As church planting movements (CPMs) have drawn the attention of missionary practitioners around the world, missiologists are looking closely at this phenomenon and asking challenging questions. In recent years, a few of those questions posed by Jackson Wu and a cadre of missiologists from the International Mission Board as well as professors from predominately Southern Baptist Convention seminaries, contested the methods of CPMs including T4T and DMM as well as called attention to an apparent biblical eisegesis as advocates were accused of reading CPM into the New Testament texts.
Today, Mission Frontiers claims there are more than a thousand CPMs around the world. CPM agencies are reporting phenomenal growth of multiplying house churches focused predominately in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Such growth naturally draws the attention of motivated missionaries who equate numerical progression with success. Equally true is that such phenomenal reporting of growth draws the attention of critics. Their criticism of CPM has generally fallen in four categories: theological shallowness, immature leaders, reckless evangelism, and long-term sustainability.
These criticisms raise supplementary questions. For example, with such an emphasis on church planting movements, is there a clear mandate for church planting in Scripture? Additionally, as these movements grow, what is their susceptibility to syncretism? First, let’s turn our attention to the common critique of church planting movements then we will circle back to ask our supplemental questions.
Here are two recent podcasts critiquing church planting movements. These are not academic studies of CPM, but rather popular treatments which appear bias against CPM in favor of a traditional approach that has been called proclamational church planting. The arguments, although not all of them, are often built on a straw man, and the organizations they represent are influential. They are worth the time as there are concerns about CPM that need to be raised and addressed. These podcasts are attempting to do just that.
Defend and Confirm Podcast – https://youtu.be/ZVt9H8T7dSY
9Marks – https://www.9marks.org/conversations/on-church-centered-missions-vs-movement-driven-missions-pastors-talk-ep-183/
One of the concerns regarding CPM is the potential for syncretism. You can read more about that here: “Potential Risk of Syncretism in Church Planting Movements.”
The most recent academic studies of CPM and DMM are published in Motus Dei: The Movement of God to Disciple the Nations. From the book’s description,
An incredible breakthrough in missions history is taking place as disciples of Jesus make more disciples of Jesus around the globe, particularly among the least-reached. But what exactly are these church planting or disciple making movements? Where are they occurring and what are their unifying features? How are they manifesting in diverse populations? And can you or your organization be instrumental in catalyzing more movements? Motus Dei, Latin for “movement of God,” seeks to answer these questions and more.