Thursday, April 26, 2007

CPM in the First World?

Of the various reports of Church Planting Movements around the world, very few have occurred in what we might term the “First World” (North America, Western Europe, Japan, Australia & New Zealand). Significant exceptions have been among immigrant groups, or marginalized minorities, such as the gypsies of Spain and France. Neil Cole, in his Organic Church Planters’ Greenhouse, points out that, for the most part, the wealthy, the intellectual and highly educated, and self-professed “good people” make potentially “bad soil” for the seed of the gospel to take root and grow. Jesus himself, in Luke 18:24-25, said: "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

All of this poses a problem for those of us who have felt God’s leading to work in those areas of the world where the comparatively wealthy and highly educated make up a significant majority of the population. There is some consolation in that Jesus, after saying what he did about the spiritual difficulty of working with the rich, adds: “what is impossible with men is possible with God.”

Among the various ministries and efforts working towards Church Planting Movements in a “First World” context, one of the most well thought out plans that I have discovered is the Next 1000 initiative in Australia fueled by the visionary leadership of missional strategist Steve Addison. If you are interested in CPM strategy for a “First World” context, I would strongly recommend downloading and working through the Next 1000 e-book, which has as its stated purpose to show “why Australia needs 1000 new churches and how it can be done.”

On the Next 1000 blog, there are two posts entitled respectively A church planting movement stalls and A church planting movement stalls—why?, in which Addison comments on the observations of British missiologist and author Martin Robinson on “the rise and decline of the British church planting movement in the late 80s and 90s.”

Among the six reasons given by Robinson analyzing the “stalling” of the originally “promising” Church Planting Movement in Great Britain, two stand out in my mind, especially in relation to topics I have been addressing recently on this blog:

2. Those who were setting the goals usually had little or no capacity for committing their denomination to action. These individuals were often enthusiasts for church planting rather than representatives of their denominations.

3. The issue of the contextualization of the DAWN Strategy had not been faced. A strategy birthed in the Philippines needed to be adapted for Britain.

First off, my comments on reason #3: In my opinion, DAWN strategy, in and of itself, is a very good thing. Some have pointed out a bit of a difference between DAWN strategy and CPM strategy, as voiced by David Garrison, et al (see especially Neill Mims’s and mr. t’s insightful comments on this post). However, any strategy that was birthed in a place like the Philippines is necessarily going to have to be adapted and contextualized quite a bit for a place like Britain, Spain, or other "first world" settings. Some have made the mistake of assuming, for instance, that, since both the Philippines and Spain are countries with a Roman Catholic heritage, what worked in the Philippines should work in Spain as well. Nothing could be further from the truth. The culture of modern-day Spain doesn’t have anything at all to do with the culture of the Philippines.

Many of the prime models for CPMs have taken place in places like China, India and Cambodia. I, after 17 years of missionary experience in Spain, think that any Church Planting Movement that might happen to take place here is not likely to look very similar to those in these other parts of the world.

In general, I would go so far as to say that missionary work in the so-called “First World” countries is about as far removed from missionary work in the “Third World” as it is from church planting ministry in the States, if not more so. Churches in the States and new missionary appointees often make the mistake of grouping all “foreign mission” work together in their minds. There may be some general principles that cross-over, but, by and large, I believe those who come to Europe with the idea that it is going to be like a previous experience they may have had in Asia or Latin America are going to need to unlearn a lot of things before beginning to learn how to do missions here.

Next, my comments on reason #2: As I have been contending in recent posts here, national believers and church leaders, though potentially having a few blind spots of their own, are going to be able to evaluate the cultural nuances of their own people, and the best ways to reach them with the gospel, than we, as foreign missions “experts” will ever be able to do. This does not mean that we will not be able to expose them to some good resources, and help them to think more impartially on certain things, adding insights that outsiders might happen to see a little better.

I cannot comment on those in other countries, but my personal impression of Spanish denominational and inter-denominational leaders, by in large, is that they are good students of their own culture, and are not so far grounded in evangelical “sub-culture” as they are sometimes made out to be. They are many times just as missiologically savvy as many missionaries, and just as spiritually mature and sensitive as well. My suspicion is the same thing may well be true in many other countries also.

David Garrison, in the “Church Planting Movements” booklet, writes the following:

2. What is the place of Baptist unions and conventions?

Baptist unions and conventions hold great potential as partners in fulfilling the Great Commission. Sharing a common commitment to Christ, they should be natural allies. However, commitment to initiating and nurturing a Church Planting Movement requires vision. When union leaders have a vision for church multiplication that exceeds their need for control, they can greatly facilitate the movement. Missionaries can help to impart this vision through dialogue, education and modeling.

It is also important for missionaries to recognize that their role is different than that of denominational leaders. The unique role of the missionary is to continually push to the edge of lostness, to the unreached, and introduce them to the gospel. Denominational leaders have a much broader responsibility, which the missionaries can bless and encourage, but should not try to duplicate or control.

I do not disagree with anything Garrison says here. In addition, I recognize that some union leaders may indeed have a “need for control” that exceeds their “vision for church multiplication.” However, I am firmly convinced that, among the majority of the Baptist unions around the world, as well as in many other national denominations and “GCC groups,” God has his choice servants, whom we cannot afford to bypass, as we dream and strategize about how to reach their people with the gospel.


Grosey's Messages said...

That is a very good article, and please, may I respond from a "top-of-the-head" perspective.
I have planted 2 successful churches in Australia ( our church plant initiative authority said that of Baptist churches planted in NSW in the last 20 years only 7 have survived... I planted 2 of them).
May I say that I think the issue is one of self. It is the issue of self in the denominational worker and the issue of self in the "church planter".
When self gets in the way there is no self sacrifice.
When self gets in the way it is about fame.
When self gets in the way disobedience to the heavenly vision is problematic.
The first church I planted was when I was 23 years old.
We started with 6 and ended with 49 adults, 40 kids and and 20 teens 3 years later (that church 25 years later still has the same numbers).
I survived on $110 per week donated by friends (we paid $80 per week in rent). The denomination didn't want to know about us. In fact, the denomination didn't want to ordain me until I threatened to make our Baptist Church a baptising Congregational church!
As soon as self gets in the way folks get the idea that they need a decent wage before they can serve the Lord.
As soon as self gets in the way, they feel they need renown as a "church planter" more than they need souls saved.
As soon as self gets in the way, denominational heavies need to get their name on some building cornerstone, rather than let the Lord get the glory.
As soon as self gets in the way, everyone becomes a self proclaimed "authority" on church planting.
I truly feel that the real issues of poor effectiveness for CPM's in developed countries is much much closer to home than any of us are really willing to admit.
The bottomline? No self sacrifice, no CPM.
As your dad said, there is no telling what God an do with a man if he doesn't care who gets the glory.

Or as the Lord said John 12:24 “• I assure you: Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces a large crop. 25 The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

David, I have Dick McLellan of Ethiopia speaking next Sunday for me... I guess he would be viewed as one of the great CPM men , and he exemplifies the self sacrifice that God honours. We are hoping to have many young adults present to hear the challenge to mission in a self sacrificing manner.

Thank you again for a vey good paper.

Neill Mims said...

Amen Steve Grose... dying to self is the beginning... (John 12:24-26).

And remember all churches (well almost all) start small. Several of us are trying not to prevent some churches from becoming large or building buildings anymore -- but to encourage them to continue to plant new churches even if they do try to grow one or two large congregations (and a person like Bob Roberts has helped in the USA start many new churches while growing his church into a large church). They did it very differently... cost a lot... but it was church(es) planting churches.

I emphasize that most churches in the world have less than 50 attending weekly. If you want to break that average -- you have to work very hard and God must bless any growth -- but especially the growth beyond 70 requires special giftings and leadership skills.

But "average" believers can start small churches and help them worship, and disciple as they feed on God's word. More like a Sunday School class in western thinking. CPM work is actually just based on what is "natural" church planting (how God usually works) in starting many small churches, and looking to regular believers to be most of the leaders. This way we may prayerfully see more churches started. Some of those will grow large, most will remain small... and just like all church planting, some will dissappear (but we can do our best and are getting better at helping them have better discipleship, church formation, and leadership development).

DAWN still mostly looks to a more traditional church planting model of having mostly professional church planters (or who will become full-time pastors), and church buildings in those "zip" or PIN areas. As I have said before, more power to them... but others need to pursue CPM missions principles (which are just good mission principles -- and I am willing to adapt these principles when someone gives a proven change).

There is room for these and other strategies and structures as well (ref. Watson's article).

GuyMuse said...

How do you get a "CPM in the First World?" I offer a simple solution. It is the same one we are trying to communicate with our Baptist partners here in Third World Ecuador.

If every existing church would simply commit to planting ONE new church per year (be it PDC, simple/house, traditional, cell, etc.) in only three years you'd have your CPM well under way!

Take Ecuador with a round 200 Baptist churches. If only half of them planted one new church, you'd have 300 churches at the end of year one.

In year two if half of those planted a church, you'd have 450 churches.

If half of 450 churches planted a church, you'd have 675 churches by the end of year three.

200 to 675 churches in three years would be a CPM well under way.

What is needed is a mind-set change within our work with Baptist partners where church planting is seen as the goal, rather than church growth.

Beth said...

"What is needed is a mind-set change within our work with Baptist partners where church planting is seen as the goal, rather than church growth."
Guy - do you find that it is the national Baptists who are not as open to church planting, rather than GCC workers not being willing to walk with them through that? Do national Baptist conventions tend to have a desire/focus/mindset for reaching out beyond their particular PG? For example, we see Brazilian and Korean conventions sending missionaries to West Africa, Central Asia, etc. We don't tend to see that much from other South American or Southern Africa countries. Is it because church planting was not instilled in their DNA when they started? (Certainly there is the likelihood that I am simply unaware of other efforts.)

GuyMuse said...


Interesting question. I do believe that part of our struggle in Latin America is due to church planting not being part of the DNA instilled when churches were planted. In our own work of CP, we too have been guilty of this flaw. It is so thrilling to see new churches planted that we hesitate to push them too quickly to go out and plant another! It is hard to see these tender, young new church plants as being spiritual "fathers and mothers" themselves. We want to nurture them and slowly and make sure they are firmly rooted, BEFORE even thinking about them going out and starting another new work.

In our own ministry, we have gone to both extremes on this issue. In the earlier years, I pushed everybody hard to rapidly multiply. Those that did were aplauded. Those that didn't were given less attention. Then we went through a period of several years where we concentrated on making strong, stable disciples out of the new believers before doing any encouragement to plant new works. That approach basically stalled us out and we saw very little multiplication of new churches. Now, we are back closer to the center where both aspects--strong discipleship AND encouraging to start new works--are being emphasized. Accomplishing this is easier said than done, but I do think there is a healthy balance.

Now we are in the process as a mission organization to do the same with existing Baptist partners, trying to get them to have the same desire/focus/mindset for church planting, without ignoring strong discipleship undertaking.