Searching for the Indigenous Method

In “Searching for the Indigenous Method” (October 2012), Kyle Faircloth criticizes what he describes as “the strategy for Church Planting Movements (CPM).” Unfortunately,

In “Searching for the Indigenous Method” (October 2012), Kyle Faircloth criticizes what he describes as “the strategy for Church Planting Movements (CPM).” Unfortunately, Faircloth’s article shows a lack of understanding of CPM (also called DMM–Disciple Making Movements). He argues against CPM by characterizing it incorrectly, as:

• removing biblical principles if they slow down the process

• focusing on evangelism rather than building the church

leading to “Undiscipled People Groups”

• aiming for a CPM instead of biblical fidelity 

He claims the indigenous method and CPM are similar but diverge because in CPM “rapidity is the key ingredient for strategy.” This is patently wrong of all CPM trainers I know, and I interact with trainers from a wide spectrum of nationalities and organizations.  

What most CPM advocates embrace is not rapidity, but immediacy, meaning “When you hear God’s word, you should immediately obey.” Is there any need to delay a pattern of obeying God’s word rather than just hearing and thinking about it?  

How did Paul start a church in Thessalonica in three weeks and then leave? How did he teach in Ephesus for two years resulting in gospel proclamation such that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10)? 

Why are the vast majority of churches in CPMs deeply obedient and boldly sharing and serving their community when so many Christians just “sit in the pew” and expect a few leaders to do all the ministry? It is because the DNA is established immediately and established from the Bible and the Holy Spirit, not from the outsider. 

Faircloth misses a key point when he uses Paul’s instruction to Timothy about not choosing a new convert as a leader. Faircloth says this is not optional, even though it was not included in Titus. But a key point in comparing these two passages is that Titus contains leadership instructions for a new church—where everybody was a new convert, so of course new converts could not be ruled out of leading. First Timothy shows leadership instructions for an established church—so when given a choice, mature believers must be selected. Comparing the lists shows several items in 1 Timothy that new believers will not have had time to develop in their lifestyle, so the bar is “earlier” in Titus. 

One also wonders what alternative Faircloth is proposing. Is he suggesting outsiders lead the church until they can raise up leaders who are not new converts? This is not the biblical pattern from Titus, which we also see in Acts. This delay would certainly keep the church from being indigenous, and is in fact what has all too often been done in mission history. 

One final note: the “apostolic” church planter is an outsider seeking to catalyze new beginnings and thus should focus (per Matt. 10, Luke 9-10, and Acts) on persons of peace who can catalyze from the inside. The outsider then should keep catalyzing—prioritizing discipling, but realizing he or she is there to start the discipling process, not to finish it. As new churches emerge, pastors and teachers arise from inside the culture who lead the new church(es) in the discipling process. Missionaries who are more pastoral in their mindset often struggle with or miss this distinction. Notice that the Apostle Paul worked in six different regions in fifteen years and had “no more place” for him to work from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Rom. 15:19).  

We know that only God is able to bring a CPM. We also know that he is pleased to work through human vessels acting in obedience to the principles and patterns of his word. The aim of responsible CPM advocates is both biblical fidelity and biblical fruitfulness. 

—Stan Parks, PhD, Ethne Ephesus Facilitator (stan@ethne.net) VP, Mission to Unreached Peoples

Response from Kyle Faircloth

Thanks to Stan Parks for his letter. That I lack understanding of CPM there is little doubt—though I am not convinced the four areas he identifies clearly demonstrate my particular ignorance. For the difference here may have less to do with these specific issues, and more to do with our variant biblical interpretations from which these issues stem.

Concerning the criterion that church leaders must not be recent converts (1 Tim 3:6), Parks suggests I miss the “key point” when comparing it with the passage in Titus. He claims the reason Paul does not specifically mention this qualification again in his letter to Titus is because Titus was dealing with “a new church—where everybody was a new convert.”

Though Parks’ assumption is an option, it hardly stands as the only possibility, and to this extent may contain the least amount of textual support. Three things to consider: (1) Jewish Cretans were in Jerusalem for Pentecost during the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:11); (2) neither Acts nor any of Paul’s letters say anything about his time in Crete; and (3) the qualifications in 1 Timothy apply to all churches (3:14-15). From this, one might reasonably assume there were Christians in Crete for almost thirty years before Titus arrived (possibly with Paul), hence the need for a shared ecclesiological corrective in the existing churches.

Titus displayed the same “pastoral mindset” as Paul when he calmed a divisive situation in Corinth (2 Cor. 8:16), proving his ability to provide organization and sound teaching for unruly churches—apparently just the thing needed in Crete. He was also center stage at the council of Jerusalem, where participants took a firm doctrinal stand against the Judaizers, and thus Paul trusted him to silence those in the Cretan “circumcision party” (1:10-11), and identify existing Christians who were able to “instruct in sound doctrine” and “rebuke those who contradict it” (1:9).

As noted in my article, Paul was concerned especially with maturity when choosing those who would shepherd the church. That Parks sees this aspect of discipleship as a “delay” rather than constitutive of obedience means his distinction between rapidity and immediacy may not be so obvious after all. What alternative do I propose? Only that we seek to make disciples rather than merely “start the discipling process.” Paul spent at least fifteen years discipling Titus and Timothy before placing them in leadership. How might this inform the “biblical pattern?”

 


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