Word-Driven Movemental Christianity

A couple of weeks ago, I had a friendly discussion (see comments) with Ed Stetzer shared a little of his presentation of “Movemental Christianity.” The title really resonated with me as I have been spending a lot of time in Acts and considering the movement of the early church as the gospel spread to the ends of the earth (and how that should look today). Stetzer provides ten elements of movemental Christianity in North America, following the lead of David Garrison’s book Church Planting Movements. I want to take a moment to explain the premise and presuppositions of Garrison’s movemental Christianity as Stetzer calls it “excellent work” and “paradigm-creating.” For the sake of filling in gaps, here are Garrison’s ten elements found in every church planting movement:

David Garrison on Church Planting Movements

1. Extraordinary Prayer

2. Abundant Evangelism

3. Intentional Planting of Reproducing Churches

4. The Authority of God’s Word

5. Local Leadership

6. Lay Leadership

7. House Churches

8. Churches Planting Churches

9. Rapid Reproduction

10. Healthy Churches[1]

Garrison later gives another ten elements found in most church planting movements. Well, you might be asking the question, “What is a Church Planting Movement (CPM)?” Garrison answers the question, stating,

“A Church Planting Movement is a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.”[2]

Garrison begins his description of a CPM with five characteristics: First, there is rapid reproduction. Garrison says that CPMs “always outstrip the population growth rate as they race toward reaching the entire people group.”[3] Second, there is multiplication. Garrison explains that CPMs “multiply churches and believers like Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”[4] Third, CPMs are indigenous, that is, generated from within, contrasted with those influenced or started by outsiders. Fourth, CPMs have churches planting churches. At this point, Garrison hones in on the strategic point where things get out of control, like a cascade of falling dominoes. This reveals that “when the momentum of reproducing churches outstrips the ability of the planters to control it, a movement is underway.”[5] Fifthly, CPMs occur within people groups or interrelated population segments. Church movements most naturally occur within “shared language and ethnic boundaries.”

Having articulated the nature of a CPM, Garrison makes the bold conclusion that without exaggeration we can say that Church Planting Movements are the most effective means in the world today for drawing lost millions into saving, disciple-building relationships with Jesus Christ.”[6]

The Need for Speed

Inherent within the existence and perpetuation of a CPM is the need for speed. By nature, a CPM cannot exist unless the conversion rate outstrips the birth rate; as a result, the defining or qualifying factor for the existence of a CPM is rapidity. When asked how rapid Garrison responds, “Faster than you think possible.”[7] In order to make this “rabbit-like reproduction”[8] possible, all elements not easily reproduced must be eliminated. While Garrison is quick to assert that “missionaries in Church Planting Movements would never admit to sacrificing orthodoxy for the sake of rapid reproduction,”[9] one has to wonder just exactly what is eliminated to justify and sustain a CPM. Indeed, rapidity becomes the control belief that filters out others not conducive or productive to the movement for tolerating elements not immediately reproducible would potential jeopardize the existence of a CPM.

Questions and Concerns

Given that the IMB has embraced Garrison’s work on CPM’s and the praise it has received from respected missiologists, one should recognize the influence (for good or ill) of Garrison’s paradigm regarding movemental Christianity. Nevertheless, I would like to pitch a few of questions and concerns regarding this paradigm. First, should we be embracing a movemental paradigm that is singularly dependent up rapidity? While Garrison asserts that the origins of CPM’s can be traced to the life and teachings of Jesus,[10] do we have sufficient biblical grounds to make speed the controlling factor for church planting? Furthermore, should such a control belief be allowed to arbitrarily eliminate all other elements that don’t comport to its necessary existence? In other words, if there are elements of a healthy church that are not immediately reproducible, are we simply to forsake them for the sake of rapid reproduction? Second, while Garrison provides examples across the world were CPMs have taken place across the world, are we to embrace, without qualification, CPMs as the “most effective means of reaching the world?” What are the long-term fruit and effects of CPMs? Have we seen multi-generational fruit and faithfulness in CPMs? In countries such as Sudan or regions such as Eastern Europe, are we to expect CPMs to come to fruition where there is such hardness and hostility to the Christian faith? Furthermore, is the success of CPMs measured only by pragmatic results or statistical analysis? Are any of these churches that have eliminated non-reproducible elements more susceptible to syncretism or reversionism? I realize that these are issues related elsewhere among non-CPMs, but the claims and promises guaranteed with CPMs warrant at minimum a measured response to questions and concerns similar to these that I have mentioned.

Ed Stetzer on Movemental Christianity

Ed Stetzer has adapted Garrison’s paradigm to suit a North American context which he has called “Movemental Christianity.” His ten elements are as follows:

1. Prayer

2. Intentionality

3. Sacrifice

4. Reproducibility

5. Theological Integrity

6. Incarnation

7. Empowerment

8. Charitability

9. Scalability

10. Wholism

Stetzer has provided a summary of each point but only in outline form (he plans on writing an article on this later). Having looked at the ten elements, one would find it hard to disagree prima facie with Stetzer’s ten elements. Yet, my concern is not so much what was on the list but what was left out. Perhaps I am the kind of guy who should assume more, but one thing that alarmed me was the apparent absence of the Word of God in either Garrison’s or Stetzer’s paradigm. Now don’t get me wrong. There is mentioning of scriptural authority (Garrison) and theological integrity (Stetzer), but that misses the point. To what degree does the Word of God play in movemental Christianity? Merely having a high view of Scripture does not equate a functional commitment to the centrality and sufficiency of the Word of God.

So Stetzer’s blogpost got me searching to find a biblical understanding of “movemental Christianity.” What I found was that movemental Christianity was defined by not ten various elements but one defining mark-the Word of God. I am not trying to sound overly simplistic or give a missiologically sophomoric Sunday School answer. But on the other hand, I fear that we find ourselves emphasizing things seldom if ever emphasized in Scripture and raise technique to replace truth.

Word-Driven Movemental Christianity

Upon a cursory glance of the early church in Acts and through the letters of Paul to the churches he planted, I found a reoccurring theme of a word-driven movemental Christianity. It was not defined by speed but by the Word, not validated by pragmatic measuring sticks but authenticated by transformed lives faithful to the gospel and mission. Consider how prominent the Word of God was in the movement of the early church in the book of Acts:

The Prevailing and Multiplying Power of the Word of God

* “those who received the word” (Acts 2:41) resulting in 3,000 added

* “many of those who heard the word believed” (Acts 4:4) resulting a totaling now 5,000

* “and the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem” (Acts 6:7)

* the first scattering from Jerusalem to Samaria is described as “those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4)

* the evidence that gospel movement had taken place in Samaria was that they “had received the word of God” (Acts 8:14, cf. 8:25)

* when the gospel came to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit fell on “all who heard the word” (Acts 10:44 cf. 11:1)

* after martyrdom of Stephen, the word spread as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch (Acts 11:19)

* after the death of Herod, Luke writes that “the word of God increased and multiplied” (Acts 12:24)

* the first place Paul and Barnabas went after being sent out was Salamis where “they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogue of the Jews” (Acts 13:5)

* in Antioch Pisidia, after Paul’s preaching, it is said that the Gentiles “began rejoicing and glorying in the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region” (Acts 13:48-49)

* Paul and Barnabas bore witness to “the word of his grace” in Iconium where “a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed” (Acts 14:1, 3)

* Paul and Barnabas revisited the places and cities where they “proclaimed the word of the Lord” (Acts 15:36)

* when the Philippian jailor asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to him and to all who were in his house (Acts 16:31-32)

* when the gospel came to Berea, they “received the word with all eagerness” so that “many of them believed with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:11-12)

* when Paul came to Corinth, he was “occupied with the word” and remained there eighteen months, teaching them “the word of God” (Acts 18:5, 11)

* Paul continued in Ephesus for two years until “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10)

* in Ephesus, after the sons of Sceva were run out and evil practices denounced, the Scripture says that “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily” (Acts 19:20)

* when Paul departed the Ephesian elders, he left them with “the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32)

Now, having looked at the book of Acts, let’s see how Paul validated movemental Christianity and see what he emphasized:

Word of God and Most Successful Church Plants

Colossae: “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing-as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,” (Col. 1:5-6)

Thessalonica: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.” [1 Thess. 1:4-8]

Berea: when the gospel came to Berea, they “received the word with all eagerness” so that “many of them believed with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (Acts 17:11-12)

Antioch: “for a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26)

Ephesus: “this continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10)

“be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears” (Acts 20:31)

Corinth: “and he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11)

The evidence for a “Word-driven movemental Christianity” is quite impressive, no? But allow me to proceed into the biblical imagery of missional Christianity to see how the word is the essential element of biblical church movements. For instance:

Missional Imagery and the Word of God

If a Christian is a soldier of Christ Jesus, then his only offensive weapon to move forward is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

If a Christian is an athlete running the race, then the way in which he is not disqualified is by competing according to the rules. I take that to mean that as Christians we must subject ourselves to God’s Word to run in such a way that we first are not disqualified and second run in a way so as to win the race.

If a Christian is a farmer, then he knows that the good seed that he sows is the Word of God upon the hearts of men, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.

If a Christian is an ambassador, then the message he brings is he word of reconciliation–the gospel of Jesus Christ. He does not have a message of his own, but the message given by the one who sends him.

If a Christian is to be a light in this world, then it depends largely in part to his exposure to that Word which is a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path.

In each of these images, what we find as movement/success/fruit or whatever way you want to put it is that the word of God is the sword that cuts, the seed that multiplies, the message that reconciles, the light that illumines, and the rulebook for the athlete. The Word is never assumed nor given secondary treatment. Sure we could talk about the dedication of the solider, the disciple of the athlete, the patience of the farmer, or the faithfulness of the ambassador, but if they have not the Word, they have not a movement. These traits, important though they be, are subsequent to the primary cause of movemental Christianity–the instrumentality of the word of God (and the agency of the Holy Spirit).

What we find in Scripture is that God is the principle mover, and the movement He authors will be orchestrated by His Spirit and centered on His Word. The movement of the Word is both

* internal (moving from mind, heart, to will)

* external (moving people to mission and communication of that word)

* powerful (bringing conversion and producing faith)

* exponential (“increased and multiplied, spread and mightily prevail”)

* horizontal (from Jerusalem to Samaria to uttermost)

* vertical (teaching them to observe all . . .)

Conclusion

I am all on board with movemental Christianity. It is a great passion to see the gospel faithfully communicated so that sinners are saved, churches are planted, and the kingdom of God is advanced. I long to see a movement of multiplication where churches are being reproduced and God’s church is revived. But the underlying premise and control belief of Garrison, namely that of rapidity, does not find biblical support (just see Corinth, Ephesus, and Antioch for examples). Instead, we find inherent in the Great Commission of Jesus to “teach them to observe all that he has commanded us” (Matt. 28:20) and Paul the greatest church planter refusing to not declare “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Furthermore, the elements from Stetzer’s paradigm are helpful but miss the point of biblical church movement. The fact that either the Word is given superficial treatment, assumed, or dismissed, reveal that we have supplanted the gospel truth with missiological technique. Success is never guaranteed by the work of our hands but by the blessing of doing God’s work God’s way. The most successful church plants were never manifested in “rabbit-like” speed or by a myriad of secondary elements. Rather, they were established and multiplied because of the faithful exposition and application of God’s Word. They were led by men who “preached the word” in season and out of season as they did the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

To a seasoned missiologist or church planter, this may sound overly simplistic and naïve, but I remain unconvinced that movemental Christianity can be both biblically faithful and wonderfully fruitful apart from the word of God as the driving force. “Missional” has come to mean almost anything under the sun, and the ecclesiological practices of church planters are anything but uniform. We need a movement that is preeminently defined by Scripture-a movement where the Word moves inward (in our mind, heart, and will) and outward (to our world at large). We need a movement where God’s Word dictates the outcome, not trends or technique, and certainly not speed. I hear a lot about being 1st century churches today in the 21st century. Well, one thing we know is that the church went only as far as the Word took it. The church planters were not pursing a movement that got out of hand or “outstripped” their ability to lead in it; rather, they took great pains to revisit the places where churches had been planted and kept a hands-on approach for years to come, either through sending of disciples, writing of letters, or reoccurring visits.

It was Paul’s prayer that “the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you” (2 Thess. 3:1), and I join Paul in praying that we will see a movemental Christianity today that is neither embarrassed of the Word nor turn it into a matter of formality. We should pray for a movemental Christianity that is Word-driven not only because it is profoundly laced through Scripture, but most importantly because God is here and is not silent. With all the missiologists letting their voices be heard, should we not let the Author of the missio dei have the final word?

_______________________________

[1]David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), 172.

[2]Ibid.,21.

[3]Ibid., 22.

[4]Ibid.

[5]Ibid., 23.

[6]Ibid., 28. Emphasis mine. Garrison goes on to say that it “may appear to be an ambitious claim, but it is an accurate one, and an honest description of how God is winning a lost world.”

[7]Ibid., 21.

[8]Ibid., 194.

[9]Ibid., 196.

[10]Ibid., 199.

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29 Comments on “Word-Driven Movemental Christianity”

  1. Ed Stetzer Says:

    A good post… not much I disagree with other than you make it sound like we disagree. Grin.

    One primary concern then I will leave it open to your thousands of readers!

    Often, I am asked to speak at a conference on a certain subject, say church planting. That was the case with my post—it came from a church planting talk.

    Having been invited to speak on the subject, I do.

    Well, invariable, someone comes up to me afterward and says, “you did not mention prayer enough.” Or, “You did not talk about expository preaching.” And, I remind them, that was not what I was asked to discuss. But, to them, if you do not speak on prayer or expository preaching as the whole point of your message, you have failed at the task.

    As such, I would caution you to take all of Garrison, not simply a book on church planting movements, into account. And, Garrison can speak for Garrison, but I am the guy who gave my talk, so I will address my comments.

    You may not think that “theological integrity” is enough– I think I have written thousands of pages on that subject and I think it gets at my point (and I take a lot of heat in the church planting world as being the Bible thumping guy– which I am glad to take, btw).

    However, I am describing movemental Christianity here, not making a case for word-centeredness. I think I have done that in depth elsewhere in at least three of my books. And, I think I agree with you in your statements about it. So, let’s not sound like we disagree. However, I would encourage you to ask David about these things (I have). I have left comfortable with his response.

    Anyway, this should be a lively conversation. I will have to miss it as I am off to Liberty University to speak at the new “Superconference” on church planting– and I will probably make a short statement about prayer and work in a comment on preaching and then head off into my assigned topic, assuming more than you would like me to. Grin.

    Good night.

    God bless,

    Ed

  2. Jared Wilson Says:

    Ah, I’m so happy you fleshed this out.

    I was so taken with your original comment at Stetzer’s place, that I highlighted it in a post of my own (http://gospeldrivenchurch.blogspot.com/2008/07/word-centered-missionalization.html).
    Very glad you blew it up into a great standalone piece. I’ll be linking to this one as well.

    You’re a gem, Timmy.


  3. Ed,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to continue the discussion. Since our last conversation on your blog, this has continued to simmer in my mind, so I want to say thanks for provoking me in this area.

    You are right. I do not think we disagree nor am I intending to implicitly state that you are against a Word-driven kind of church planting movement. My post is simply to speak positively for the primacy and sufficiency of the Word that tends to either be taken for granted or assumed.

    Regarding Garrison, whether he says more outside his book I cannot attest. I am sure that he can and does elaborate more. However, I am working with material that is of public record provided to anyone who can acquire a copy of his book (I am not sure what you mean by saying “take all of Garrison”). The mere fact that this book is being used as a manual in a prescriptive way for church planters overseas should be given equal attention both in its praise and its critique. I find several areas problematic, some of which I have addressed here. If Garrison wants to argue his points in the book, then I would welcome his thoughts.

    But going back to addressing your presentation of movemental Christianity, you have a point in stating that, since you have addressed the importance of wordcenteredness elsewhere, it is perhaps unnecessary to rehash that point again. And regarding your twelve points, I find them praiseworthy and helpful to think about. But I have to wonder how much emphasis does Scripture place on these elements as compared to the Word of God? Is not the temptation to elevate technique over truth an issue with missiologists?

    Your elements could be embraced by churches that are word-driven and by churches that give a mere hat tip to the Bible. Should we not seek a movemental Christianity that is more tethered to Scripture and holds fast to the integrity of it? While missional-related articles usually deal with praxis, there are underlying presuppositions or a priori considerations that one must give an account, and it is here that we seldom turn our attention. In your paradigm, I would argue that churches or practitioners can embrace your techniques and discard the centrality and sufficiency of the Word of God. If I am wrong, I would like for you to help me see that.

    In any case, I find this discussion especially important and profitable, and I do appreciate your provocation as I hope to ground the mission of God in the Word of God.

    Many thanks,

    Tim


  4. Jared,

    Thanks man! I also appreciate the link love. 🙂

  5. Ed Stetzer Says:

    Fair enough… and, yes, missiologists can miss word-centeredness (there are a whole lot of historical examples of that very thing). But, missiology is a discipline that cannot (or at least should not) exist without theology. When it tries, bad things happen.

    Wikipedia defines missiology as, “…the area of practical theology which investigates the mandate, message and work of the Christian missionary. Missiology is a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural reflexion on all aspects of the propagation of the Christian faith, embracing theology, anthropology, history, geography, theories and methods of communication, comparative religion, Christian apologetics, methodology, and interdenominational relations.” It is a good definition.

    I think that Garrison emphasizes the anthropological and cultural, but I think that was part of his intent. His larger version of Church Planting Movements (not the booklet) gets into his Biblical views more than the booklet.

    You wrote:
    >> But I have to wonder how much emphasis does Scripture place on these elements as compared to the Word of God? Is not the temptation to elevate technique over truth an issue with missiologists?

    The answer to your second question is “yes.” And, it is important that conversations like this take place.

    The answer to your first (rhetorical) question is mixed: I think scripture would clearly indicate most of these as priorities (Prayer, Sacrifice, Theological Integrity, etc.). However, I think that God allows us to use our wisdom and observations to use best practices for some other the others (Intentionality, Scalability, etc.)

    If we are not able to find wisdom by understanding culture, language, organizational dynamics, and anthropology, we should only have a school of theology– missiology is not needed. I think they both are needed.

    Among some of our mutual friends, they could use a dose of missiology… a big dose. Grin.

    And, among some of my missiology friends, they could use a dose of theology.

    I want both, and I believe both groups can learn from one another (I’ll post some additional thoughts on this topic in the near future on my blog when I have time.).

    Anyway, I will take a look at the conversation and see what I can learn along the way.

    I will tell Ergun Caner you said hello. Grin.

    Ed


  6. Ed,

    First of all, I am telling on you because you are using Wikipedia as a reference. That is way out of bounds my friend. 😯

    Just for the record, the work that I referenced (quoted and footnoted) is from Garrison’s book published in 2004 (361 pp). Perhaps in a follow-up post I should go a little deeper in evaluating Garrison’s biblical bases. What I simply want to challenge here is the underlying presupposition and inherent necessity of speed as a controlling factor (as opposed to the Word) in church planting. I simply do not find this biblically valid.

    Now regarding the balance of theology and missiology, I totally agree with you. I would be happy to stand with you in giving a defense for the study and discipline of missiology. 😉 Like you, I want both. The fact that we have an authoritative, inspired, and sufficient Word is because of God’s mission. He has not left us to question what He wants or what is important to Him. And I am sure you would agree with me that He wants His Word to be the central driving force of any movemental Christianity, no?

    When working through missiological paradigms, the tendency is to think primarily anthropologically. But if I understand the Bible correctly, the first thing we must take into consideration is not anthropology but theology–that is to say, that missiology is primarily about God (missio dei) and not man. After all, how are we do know whether our mission is God’s mission unless we see how it aligns with his purposes as revealed in Scripture? I fear that this may sound too elementary, but such foundational realities are worth repeating (at least for myself!).

    You will not find me devaluing the work of cultural exegesis, field research, cross-cultural communication (or contextualization) or what have you; yet I do have reason to be concerned with whether the flip side of this issue, viz., how theology (and more specifically the Word of God) bears on missiology, is given warranted treatment.

    Again, I feel that such a discussion of this nature is the kind we need to be having, and I am grateful that you have chosen to chime in. Do tell Ergun I said hello, and if he is not aware of this already, do inform him that I am Iranian. 🙂

    Grace always,

    Tim


  7. Oh, and one last thing, Ed. I know that you are a church history buff, so I though I’d ask you:

    do you remember Finney and the burned-over districts after the second great awakening?

    The long-term effects of seemingly shot-term successes were absolutely devastating. And there are a whole lot of lessons we could learn from Finney and the revivalism of the late 18th and early 19th centuries for 21st century church planting efforts. In hoping all things, I want to believe that CPMs would not bear such marks, but reports from the field have given me grave concern.

  8. Chris Walker Says:

    Tim:

    I’m going to share this post in a church planters group based in Central/South America. I think they will have a lot to contribute if they wish to this discussion.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts on the matter.

    Chris W
    EvangelismCoach.org

  9. michael Says:

    I have done a good bit of reflecting on church planting movements and many of the theological and methodological issues wrapped up in it. Your expressed concern with rapidity as a controlling factor is a valid concern. However, the other extreme needs to be avoided as well. Our Western worldview has trouble not turning discipleship into controlled, detailed articulation of correct doctrine. While too much stress on rapidity can cause careless discipleship at times, it is refreshing to see a movement orientation that releases the power of the gospel to move among a people or society. In fact, this methodology takes mandate in Mt 28:19-20 very seriously in teaching obedience. Simply because the gospel moves quickly among a people group does not mean that discipleship stops or is watered-down. Actually, discipleship is enriched by teaching paired with obedience.

    We have a tendency to want to control our church planting efforts. In the early 20th century missionary statesman, Roland Allan, reminded us to release control of our efforts to the uncontrollable Holy Spirit. When I read the exciting accounts of the earliest churches, I see something out of control. It was so out of control that the church in Jerusalem was nervous. Paul hears reports of the gospel being proclaimed all over the place. And who knows started the churches in Rome. Having a movement mentality gets back to a frame of mind where we are faithful sowers of the good news and allow the Holy Spirit to move.

  10. James Grant Says:

    Thanks for this Timmy!

    JHG


  11. Chris,

    That would be great. I would love to hear from more church planters on this topic, whether they agree or disagree. Thanks for plugging it with them!

    James,

    Great to hear from you my friend.


  12. Michael,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this matter. I agree with you that our Western worldview has trouble with developing “faithful devoted followers” of Christ (to use the Willow Creek phrase). During the 80’s and 90’s discipleship was all the buzz, no doubt, but even in spite of the seeming success of the church growth movement, there was little movement post-conversion translating into believers who were thoroughly Christian. I would argue that this is largely in part of compartmentalizing the gospel to simply the “introductory” phase of the Christian life instead of being an all-encompassing hermeneutic and center for Christian living period. Indeed, I believe the church growth movement evidenced being ashamed of the gospel in not trusting in its power to transform the lives of sinners such that they have a long obedience in the same direction (a la Eugene Peterson).

    In the 21st century, “missional” has replaced discipleship, and while I agree with the definition and articulation of it by men like Stetzer, it has too become a phrase for postmoderns to define as they wish. Nevertheless, what we are finding among leading missional thinkers, especially Tim Keller, is that the gospel is for Christians and not just for unbelievers. Moreover, not only do we not graduate from the gospel, we can never exhaust its power or grasp the totalizing scope of its reach.

    Now on the control issue, if what you mean by that you do not want to see a movement manufactured by men, then certainly, we want it out of their hands. Ironically enough, it is the missiologists who with rising trends and ever-promising techniques that seem to be the ones most culpable of attempting to guarantee a movement apart from the pneuma of God. I am all for “best practices” in the sense that we should not glory in being dysfunctional, but I cannot help but find it a little humorous to find cultural anthropologists and missiologists speak as if the movemental Christianity is something that is “easily reproducible” if only these certain elements were in existence. 🙂

    But on the other hand, if by mean of being out of control you are talking about lack of pastoral (or in the case of NT times apostolic) oversight, I find such reasoning wanting in Scripture. The letters of Paul give us great insight of a church planter who had a “hands on” approach to church planting. Here is a planter who wrote to the Galatians about who had “bewitched” them with “another gospel,” who wrote to the Colossians to avoid worldly philosophy and superstition but hold to the supremacy of Christ, who considered himself as a loving father to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2) and a like a mother in childbirth to the Galatians (Gal. 4:19), and to the Corinthians he was not like some who were tutors but he was their father in the gospel (1 Cor. 4). Such intimate relationship, such carefully written letters (time and again), such repeated visits (Acts 15:36), appointing of elders (Acts 14:23), and exercising discipline (as seen in 1 Cor. 5 and elsewhere) evidences that there was no such thing as out of control movement as Garrison argues. It was indeed controlled by the Spirit of God and administered by those whom God called as “servants and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1).

    I don’t get this euphoria about out of control Christianity today. Paul, who was “out of his mind” (2 Cor. 5:13) for the churches he planted refused to be a part of a movement that was out of control. I see a lot of things getting out of control these days in religious circles, but unfortunately such “wildfires” bear little evidence of Spirit-led movemental Christianity.

  13. Michael B Says:

    Hey brother,
    You have articulated well what is being debated daily on the field. I look forward to everyone’s thoughts.
    Love ya,
    Had lunch with your folks last saturday. can’t wait to see that youngen!!!
    We are home for about 10 months.
    Talk to you soon.

  14. Audio Bible Says:

    Great discussion! You say:

    “We need a movement that is preeminently defined by Scripture-a movement where the Word moves inward (in our mind, heart, and will) and outward (to our world at large). We need a movement where God’s Word dictates the outcome…”

    Sadly in the American church, 65% of “Bible readers” have never read the entire New Testament, and Barna reports that 50% of teens believe Jesus committed sins.

    A Word-driven movement is starting here at home. God is taking His truths and promises into the hearts and lives of people through Scripture listening. What we’ve seen here at the ministry is that congregations that listen to God’s Word are refreshed, their passion for God rekindled and their outreach to others increases. God’s Word is key to His Kingdom. In it and through it the Holy Spirit works on people and reveals the truth of Jesus Christ.

    Around the world, God’s Word is entering villages in heart-language audio format and church planting is a by-product. When people hear the Word they go and tell their neighbors and a CPM is started. All because God’s Word is powerful and doesn’t return void.


  15. Michael B.,

    So you guys are back in the States, eh? I would love to hear how things went during ya’lls first missionary stint. Please tell the fam that we said hello (and Garrett that I want to go cycling with him sometime). Dusti and Nolan should be up there in about a month.


  16. Audio Bible,

    You are right that a word-driven movement begins at home. Your comments are very true. The instrumentality of God’s Word is joined to the agency of the Holy Spirit which cannot be manufactured and must not go neglected. There are challenges on both sides: there are those who do emphasize the Word but do not emphasize the work of the Spirit, while on the other hand there are those who emphasize the Spirit and not emphasize the authority and sufficiency of the Word. The relationship of Word and Spirit is crucial in movemental Christianity, and this is something I would like to teased out in further detail. God’s Word indeed does not return void, and God’s Spirit does not fail to glorify Christ, the Incarnate Word of God.

  17. Kenan Says:

    Timmy.
    Thank you for discussing this. I’m at ILC right now. We had to read Garrison’s book before coming. We have yet to have the CPM sessions yet. As I read the book, I had the same concerns that you have mentioned here. I have even read through Acts noting the emphasis on Word. Your analysis is outstanding, brother.


  18. Kenan,

    I have a couple articles which critique Garrison and CPM’s but since the move, I cannot easily find them (and I cannot remember exactly what the missiologists said).

    I know that I am not the first person who has raised these questions and concerns or leveled any biblical critique. It would be nice if someone from the IMB or Garrison himself could give a biblically substantive defense for a prescriptive paradigm that is lacking in Scriptural warrant and (seems) to be failing in missiological practice.

    Does anyone know of any formal responses by the IMB for the push for CPMs in response to the many questions and concerns raised?


  19. […] Brister writes about “Word-driven Movemental Christianity” in an in-depth article of interest to church planters and all who long for the spread of […]


  20. […] Brister wrote a very detailed post about “Word-Driven Movemental Christianity” here.  Timmy argues that the Word should be the center of any church-planting movement rather than […]

  21. ChrisM Says:

    Tim, The main issue I found with the book was the way the IMB has used it to prescribe methods for generating CPMs rather than simply to describe them as Garrison seems to do. I was with the IMB when the book was published. The message was, “If you really want to be successful, you’ll get these 10 things going.” Emphasis was placed on speed of starting & turning over leadership of new plants. I witnessed church plants being aborted & missionaries being relocated because the work didn’t fit the paradigm.

    The reference above to Finney’s burned-over districts is telling. When we try to replicate the work of the Spirit by our own energies, we’ll reap weeds. The flesh will never give birth to spirit.

    By grace,
    Chris


  22. ChrisM,

    Thanks for sharing your take on this phenomena. Your reports on the emphasis of speed and ten essential elements are consistent with what I have heard elsewhere from other missionaries. It seems that wisdom would call for greater discernment in this area, especially in prescribing a paradigm not fitted to Scripture and (ironically enough) not reproducible in other parts of the world. I hope that other faithful missionaries would not be replaced or discouraged by their uninvolvement or inability to fit the paradigm. I hope to write about this more later. Thanks again for your input.


  23. […] post an exerpt speaking to church planting movements.  You may recall that I wrote briefly about a word-driven movemental Christianity and raised several questions regarding David Garrison’s paradigm that is being used […]


  24. […] of months ago, I shared a brief critique on church planting movements while advocating a “word-driven movemental Christianity“.  Because of our church’s new church planting initiative, I have been living in the […]

  25. TRW Says:

    Timmy,
    Having read the book and worked with Garrison, I think you may have misunderstood some statements. When he says the Bible is the authority- He means it. We strip away things that slow down the movement- but this is in accordance to the Word. So western cultural things may be stripped away, but not the Word of God or commands given therein. Also- these 10 factors are descriptive, not prescriptive. The turning over of leadership is not walking away and leaving them on thier own. It is having them obey what they are learning. While keeping contact through discipleship chains( I am discipling the leaders I have led to the Lord/am working with- they are in turn discipling the ones they have led/trained- and so on). But to the original point- the idea is that the Word is our authority- it is the basis of all we do and teach others to do.


  26. TRW,

    If I have misunderstood Garrison on the Bible’s authority, I stand corrected. I do not know Garrison, and I am only responding to what he has written in his book. It is really difficult to conclude, however, that his controlling belief is rapidity because it is the sole requirement for validating his definition of a CPM (conversion rate has to outstrip the birth rate). When the Scripture is not primary in your paradigm, then the role it plays, even in secondary status is minimal at best. I would be interested in hearing the case that speed is not the dominating factor in Garrison’s model.

    While the 10 factors may be considered descriptive in the book, they are being treated as prescriptive by the IMB. Moreover, throughout the book Garrison is prescribing his understanding of CPM’s to be the best way of reaching the world (Garrison states that “without exaggeration we can say that Church Planting Movements are the most effective means in the world today for drawing lost millions into saving, disciple-building relationships with Jesus Christ”); therefore, to argue that they are descriptive seems a bit disingenuous.

    Thanks for the comment, and I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts here.

  27. TRW Says:

    I understand both your points and thanks for responding. I guess I would have to agree with you on the prescriptive/descriptive part.
    Speed is considered important, but, I think that even though it is not in the definition, CPM proponents would argue that CPMs will not happen if the Word is not foundational. That is just for what its worth. THanks for your article and your many good insights.


  28. TRW,

    I see what you are saying. I don’t want to advocate that Garrison does not believe in the authority or importance of Scripture(!); what I am trying to say is what I discover in Scripture regarding the movement of the gospel and churches in the early church is that it is the Word that worked; and to the degree that the Word was rightly preached and properly received, the church went forward; therefore, the Word is central in the proclamation and central in the foundation (and central in transmission -1 Cor. 15:1-4 . . . I delivered to you what I received – the gospel).

    I appreciate your responses and look forward to learning and discussing these matters with the goal of edification and encouragement. Grace and peace.


  29. […] on Wed 19-11-2008 Scaling Agile is Like Scaling a Cherry Saved by cairon on Tue 18-11-2008 Word-Driven Movemental Christianity Saved by mammie63 on Thu 13-11-2008 Google talks about Rails scalability Saved by Shanathan7 on […]


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