a question? In the circles I run in, the books I read, the conferences I attend, and the missiological influencers I am listening to are all highly focused on Islamic outreach. That's overall a good thing, because missiology is the study of missions and there is a great need to reach out to Muslims with proper and good missiology.  My concern is that our missiology has become overwhelmingly reactive when it comes to Islam and is largely consumed by Islamic issues.

Christian theology stands apart from Islam and must be understood from its scriptural and historical roots, before Islam was created by Mohammed and subsequent Arab cultures. Since that point, we can understand Christian theology in part as it relates to Islam, but it is still unique from Islam. Yet, current missiological themes are highly interwoven with Islamic issues. My question is, "Has this gone too far?"

Is it good missiological practice, for example, to define the church theologically only in terms of its context culturally?  This seems to be a major theme of the Islamic contextualization debate.  Similarly, the task of the Great Commission (which is, from my perspective, a focus on discipleship resulting in church community) is most often discussed in relationship to Islamic outreach.  A quick review of Church Planting Movement (CPM) reveals a historic root in Hindu societies.  Yet, the movements which seem to be most discussed and written about are Islamic movements (I actually commend the editors of Mission Frontiers who, in the last edition on Church Planting Movements, included both Hindu and American focused articles). If you disagree with me I invite you to open up just about any missions resource and see if I am correct.

From a "closure" standpoint I suppose this is a good thing.  If the church wants to see the message of Christ spread into every culture then Islamic cultures must be at the forefront.  Muslims continue to make up a majority of the world's unreached and from a mobilization and recruitment standpoint Islam must be a major theme. I would caution, though, that missiology needs to be rooted on Christian theology and understanding first, with a secondary application to the temporal culture into which it is placed. I am not referring only to the contextualization debate, although that has garnered much of the recent interest.

Islam is the late-comer to the world religion arena. Christianity will outlast it. Let's not let Islam define our missiology to the point where it is reactive and temporal, a response to the headlines and world political situation. The cross preceded Islam and the cross will surely outlast it.

Do you agree with me on this? Are we a bit too focused on Islam in missiological reflection these days?

Pioneers Statement on Contextualization

Pioneers Statement on Contextualization

Pioneers recently adopted a “Statement on Contextualization” which provides insight into how the international leadership of the organization views contextualization.  This statement will be heralded in some circles and maligned in others.  Overall, though, I think it does a pretty good job of combining freedom with responsibility.

I would love to get your feedback on this Statement and post.  Please comment!

My own views on this topic continue to evolve.  Most recently, I have observed (mostly in personal conversations) that proponents of “Insider Movement” strategies are seeking a reform of Islam itself.  I believe this is a different conversation than one about contextualization.  To see a reformed Islam means that Christianity doesn’t really confront Islam as an alternative religious worldview.  Rather, within the scope of Islam itself these IM folks believe there is room for a brand of Islam that is Christian.

In justifying this approach, IM'ers suggest a comparison to the Protestant Reformation and include a harsh indictment of the historic church.  The Protestant Reformation, I would suggest, is a poor analogy for a reformed version of Islam.  The distance from Catholicism to Protestantism is significant but it pales in comparison with the distance between Islam and Christianity.  The indictment on the historic church stems from the argument that,  “We cannot too harshly judge Islam; just look how bad our own history has been.”  It is an attempt to close the aforementioned distance by stating that Christianity can be divorced from its historical forms and practices. I believe that can only go so far. As much as we Christians might not like it, there is a great deal of history in our Christianity. We are who we are in part because of where we have been. Just take a simple issue like the Biblical canon.  It was put together through the lens of history. That’s just one of many, many issues that do not allow us to walk away from our history.

So, as I personally wrestle with this topic, Pioneers produced the following statement. Even though I work for Pioneers, I can objectively say that I think it's a pretty good statement.  A few things stick out to me: 

  • Pan-Religious:  Pioneers works with people from all of the major religious blocs.  For that reason, this statement it not simply directed at Islam.  It can be used in any context.  [I would note, as a sidebar issue, that missiology is skating dangerously close to being overtaken by Islamic themes and essentially "splitting" into different forms.  While I appreciate the commitment that many have to “Muslim-only” approaches, most of the unreached are not Muslims.  While Muslims make up the greatest portion of unreached, it is not strategic, Biblical, or helpful to ignore the rest of the world’s unreached people. The Christian faith should not be defined as a reaction to another religious worldview.]
  • Addresses Identity:  From my perspective, issues of identity are paramount in this discussion.  I personally do not believe that missionaries should encourage Christians to identify themselves as Muslims or have continued allegiance to Mohamed.  Extracting people from their social circle is a challenge to the formation of movements.  However, our pragmatic desire to see church planting movements occur should not come at the cost of a believer's new identity in Christ.  The Pioneers’ statement addresses this concern.
  • Freedom:  Particularly the second paragraph provides for missionaries to explore contextualization at a fairly deep and experimental level.  All churches in the US will not view this positively.  They are looking for a strict “Do / Don’t Do” list.  Missionaries are, for better or for worse, the entrepreneurs of the church.  We must allow them a fair measure of freedom as the experts on the local culture.  This statement accomplishes that without compromising theology.

So, without any further ado… here it is

PIONEERS STATEMENT ON CONTEXTUALIZATION

Messengers who bring the Good News have the privilege and responsibility to faithfully communicate the biblical Gospel message. They should model and teach obedience to all the Scriptures under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus PI workers desire to minister in ways most likely to yield faithful disciples and the reproduction of biblical churches among those with least access to the Gospel.

We believe God normally desires new believers to remain connected with their social context (1 Corinthians 7:17?24), while not compromising biblical teaching in their beliefs or practice (e.g. permanently retaining their former non-Christian religious identity). The implications of living out this creative tension and Gospel witness are best worked out by groups of believers, through prayer and diligent study of the Scriptures, informed by the story of God’s people throughout history and the global body of Christ.

This affects key issues, including:

Allegiance:

We encourage believers to live in such a way that those around them become increasingly aware of their wholehearted submission to Jesus as Lord. He calls all believers to a process of transformation into the image of Christ (Romans 12:1,2; Colossians 3:10), giving courageous and respectful testimony of Christ’s work in us (1 Peter 3:14?16).

Identity:

We want believers to understand their biblical identity in Christ and his church, and to embrace the implications of that identity as active members of a local community of believers (Ephesians 2:19?22; 1 Peter 2:9).

Obedience:

Our passion is to see believers obey all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:20). This involves an ongoing process whereby believers are empowered by the Spirit and nurtured through the Scripture (Galatians 5:16?25; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; 1 Peter 2:2,3).

Worldview and Beliefs:

Believers are intentionally discipled in such a way that their worldview and beliefs are increasingly transformed into conformity with Scripture (Romans 12:2; Hebrews 5:14).

Suffering:

God grants us suffering in this world to refine our faith, strengthen his church and bring glory to Christ (Phil 1:29; 3:10; 1 Peter 1:7). Together, we recognize that persecution is not to be feared, and “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 10:32?34).

Culture:

All cultures reflect elements of God’s creative goodness and human sinfulness (Romans 2:14,15; 1 John 2:15?17). We encourage believers to live out biblically sound and culturally appropriate worship, witness, relationships and lifestyles (Ephesians 5:15; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Peter 2:11,12,16,17).

Leadership Lessons from the MN Vikings

Leadership Lessons from the MN Vikings

Is Brad Childress a genius?  Maybe, just maybe.

The usual visitor to this blog is looking to read about the church, missions, or organizational leadership.  Well, Chillie is giving us a rare connection to organizational leadership which is just too rich to ignore.

The Minnesota Vikings are "all in" this year.  Next year they lose a bunch of players to free agency, there is a possible strike, and the big studs are getting old.  It's now or never, baby, and there is no turning back.

So, I understand why Wilf (the Vikings' owner) and Childress decided to go after Randy Moss.  They had little choice, truth be told.  Having Favre with an injured receiver corps is like having a Dodge Viper with no gas to put in the tank.  Chillie has got to put up with a couple of players that are, for lack of a better way to say it, prima donnas.

Prima donnas are hard to lead.  A leader of prima donnas has to have lots of humility.  They will do things that bend the rules, create fairness issues for others on the team, and generally do whatever they want to do.  Why do they get away with it?  Because they are good.

Here is the challenge for us in organizational leadership. Often, the worst team players are the most productive players.  Particularly in creative organizations the hot talent is usually held by the oddballs, misfits, and out-of-box thinkers.  The very thing that makes them great (the ability to think differently than the rest of us) is what you want on the team. To have this kind of talent, though, means that you, the leader, are going to have to put up with ruffled feathers, rule-breaking, and general disobedience.  It's not for the faint of heart.

I consider it part of my job to keep the organizational culture where I work open to these sorts of creative types.

So, Childress decided to have a quarterback who doesn't show up for the pre-season and is struggling with sexual harassment allegations.  He has a newly acquired receiver that will definitely not be known for his sunny disposition and willing attitude. He worked hard to get both of these guys on the team.

We will soon know if Brad Childress is a genius, or not. Monday night football starts in a few minutes, and the Vikings will be tested by the Jets.

As leaders in our organizations, I suggest you embrace the avant guarde, creative, high performance misfits.  They just might be your big play-makers.

Terracotta Christians

Terracotta Christians

 

If you were Chinese, what religion is a better political option for you?

Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam?

 

Yesterday I had a conversation with somebody who has been living and working in China for the past ten years or so. We were talking about the incredible growth of the church there. I asked him about government repression and his answer was a bit surprising to me.

He said, "The Chinese government thinks religion is a good thing for the people."

Huh?

Then today, I read this article on NPR which states,

Since 2006, the position of China's government has been that religion can be a force for good toward the ultimate aim of creating a "harmonious society."

My friend also noted that for the Chinese government, Christianity is the best option politically.  Why?  Both Islam and Buddhism have growing opposition movements in them.

If you were a Chinese government official, Christianity is much less threatening prospect.

Get an Oracle

Get an Oracle

Our organization has a wise, old, experienced oracle.

I mean, we really, literally do.

"Uncle Jack" is a legend in the world of global Christian organizations.  For decades he worked with one of the two large umbrella associations to help their members be more effective.  He was a founder of SEND International, one of the post World War 2 era missionary agencies.  There was a movement of new agencies founded after World War 2 that has redefined global missions and Uncle Jack was an advisor and counselor to many of these agencies.

About 17 years ago or so he decided to "retire" to Florida and take a role in our small but growing organization.  He is now 85 years old and still travels the world.

Uncle Jack doesn't have a staff or people reporting to him or any of that.  He is just here to talk when you need some input.  He attends many of our leadership meetings.

When I have a tough management issue to deal with, I walk over to Uncle Jack's office.  He listens carefully and then renders sparse but wise advice.

The older we get, the less we seem to like change and flexibility.  In 2008 we held a large conference here in Orlando called Story (yes, we are doing it again in 2010).  I was an emcee for this event and I remember looking out in the audience one night, just after the very loud and raucous worship band put down their instruments, to see Uncle Jack out there in the auditorium, smiling from ear to ear.  To Uncle Jack, the music was, I am sure, atrocious.  It's not the music from his era.  Why was he smiling? I asked him later on and he told me it was because he loved to see the young people worship.  Uncle Jack has taught me a lot about what it means to grow older in a way that delights in youth but isn't enamored with youth culture.

I know it would be hard for a small startup to have a full-time oracle like Uncle Jack.  I bet, though, that somewhere in your network of relationships there is an older, experience man or woman who would be more than happy to listen to your issues and problems on occasion.  Tell them you need an oracle.

Ted & Uncle Jack

Just this morning I walked by our team room to see him praying for missionaries around the world.  One more lesson for me to take in.