Thoughts on David Garrison’s reply to my article on CPMs

Thoughts on David Garrison’s reply to my article on CPMs April 8, 2015

Last October (2014), Global Missiology published two articles I wrote concerning Church Planting Movements (CPMs).

  1. There Are No Church Planting Movements in the Bible: Why Biblical Exegesis Missiological Methods Cannot Be Separated
  1. The Influence of Culture On the Evolution of Mission Methods: Using ‘Church Planting Movements’ As A Case Studyglobe-304586_640

As one might expect, I have received a lot of feedback. People tend to have strong opinions when it comes to CPMs. In this post, I will offer a few follow-up reflections on the discussion and particularly on Garrison’s reply article.

Common Ground

First of all, I am thankful for Garrison’s kindness to interact with my on this important topic. As brother in Christ, it’s not surprising that we would share some common ground. Garrison and I share a common desire to see God bring about church planting movements across the world. We want people to know Jesus!

In addition, we would love to see churches formed that are marked by the kind of characteristics he mentions, like extraordinary prayer, obedience to God’s word, and indigenous leadership.

I would even suggest that Garrison’s reply in no way contradicts the point of my argument. In fact, I was a bit surprised to read the following comment:

“The more appropriate question we should be asking is: Are Church Planting Movements consistent with the teachings and practice set forth in the New Testament?”

This question is ambiguous. One can interpret “consistent with” in two ways.

(A) “consistent with” could simply mean that CPMs “do not contradict” the Bible.

(B) “consistent with” could indicate that CPM-theory reflects the explicit teaching of the Bible.

IF we limit CPM-theory only to the 10 principles he states in his article, this (A) is true. But, of course, that is a terribly minimalistic standard. As best as possible, we want our methods to grow out of the actual teaching of Scripture, not confusing the results seen in the Bible with the methodologies we suppose will bring about those outcomes.

My article challenges assertion (B). When I talk about CPM-theory, I’m not talking about general principles. After all, who would disagree with these 10 principles in general? The rub comes in the application, which is why I address how people (1) measure CPMs and (2) advocate for CPMs from Scripture.

Lingering Concerns

Garrison seems to misunderstand me when he suggests that I argue, “Church Planting Movements do not appear in the Bible, and therefore are unbiblical or extra-biblical.” He then says that the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, yet we believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The problem is that I don’t make that argument. I’m not concerned with a specific term.

Radical TogetherMy main point in the first article (“There are No Church Planting Movements in the Bible”) concerns how people use the Bible to affirm arbitrary measurements and methods associated with CPM-theory.

If we excuse the loose use of Scripture, we not only risk misrepresenting God’s word and teaching bad interpretation skills, we also blur the line between description and prescription.

If someone wants to describe what God is doing now, then there is no reason to invoke Scripture as if it were normative to produce such high numbers of believers at such high rates.

We begin to grant biblical authority to man-made strategies.

I think we would do well to heed David Platt’s warning in Radical Together:

“We begin to discover our dangerous tendency to value our traditions over God’s truth, just as Jesus warned. We find ourselves defending a program because that’s what worked before, not because that’s what God has said to do now. We realize how prone we are to exalt our work over God’s will, our dreams over God’s desires, and our plans over God’s priorities.” (p. 14)

I think Platt’s words apply quite well to many church planting methods that, practically speaking, seem to define success almost exclusively in terms of rapid numerical growth above all else.


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