Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 106 of Missions on Point and number 5 of 14 in a series on Contemporary Issues in Missions. The topic of this episode will be DMMs and CPMs Exposed. For most listeners, you'll probably need an explanation of what those initials mean. DMM is Disciple Making Movements and CPM is Church Planting Movements. These terms, themselves, are great, but the problem is what they have come to mean. There are some related terms including DBS, Discipleship Bible Studies, and T4T. That's the letter T, the number 4, and the letter T, Training 4 Teachers. All of these are somewhat interrelated, and they all fall in the same current of trends in missions dating back 10 years and more. Let me say a few things at the beginning or onset of this episode in examining these trends.

First, they all have some valuable features. Second, anytime there is a sweeping trend that is highly touted, it is a great time, at the very beginning, to examine it closely and see how biblical it really is. I have a blog post on called The Best Critique of DMM to Date. You might want to go on the website and pick that up. Third, there are little bits of reference to these kinds of things, or the principles behind them, or the basic principles on which truly biblical missiology differs with these trends. So you can go back to episodes 3, 4, 9, 10, and 11, 26, 38, 40, 49, 78, 81, and 82 to pick up greater depth behind our understanding of biblical ecclesiology and missiology, which cast some light on our review of DMMs and CPMs and the gang.

If you look at material that is put out by those espousing these elements of this trend, you find amazing things, humongous statistics of results, and a smattering of biblical support. They say things like, "Be a part of the world's largest disciple making church planting movement in the world." They say that this is the most powerful church planting tool in the world today. They say, "Who can deny the effectiveness of these methodologies, given the huge statistics that we see reported down into multiple generations of so-called church planting?"

You may ask, well, just how big is this thing? It is sweeping all fields everywhere, particularly in fields that have been predominantly opposed, or resistant, to Christianity. The adherence of these methodologies claim tens of millions of converts, tens of thousands of churches started because of their methodology. And I'm just referring to the low side of such claims. Included in the subtle pull of these kinds of methodologies is the fact that they use terms that we love. Discipleship, we love. Church planting, we love. To see an actual church planting movement that is indigenous and deep in biblical truth and strong in biblical local churches is awesome and amazing and wonderful, and it's a God thing. Using Discovery Bible Studies as a means to evangelize unbelievers and train new believers is a good thing. Investing in the training of new believers for carrying on evangelism and Bible teaching and church planting, as T4T does, is a good thing.

And all of these methodologies use some specific scriptural references, or allusions, to support their claims of rightness of their methodology. But here, on the bottom line, are some of the problems with what is being said, and taught, and espoused, and pushed on missionaries around the world. Relying heavily on biblical references or terms taken out of context has never been a basis for orthodox practice and theology. Waving some Bible references and Jesus' name over some man-made methodology never assures genuine spiritual life and growth.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm sure there are some genuine believers in the midst of these methodologies. Unfortunately, I believe they are the exception rather than the rule, and there are two endgame proofs of the weakness of these methodologies, versus a solid biblical methodology that is more traditional, admittedly, in its outworkings. The first bit is time will tell. Even though the statistics are huge, we've seen huge statistics before in waves of other trends from the past. 3 years, 5 years, 10 years down the road of when the statistics originated, are those believers sticking? Are they sticking to Christ? Are they gathering in local assemblies? Do they have biblically qualified leaders? We'll see. In some studies in I'll say Southeast Asia, it's been proven that more traditional, seemingly slower in time taking methodologies have surpassed the claims of DMM and CPM kind of work over time, because the adherence and so-called churches of the trendy stuff just haven't lasted.

Not to mention the expose of some of the nationals who have claimed these statistics to their expatriate, that is Western missionaries, have admitted to basically lying about the numbers and the statistics, which leads to a third problem with these kinds of trends. In many places, where the people are unreached people groups, and they've been neglected by the world, and by their nation, and by Christianity for so many years, they seem to be eager, culturally, to please the Western visitor. So many times, to whatever question or proposition the visitor poses, they will say yes. They will agree. They will nod. They will even go through the motions of repeating, or propagating, or agreeing with the teaching that has been given to them, because that's what pleases the westerner. Sometimes, we must say those results are genuine. God moves on their hearts. God saves them, and they become genuine Christians.

But many times, in both my own experience and in my studies of these trends, it seems like they're agreeing for other reasons and motives. Perhaps, they expect to get something out of it or to make their life better in some way because of this, not just spiritually but materially. The old-fashioned term for that is Rice Christians. That is, they expect to get rice from the missionaries for becoming believers. Other times, in their own religious context, they're just sort of adding another God to their God shelf. So it's easy to see, over time, that those kind of conversions and those kind of "churches" just dissolve. It falls away. It's not genuine, and real, and everlasting.

Now, here are the two things that I believe are the major flaws in pushing these trends besides the fact that they are pushed. One is a flawed soteriology. Soteriology is the biblical doctrine of salvation, how a person is saved, what happens to a person that is saved through this conversion, the beginnings of sanctification. The predominant teaching of soteriology in these trends is that people who are inquirers, or interested, or attending the initial meetings of these groups become Christians by obedience. And they refer to Matthew 28 and the Great Commission by saying that people obey all the teachings of Christ is the sign of belief.

The huge mistake to the objective observer with any kind of biblical framework is that obedience itself is not saving faith. It's not repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. If we have to earn our salvation through the merit of obedience, it's not biblical salvation. In fact, it is works, or legalism, which Paul strikingly and forcefully teaches against all through the Book of Galatians and scattered through his letters. We are not saved by works of the law. We are not saved through our obedience to some code or even to some self discovered truth in the scripture.

Typically, these methods check up on those who have been in the class the week before and ask them have they obeyed the thing that we learned in the last week. And that becomes the sign of their conversion, and little tally marks are kept for how many are converted based on their report of their obedience. Now, a major problem with this is that pretty much, in my view, every religion in the world apart from biblical Christianity is a religion of legalism. It's a religion of works apart from biblical soteriology in which it is clear that we do not work for our salvation. We come to salvation by admitting our sin and claiming Christ, and Christ alone and his work on the cross and resurrection, as the basis for our salvation.

One of the major problems with legalism in general, and it becomes a mark of legalism, is that the simple rules are never enough. You have to keep inventing more and more rules and keep adhering to them and have the so-called believers following that system be self-policing among themselves to bring about conformity to the laws and rules of that religion. As I said earlier, this is true of, I think, every religion invented by man, including man's own self-made kind of atheistic/agnostic kind of religion of, "I make rules for myself and then I break my rules." And it's obvious in Romans 1, 2, and 3 that even that doesn't work.

The second major general flaw with these trends is a defective ecclesiology. What is ecclesiology? It is the biblical doctrine of the church, specifically the local church. What does the Bible teach about the local church and about local church leaders? A sound local church is going to have biblically qualified leaders. In some of these trends, it's obvious that they endow a church leadership office, or position, to people that are leaders of these Bible studies or these meeting groups, whether or not they're genuine believers. That doesn't cut it biblically.

It's not just a gathering of people who say they're believers, but a local church is actually a committed group of actual believers with actually biblically qualified church leaders. That is Godly men who lead and teach them on a regular basis. Most of these trends that we've mentioned focus on narrative portions of scripture. Why do they do that? It's a lot easier to handle than didactic portions. That is the stories of the gospels, and the stories even of the Old Testament, are easier to teach and have people relate to than some of the harder teaching sections of, say, the letters of Paul and the Hebrews and James, the general epistles.

So it's very challenging for fresh new believers to be called a local church and work through the teaching sections of scripture. And I would say it's impossible for an unbeliever who's been thrust into that position, or office as a church leader, to really understand and, in a Godly, way deal with the scriptures, because they don't really even have the Holy Spirit to help illumin the scriptures for them and understand it. There is more that we could say, but we don't have time in this episode. Let me just conclude with this. Yes, there are some helpful, and encouraging, parts of these trendy methodologies that we can learn from. However, the underlying basis is suspect at least and heretical at most. They are not things that we should be going headlong after simply because of reports of high statistics. In fact, that kind of thinking should cause us to pause and examine things more deeply.

What does this mean for most Missions on Point listeners, beware of missions' trends. Ask questions. Think. Pray. Talk with Godly, well-trained people, like your pastors or trusted missionaries who are not followers of these trends to figure out whether or not you should be supportive of these kinds of things or corrective of these kinds of things. Pray that God would give you discernment, and your church discernment, about what kinds of things to support, not just of these trends but there's going to be another set of trends in the next decade for sure. Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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