David Watson and Church Planting Movements

Charles Kiser —  May 18, 2009 — 69 Comments

Last week I attended a four-day workshop about Church Planting Movements (CPMs) with David Watson of CityTeam Ministries. Missions Resource Network, a missions organization affiliated with Churches of Christ, hosted the event.

Watson is a former church planter in Northern India, where 40,000 churches have started in the past 15 years. He is now a strategist and trainer for an ever-growing network of approximately 200,000 churches throughout the world. These churches, according to Watson, average about 63 members per church – which amounts to 12.6 million new believers in the past 15-20 years. For the sake of comparison, Churches of Christ consists of 40,000 churches and 5 million believers worldwide.

Watson’s work was featured in a recent book by David Garrison called Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World.

The best overview of Watson’s perspective on church planting is what he calls the “21 Critical Elements” of CPMs. This may not be the exact list of the elements, but it gives the general ideas. CPMs center around:

  1. Group process over individual process
  2. Prayer
  3. Scripture, by way of an inductive Bible study process called “Discovery Bible Study”
  4. Households, or existing social units, rather than individuals
  5. Making disciples of Jesus not converts to a religion
  6. Obedience to commands of Jesus rather than doctrinal distinctives
  7. Access ministry – i.e., developing relationships with non-believers
  8. Ministry – meeting people’s needs leads to evangelism
  9. Timing – knowing when people are ready
  10. Intentionality and planning
  11. Person of peace – i.e., a receptive, influential person who is the gateway for a social unit coming to Christ
  12. Appropriate evangelism – i.e., communicating the good news in ways that make sense to people in their particular cultural context
  13. Starting churches, Watson’s definition of which is: “groups of baptized believers in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that gather to worship, fellowship and nurture one another, and, outside of gatherings, endeavor to obey all the commands of Christ in order to transform families and communities.”
  14. Reproduction at every level – disciples, leaders, and churches
  15. Indigenous leaders – i.e., cultural insiders are the best church planters
  16. The work of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Scripture
  17. Persecution
  18. Mentoring, which is the work of developing the whole person
  19. Self-support – in almost every case there are no paid ministers, no buildings to maintain
  20. Redeeming the culture
  21. Awareness of spiritual warfare

The basic process of starting CPM churches is: 1) church planter finds access to friendship with disconnected people; 2) church planter serves and loves disconnected friends; 3) church planter identifies a person of peace out of those friends; 4) church planter works with person of peace to invite his/her social unit (family or affinity group) into a 15-30 week inductive Bible study led by person of peace or someone else from social unit; 5) the group decides to follow Jesus and becomes a church; 6) new churches send out church planters to start the process again.

Here are five action items I took away from the workshop that I need to implement in my life and ministry:

  • Prayer: David Watson mentioned that the common denominator among their most fruitful church planters was prayer. Some of them spend 3-4 concentrated hours/day in prayer. Remember, all of them have jobs outside of church planting and they still make time for this kind of prayer. I am not praying enough. I will, therefore, make a plan to pray more. And then pray more.
  • Church planting as lifestyle: Watson says it’s not a job; it’s a lifestyle. People must be around you enough to see consistency between your private and public life. I find it easy to compartmentalize my role as a church planter, rather than to see it an extension of my lifestyle. Yet none of this is to say boundaries with family and solitude are not important — they are part of the lifestyle, too. I will, therefore, invite my friends into all parts of my life.
  • People of peace: I’ve been tuned into the concept of people of peace but have not pursued it with the fervor that Watson and company have. I have yet to see a person of peace open a door in our context for an entire social group to encounter God. Watson had fantastic ideas about developing “peace statements” to ignite conversations with potential people of peace. I will, therefore, commit to pray, look for and draw out such people of peace God might be raising up in our midst.
  • Obedience-oriented conversation about Scripture: This was a point of affirmation for me. The heart of Watson’s endeavor seems to be inductive study of Scripture that ends at discerning how one will be obedient to the word they are hearing from God. In other conversations I’ve mentioned how we value the movement from observation to interpretation to application in our Scripture conversations. I will, therefore, continue to facilitate these kinds of conversations and make the moves toward obedience even more explicit.
  • Reproduction: Reproduction is a value of ours, but Watson pushed this value to the max, particularly with his comments about the nature of mentoring. His four step process for mentoring is: 1) model; 2) equip; 3) watch; 4) leave. Watson contends that this process can take as little as 3-4 months in a new church setting. Mentors model only once or twice before allowing others to take over. I will, therefore, model more briefly, equip and watch more quickly, and leave as soon as possible.

I didn’t leave the weekend without hesitations, however. Here are a few limitations I sensed from the presentations:

  • View of Scripture: I was uncomfortable with Watson’s view of Scripture. He had an extended conversation about distinguishing between what is biblical and what is cultural without ever admitting that Scripture is itself a culturally conditioned document. Another session concerned separating “doctrine” from what the Bible teaches, yet Watson failed to mention the degree to which every individual brings lenses to the reading of Scripture (whether they like it or not) and necessarily picks and chooses what they should obey or not. For instance, are we disobedient to God for not having a ritual of washing feet (e.g., John 13)? It takes an interpretive approach to Scripture (i.e., a hermeneutic) to make such decisions. I would rather be aware of my lenses than unaware. Watson seems to think that everyone who reads the Scriptures will arrive at the same conclusion / hermeneutic by the power of the Holy Spirit. This approach didn’t seem to work in early church history (when the most notable heretics used the Bible to support their claims) or in Stone-Campbell history (when everyone read Scripture and came to decidedly different conclusions). Watson also seems to discount the role that church history / tradition / orthodoxy plays as a source of theology and knowledge of God.
  • View of church: I was uncomfortable with Watson’s view of the church only to the extent he expressed that churches in his network are closed to unbelievers. If unbelievers want to be part of a church, they should join a Bible study and start a new one. They are discouraged from participating with an existing one. This decision seems to discount the way the church is the embodiment of the gospel as a community (as with the Mennonite tradition). It also seems to reverse the current trend in our context of allowing people to belong before they’re expected to believe. Watson seems adamant that people must believe before belonging to a church. Paul seems to assume in 1 Corinthians 14 that unbelievers participated in the life of the church and even encountered God as a result.
  • View of teaching: Watson has a very low view of teaching, at least in the traditional sense. Churches that are dependent upon teachers with rich education and knowledge are not likely to reproduce rapidly or perhaps even at all. Watson also critiques the traditional paradigm of teaching because it often has little to do with obedience to God and life change. I’m with him all the way on this. Yet the teaching role is very apparent in Scripture, both in contexts with non-believers and believers. Paul mentions in Colossians 1:7-8, for instance, how the Colossian church was taught the gospel by Epaphras (not led through an inductive Bible study). Rather than reframe the role of teaching in a more dialogical, conversational light (as I think is consistent with Jesus’ teaching in Scripture), Watson stretches the Scriptures to argue that teaching is reserved for believers / church in Scripture, not unbelievers. It seems better (and more biblical) to think of ways the teaching role could be made more obedience and reproduction-oriented rather than discount it totally for unbelievers.
  • People of peace: I think the people of peace concept is a brilliant missionary concept but have wondered if it is a culturally-specific method rather than a universal principle. My own context leads me to think this way: urban Dallas, where social groups are fragmented and disconnected. There is no overarching, preexisting sense of community here. There are no extended family units. The dominant demographic is single professional. I asked Watson about this and he suggested looking for affinity groups that exist in the community (e.g. a fitness gym). Yet existing social groups I’ve been part of in our context (e.g., sports teams, civic groups) do not seem cohesive enough for a person of peace to open a door for an entire group to encounter God and the gospel. Perhaps we should hold alongside the person of peace approach a geographical approach, common in missional church plantings, that treats a neighborhood as a social unit. Maybe it’s both / and and not either / or.
  • Rapid reproduction as the end goal: The undercurrent I sensed from missionaries at the workshop was, “Our mission efforts are slow and frustrating. We should listen to this guy because his churches are reproducing rapidly and reaching a lot of people.” In fact, when Watson was challenged by a workshop participant, he retorted by saying, “That’s fine if you disagree with me, but we’ve planted 200,000 churches doing it this way.” Granted, we should desire for people to connect to God, but growth as an end goal and justification seems misguided. Cancer grows and reproduces at a rapid rate, but that is not a good thing (as I’ve reflected on before). Rapid growth is not the end goal; the goal is rather faithful embodiment of the gospel. God is the one who grows the church, not a particular process. At times, Watson and company seem to stretch biblical texts concerning the church and missionary method (i.e., people of peace) to serve this end goal of rapid reproduction.

Despite my critique, I think David Watson is doing some very significant work. And none of this is to question his motives or dedication to the gospel. Much of his approach is worthy of emulation.

If you’re interested to see some of his material yourself, including video training sessions, you can visit www.cpmtr.org or www.davidlwatson.org. Registering at the website grants one access to curriculum download materials. You can also see the workshop I attended in its entirety at www.ustream.tv/mrnetwork.

I would love to have your feedback and dialogue about this CPM approach, especially from those of you who are currently involved in the work of church planting.

Charles Kiser


I’m a pastor, missionary, and contextual theologian in Dallas, Texas. I’m committed to equipping and coaching Christians to start fresh expressions of Christian community in Dallas County — communities of hospitality, inclusion, justice, and healing.

69 responses to David Watson and Church Planting Movements


    Thanks, Charles, for this incisive critique. I appreciate both the strengths and limitations that you have expressed.



    Good stuff. Check out this model for reproduction.


    wow. seriously, 40, 000? that’s kind of ridiculous. the most ridiculous kind of ridiculous.

    nice appraisal, Charlie.


    I really appreciated the part about obedience as well. Very challenging!

    He seems to present this as an all or nothing system. Still not sure what I think about that. However, if this could take hold in America, it could help move us toward greater discipleship and obedience, rather than getting too caught up in knowledge and debates.

    I started a forum for us to keep talking about some of the conference issues and implementation. Let me know if you want to join and I’ll send you an invite.


    Hi Charles and company, I have read your comments several times. I thank you for the time and thought you have put into this. There are several things that I would like to mention.

    First I would say that what David Watson presented this weekend seemed to me as an introduction to something much deeper. Having dialogued with others that have been to the same seminar at a different setting and a different theological, and denominational context, there were lots of details that were not mentioned. I think this seminar was only the tip of the iceberg.

    I have watched two of the videos that the attendees were asked to observed pre-seminar and I have understood some of the details that perhaps because of time constrains, were not shared. This has been very beneficial to me. Moreover, I was able to see David in a different setting, (insider vs. outsider). In a CofC framework David is an outsider. He wares different feathers. And thus we naturally tend to be on high guard where trust levels are low. If the trust level is low it will be difficult to give any presenter the benefit of our doubts.

    This was apparent in the third session where David mentions that one needs to model, equip, watch and leave. Under current questions began to surface and soon they became apparent. When David mentioned that by leaving he does not run away from the relationship but from the influence that he has on that particular group or leader, people there understood what he meant by leaving.

    I think that the same could be argue in regards to many of his principles. One could say that from what we heard he has a low view of teachers and a high view of numbers but I think perhaps we could be too quick to assume those things without a deeper dialogue with the teacher or the program/material. I think that is why I sometimes sense a post-frustration disorder from such forums.

    This was apparent in his second session where he challenged us all to think about the religious cultural walls that have been placed between the churched and the unchurched, i.e. instrumental music issues. My take on this is that such challenges at an early stage of our relationship automatically creates a different dynamic. Regardless of where anyone stands on the issue. Furthermore, David at one point did not seem to be opened for questions, and this might have added to our preconceptions.

    I think that what you have raised are legitimate issues. Tensions and harmonies that we have to wrestle with as church planters. But I also think that those strengths as weaknesses we see need to be put in a broader context, that one can only get to with further dialogue with the material and the presenters. Perhaps there the weaknesses would become strengths and hopefully the strengths would remain.

    Seeking discipleship and obedience,


    Insightful and very helpful critique. Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us out there in the vineyard.


    Great insight, Charles. The math is simple: if you have a good strategic plan energetically implemented, you will grow. This math applies in businesses (see FedEx) and churches (see the International Churches of Christ ten years ago).

    Traditional churches seem to rarely have plans for evangelism, and if they do, rarely implement them well.

    On the other hand, as you point out, just because you have a plan that works doesn’t mean the plan is holy writ. Remember the old saying: “What you win them with is what you win them too.” If they are converted TO the strategic plan (instead of BY the strategic plan), they are not likely to be true disciples of Christ.

    I really appreciate the way you are open to new ideas and challenges, but contemplative enough to wrestle with larger issues as well.



    Thank you for your critic, which, in my opinion, is very healthy. I am with you. We cannot measure spiritual growth by the fact that “200,000 / 400,000” churches have been planted in Xs area. Thanks to God’s revelation in Scripture, Mission Alive labs, books they recommended, Coaching labs, and other workshops and seminars I have being part of in the last couple of years, it is very clear to me that spiritual formation is a slow process and that believers with at least some knowledge must be involve for a period of time with persons of peace to help them walk through the process to growth in Christ.

    Also, I am with you that Watson’s passion to save the lost and the great job he did presenting this workshop must be recognized. I was blessed greatly with his presentation. I was reminded of the things I need to be doing more often without fear. I have been in a spiritual journey in the last two years. I found out that I am listening more to the voice of God and letting the Spirit it to guide me. I firmly believe this workshop was established by God to help me grow even more. He keeps working in me.

    I believe many of Watson’s elements can be utilize in church plating. In fact, I started applying some of them in our groups. I am asking the question “What are you thankful for this week.” With that question people see God and their lives in a different way. Soon I will start to introduce the other question to help them grow in love, compassion, and service to other.

    Thank you again and may God continue blessing your ministry.


    Thanks, friends, for your comments thus far.


    Thanks for your comments. I hear you saying that the limitations I sensed might not really be limitations because Watson is more nuanced in his approach.

    That may very well be true.

    Granted, I have formed these reflections only after reading Garrison’s CPM book, hearing Watson at a 3-hour session months ago, watching 6 hours of videos, and attending or viewing online all of the four day workshop.

    I’m only saying that I think the issues I’ve raised (i.e., concerning hermeneutics, ecclesiology, teaching, method and end goals) are important enough to have been treated and nuanced on the front end of things, not further down the line or as an after thought.

    And you’re right, Watson’s technique in the workshop of shutting people down if they said something other than an explicit question did not seem to engender dialogue. Dialogue assumes conversation, give and take. Dialogue is more than Q & A. Yet he probably did not intend to come across that way.


    I very much enjoyed your report/critique. It made me want to go and check out more information on David Watson and CityTeam Ministries. I want to echo how much I agree with the action items you identified as important in implementing in your own ministry: PRAYER, CHURCH-PLANTING as a LIFESTYLE, being PEOPLE of PEACE (even in the context of inner-city Houston), being OBEDIENCE-ORIENTED (which does not automatically preclude being grace-oriented), and REPRODUCTION. I know you chose them as personal choices, but they really are essential in any church-planting endeavors I have observed.
    The precautions you mentioned are intriguing and generally agreeable as well. The thing with precautions, though, is the tendency we have to identify those precautions, without continuing to look into those areas for more clarity. What I appreciate about bringing your concerns to light is that it makes me want to look into why some of those comments cause me concern, and challenge myself to look into the concepts a little more deeply to see where I land on it after the struggle. For example, what about “believing THEN belonging?” Sounds very anti-“The Search to Belong,” but what about the concept? Think of the concentrated (less diluted) passion and focus that could be generated by a group that has fully chosen to commit themselves to a shared mission. I think it would make a great discussion, at least. The same works with those things you marked as needing to be implemented. Take reproduction. There is always going to be a struggle with going too fast or too slow. The point is to keep pushing toward reproduction, or you fall to the danger of not only not truly growing, but stagnating as well, which brings its own dangers. The point is, I hope to hear how you experimented with what you want to implement, as well as the things you may have at first been hesitant to consider.
    My opinions are just that. Mine, and fairly insignificant. If it leads to greater dialogue and research, in my opinion that would be awesome.
    Thanks for sharing your insights and great commentary. I am impressed with your thoughtfulness and heart, and I want to learn more about your ministry. In the meantime, may God bless it, you, and your family.


    Charles, nice overview. Many thanks from those who couldn’t make it. If you would entertain a question and a thought, perhaps you could help me clarify something in my mind regarding your “view of church” critique. That is something in particular we’ve been thinking about in our context. My question is whether or not there is a single “view of church” to which we might rightly subscribe. My current thought (partially formed and hardly substantiated) is that the degree of openness may itself be a contextual decision.

    The view of the planter as the only one going “out” and doing the work of evangelization, etc. seems strange to me–virtually impossible to maintain if the churches are themselves imbued with the gospel and have contact with unbelievers, but that is a different point. And I am an advocate of the understanding of 1C 14 you mention (though when I read it I’m struck by a sense of “they stumbled in” rather than intentional inclusion on the part of the Christians). Moreover, I’ve been impacted by a couple of authors who advocate an open table (we’re using a communion meal model). So it makes sense to me that the church, particularly the assembly, functions efficaciously as an encounter with God in the lives of unbelievers.

    Yet, I work in a context where the need to move beyond belonging is somewhat clouded by a perception that one is making a religious adjustment rather than a religious conversion. The feeling is often precisely a need for belonging rather than a need for reconciliation with God. Now, perhaps this is easily remedied by frankly teaching that belonging is not enough. I’m just not sure that is the wisest approach to people who are so used to being nominally committed that being included without being changed is a natural way of life.

    My other concern is to avoid the impulse to turn the assembly into the point of evangelization–as many people in my context are culturally conditioned to show up then if no other time. I want our gatherings as believers to maintain its efficacious work in the lives of believers first and foremost, for it is undeniably for them. Similarly, the burden upon believers to share the news in their daily lives is diminished–as we all know–when they can simply let the assembly do the work. So far, I’m unconvinced that merely teaching otherwise works very well.

    Lastly, I have to ask (because I don’t know) whether the impulse toward a totally inclusive model may be unduly influenced by the latent fear within postmodern culture of coming off as exclusive in any way. Or, more generously stated, whether the need to convey that degree of openness (as part of a contextualized gospel) is particular to the postmodern context, thus not one that exerts so much influence in my context.

    So, right now we are considering something in between, where unbelievers are included in settings other than the communion table but the emphasis still falls on specifically evangelistic encounters (Bible studies, etc.).


    I enjoyed the feedback that you gave on this event. As Dallas Willard frequently states the great commission frequently becomes the great omission. Our goal is to be disciples ourselves and to make disciples of others. Although growth is a goal, we must be disciples ourselves and make people disciples, not just converts. I hope our goal is not to be first century Christians. First century Christians had many problems including accepting Christianity over the guidelines they had lived under the Pharisees, etc. The point you made about everyone looking through different lenses is important. We frequently fail to look at the thoughts of many believers over the millenniums which can give us insight to possible implications of how we should live our lives. In other words, how we should be disciples.



    Hey, brother. This is a helpful overview of the training we attended. Thanks for doing this.

    I’m so glad you were at the workshop. It was good to spend a little time with you. I look forward to hearing how it’s going as you do your five action items. I came away with similar “I will…” statements for my ministry in LA. Let’s continue to share and learn from each other as we try out this stuff in Dallas and Los Angeles.

    I agree with Sam’s comment that there is room to go deeper. I also agree with Steve’s comment about checking first with David and CityTeam Ministries for clarity regarding your concerns before assigning these viewpoints to them. I have done this and I can tell you they don’t hold these views.

    If I have time, I may include my own responses to your hesitations, as you’ve asked me to do in an email. I’ve already emailed you my responses, as you know. But so that others can see what we’ve been learning from the past two years of trying out this approach in LA, I will try to find time to respond later on your blog as well.

    For now, I’ll just say that in the past I shared some of your hesitations/concerns. I had other hesitations as well, but most of these have been cleared up as I’ve begun to put the simple principles and methods of CPM into practice and started to see the wisdom and biblical basis for this approach in action. I feel good about moving forward with trying this out in a North American context. So much of what David and his colleagues are saying seems right on to me.

    Blessings in Christ,




    Hey, brother. My thoughts on CPM, like my life, remain a work in progress. Here are my thoughts (as of today) regarding your hesitation #1:


    Acknowledging Our Cultural Lenses

    I’ve heard David speak a number of times now, and I feel confident he would agree with you that we all see Scripture through our own cultural lenses, and that the Bible itself is a “culturally conditioned document.” You wrote: “I would rather be aware of my lenses than unaware.” I believe we were encouraged to be aware of our lenses at the workshop.

    Example: When David had us look at the Great Commission passage he talked about how the original audience was a people living under Roman occupation, and how that influences the way we ought to read and understand what Jesus taught. This alone shows me he understands it is a culturally conditioned document. It also shows me he has self-awareness (and wants us to have self-awareness), that we come to the text viewing Scripture through a 21st century lens.

    Example: On more than one occasion he commented on how Hebrew/Jewish writers often composed their thoughts in such a way that they reserved the most important elements for the center or end of a passage (e.g., “teaching them to obey” is included at the end of the Great Commission passage, and therefore a top priority item).

    Example: During the Q&A session on the last day, David drove it home when he explained the drastic differences between 1st century interpretation vs. 21st century interpretation when reading the words “teaching,” “preaching” and “proclamation.”

    To me these sections of the workshop show me that David acknowledges the cultural conditioning of the Bible and the cultural lenses we wear when we approach the text.

    Trusting the Holy Spirit to Guide Their Interpretation

    You wrote: “Watson seems to think that everyone who reads the Scriptures will arrive at the same conclusion / hermeneutic by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

    David challenges me with his deep trust in the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin and lead them to truth. Yet I don’t think even he expects every group to arrive at the same conclusions.

    Here is what I understood Watson to be saying: Do NOT expect the Holy Spirit to guide each new group of believers to arrive at the same conclusions when they read Scripture.

    As we teach each group to obey all the commands of Christ, the Holy Spirit may lead some to express their obedience differently than we do (e.g., whether or not to literally follow Jesus’ command to wash people’s feet).

    In fact, I heard Watson saying we should EXPECT the Holy Spirit to lead groups to arrive at different conclusions, at least on peripheral/disputable matters, depending on their social contexts.

    Regarding core matters (e.g., belief in the supremacy of Christ, the ‘seven ones’ of Eph 4, or how we are to treat each other and people of different socioeconomic classes, etc), Watson agrees there needs to be consensus. But he contended that we historically have added a lot of extra requirements to what is considered core.

    When core matters are compromised David said he sometimes finds the need to step in and ask the group a guiding question such as, “That’s an interesting conclusion. Where did you find that idea in the scripture we just read?” In this way, he serves as a guide in the discovery process, directing the group back to God’s Word as their Teacher, and leading them always back to obedience to God’s Word (not obedience to popular opinion or to even David’s opinion about what the Scripture says).

    The Difference Between Teaching Obedience and Teaching Stuff

    David said our goal as missionaries is to teach obedience to scripture, not to teach “stuff” (= our preferred ways of expressing obedience, doing church, etc). But when we do this, it means we as missionaries must give up control. This is going to be hard for us. I can speak from two years experience that it has been hard for my team and me.

    In traditional church planting we are accustomed to exerting control over new churches. We make all sorts of decisions for them before they even become a church. We predetermine whether or not they will have a building, paid leaders, clergy-laity distinction, a centralized budget, etc. I used to think it was my job as a “church planter” to contextualize scripture for the new believers. Example: Researching the target community’s favorite radio stations and choosing a style of music accordingly for the worship services.

    In the CPM approach, the role of the missionary is to present the gospel “as culturally neutral as possible” and the role of the new believers is to contextualize the gospel for their own context. David admits this is never done with perfection because we all bring our own church culture “baggage;” nevertheless, we must try our best to avoid burdening people with our cultural baggage and additional requirements God never intended in order to be a disciple of Jesus.

    Watson has written a good article entitled, “What Is Our Objective?” on this idea of teaching obedience vs. teaching stuff, which I highly recommend: http://www.davidlwatson.org/2008/06/24/what-is-our-objective/.

    A Different Approach to Theological Training

    You wrote: “Watson also seems to discount the role that church history / tradition / orthodoxy plays as a source of theology and knowledge of God.” I didn’t hear Watson discounting this; rather I heard him saying he delays this in the church planting process until a more appropriate time.

    As mentioned above, David drew from biblical scholarship when he provided us insights into the context and worldviews of the “original audiences” of scripture.

    You’ll recall I shared my own experience with this during the workshop. When I exposed the East Hollywood couple, Hector and Roxy, to the story of the Good Samaritan, was it wrong for me to share the religious, social and political background of this story? No, not necessarily. My intentions were to help liven up the passage and give Hector and Roxy valuable insights into the racial and religious tensions going on in this story. But by introducing “extra-biblical” commentary early on in Hector and Roxy’s reading of Scripture, what was I really teaching them? As it turned out, I had unintentionally taught them that they can’t hear from God on their own – they figured they needed me to explain it to them every time, which was evidenced by their continuous phone calls asking me what I think. When I changed my approach and taught them that they could hear from and act on God’s Word on their own, they started to grow in obedience and, through their obedience, grew in knowledge and reproduction.

    I’m convinced it is okay to draw from the rich history of church tradition/history/orthodoxy and biblical scholarship when teaching a couple like Hector and Roxy. For me the question is not should I do this, but when? What’s more important in the early months/years of Hector and Roxy’s journey with Scripture – that they get to hear all my “nuggets” of wisdom about a passage that I’ve acquired from my years of study and listening to sermons? Or that they get to learn dependence on God early on? What if every new disciple knew from experience they can hear from God and obey him without a pastor or mediator always present to explain everything and tell them what they should do?

    The Problem with Sending Leaders to Seminary Too Soon

    To me, David does not seem opposed to exposing people to the Church’s collective knowledge of God developed over the centuries. You’ll recall that on Day 2 of the workshop, one of the table groups said they really liked the idea of doing away with “theological training,” and to this Watson clearly replied that they should not rule out theological training for leaders in a CPM. He even said he is not opposed to sending leaders to seminary; rather he is opposed to sending leaders to seminary prematurely.

    The typical Western approach is to send emerging leaders away from their churches and harvest fields in order to receive seminary training before they’ve had a chance to grow into a real leader. The assumption is that with more information and schooling they will become that leader. Contrast this with Watson’s definition of a “leader”: a disciple-making leader who reproduces more disciple-making leaders.

    During their years of study I’ve observed some seminary students lose their fire for missions. I sometimes wonder if the problem is not the seminary experience itself but that we sent them to seminary prematurely. Perhaps they lacked the real life experiences in ministry to inform the questions they should be asking in the classroom, and the time-tested relationship with God to withstand the skeptical environment of academia? Among those who actually decide to enter or return to the mission field, many seminary students don’t arrive ready to lead. Rather many of them arrive full of doubts, well-learned but no more obedient than they were before. Seminary training does not automatically mean we will be equipped for the task of modeling and catalyzing reproduction of disciples, leaders and churches. This doesn’t mean seminaries and theological training are bad; it’s more about “timing” is the point I believe David was trying to make. That said, it was painful for me when David pointed out that our Western churches have embraced a knowledge-based system that educates believers beyond their obedience, and calls individuals “leaders” before they have reproduced. I didn’t like hearing this, but it’s true.

    You’ll recall David said that in the CPMs he has been involved in, leaders are indeed sent to seminary (and when possible “seminary” is brought to them), but this kind of training is reserved for what he calls “higher level leaders.” I still have much to learn about this, but my understanding is that a higher level leader is someone who has helped catalyze the replication of multiple disciples, leaders, churches, and possibly networks of churches. In other words, they look for obedience and reproduction as prerequisites for deeper theological training. This indeed is counter to our church culture in the West where we have relied on more knowledge-acquisition to produce more obedient, reproducing leaders.

    This is my take for what it’s worth. What do the rest of you think?




      Thanks for your very thorough thoughts. 🙂

      Let me send some thought back at you – and you know I love you in the midst of the dialogue.

      Regarding cultural lenses: yes, Watson did rely on a more sophisticated reading of Scripture when it came down to it. I found that ironic more than anything, because his rhetoric did not seem to match his practice. He said that we only needed the Holy Spirit to understand Scripture but when it came to interpreting it for us he relied on information he could not have garnered apart from biblical scholarship / study of 1st century culture.

      All I want to submit is that there is no such thing as a “plain reading of the text.” Stated another way: there is no “opinion-less” reading of the Bible. Our readings are always impacted by our cultural and social position, thus full of opinion – including Watson’s. I appreciated Robert Myer’s comment in this regard.

      Regarding different conclusions and core matters: how can the church planter know core matters from peripheral ones without a hermeneutic? Certainly the Spirit informs the hermeneutic, but not solely through the reading of Scripture; also through the development of theology / orthodoxy through the centuries.

      At another point you say the CPM approach is to present the gospel in as “culturally neutral” a way as possible. Again – I just don’t think this is possible – or even preferred. The gospel has never come to us a culturally neutral form (e.g., Jesus as a Jew in Palestine) and never will. The key is translating the gospel from the cultural framework of Scripture to the appropriate host culture – and not, as you say, from the missionary’s home culture to the new host culture. Appropriate obedience to God flows out of such translation, and such translation requires a certain amount of savvy and knowledge.

      Regarding teaching: I agree that there is always a danger that people can rely on a teacher rather than God for their spiritual wellbeing. I think this probably happens in at least a few personality-driven megachurches in the US. I’ve written about that elsewhere on this blog (search for teaching). We in the Storyline Community actually downplay teaching in our house churches and emphasize conversation about Scripture for that reason.

      But I also wonder if it’s an overreaction to take teaching to the other end of the spectrum (where it doesn’t exist). Can Hector and Roxy learn to depend on God with the help of a good teacher, by which I mean someone who can shed some insight on the Scripture from time to time? I think so. I don’t think help from a teacher and dependence on God are mutually exclusive. Paul assumes some level of dependence to say, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

      Regarding seminary: I think you’re right on. Sending new believers to seminary experiences of the highly-cognitive type probably does more harm than good, particularly in the obedience department. In fact, I’d like to revision a seminary experience one day that’s more obedience and spiritual formation oriented. The best learning happens on the fly anyway – which begs the question: how can we make appropriate information available to disciples at the appropriate time? Such a question assumes some role for teaching. Maybe we’re saying the same thing. Timing is critical.

      Thanks for being a dialogue partner in all this. You’re a good thinker, Phil.



        The call for a more spiritual formation-oriented thelogical education is absolutely on target. It is bizzare to think of training spiritual leaders who know very little, just as it is strange to think of spiritual leaders who do very little. Leadership requires both knowledge and action. (Didn’t James write something about faith and works?)

        There are vibrant discussions and changes taking places in most seminaries–seeking a more well-rounded approach.

        I hope the CPM dialogue can help inform those changes.

        John Kenneth King May 28, 2009 at 3:44 pm


        We need to differentiate between the practices we use with those who are not yet believers and with those who are. David was much more consistent in this regard than you give him credit. For example, you said, “Watson did rely on a more sophisticated reading of Scripture when it came down to it. I found that ironic more than anything, because his rhetoric did not seem to match his practice.”

        DW used lecture/teaching style with us some at Dallas because we are believers. But he wanted us to avoid doing this with not yet believers because such an approach demands a well-trained teacher for any learning to happen. The spread of the gospel is slowed down because of this teacher focused approach.

        The best I can tell, Epaphras planted the church in Colosse. He was from that city in the Roman province of Asia. He came to know Jesus through Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. At some point during the two years Paul taught in the school of Tyrranus, this man was trained to take the gospel to Colosse. He also took it to Hierapolis and Laodicea. The gospel spread so rapidly in this province that the silversmiths were afraid their employment was going to be wrecked by the influence of Paul and those he trained. Did Paul teach? Yes! Who? Those who were already disciples.

        Are we grappling with this man’s thoughts or arguing with his rhetoric?



        I’m taking issue with the fact that teaching is inappropriate for unbelievers and that it inherently slows reproduction.
        Is a traditional, lecture style, knowledge-based form of teaching a drag to reproduction? Certainly.
        But I think there is a way to teach that is more reproduction friendly, more focused on asking questions rather than giving answers, more easily replicated by people who do not have deep levels of knowledge, and more focused on spiritual formation and obedience.
        In fact, I’d argue that framing up texts and questions about such texts IS teaching (as I think Phil Mc. would agree). It’s the best kind of teaching. And whether or not Watson is up in front of a group when it happens, or anyone else – he is teaching by virtue of facilitating conversations about particular texts with particular questions and underlying assumptions.
        Concerning Epaphras – I get the impression from Colossians 1 that Paul taught him, and he taught the Colossians the gospel – when they were unbelievers, not after they became believers.
        Concerning arguing with Watson’s rhetoric – I’m only trying to point out inconsistencies I see in his approach. Granted, he’s teaching to us because we’re believers. But if the knowledge he brings to the text enables us as believers to obey more appropriately (e.g., concerning disciple making, baptism and obedience), why shouldn’t that be shared with unbelievers so that they can obey appropriately, too? Can unbelievers obey appropriately if they don’t have an appropriate understanding of the text?


        “Regarding different conclusions and core matters: how can the church planter know core matters from peripheral ones without a hermeneutic?”

        Seriously? I’ll speak at the most basic level here. But do we need a hermeneutic to distinguish between washing feet (peripheral) and the exclusive claims of Jesus as the propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of one who believes (core)? How about a hermeneutic that is, at least plainly, a basic understanding of the Gospel.

        For some reason, I doubt at the End of Days Jesus will say — “Hmm… you washed your buddy’s feet and fed some poor folk; but denied me and what I came to do by my Father? OK, here is your room.”

        I don’t care what culture you are in; there are core principles – and they don’t even need to be contextualized.

        All men are born in Adam.
        All men are dead in sin; incapable of life.
        All men are saved and are given life by being born-again by the power of the Spirit in the Blood of the Second Adam.

        This is true for all races, cultures, nations, tribes, and peoples in every single time-period of man. At the basic and most “core-saving” level – there seems to be a plain and eternally unchanging hermeneutic.

        Grace be with you –



        To your question: “Seriously?”

        I’d say YES, ABSOLUTELY, we need a hermeneutic whether we are reading for core or peripheral matters. We need a hermeneutic to determine the difference between core and peripheral. Our need for such a hermeneutic is most clear at the fuzzy boundaries between core and peripheral. People have read the Bible and come to different conclusions than us about what is core and what is peripheral (even about what is really core, e.g., Gnostics, Muslims, Jews).

        Your comments and assumptions about what is core reflect a particular hermeneutic – heavily influenced by Paul and Luther.

        I think the metanarrative of Scripture that Scripture itself presents in many different micro-narratives provides an overarching framework for reading Scripture and a beginning place for a hermeneutic. Yet even that is quite a culturally located way of reading Scripture and is strongly influenced by narrative and postliberal hermeneutics.

        I’ll post more about this in the next post.



    Thanks for the review. I just ordered the book and want to learn more.

    Thanks for all you guys do!


    John Kenneth King May 22, 2009 at 2:43 pm


    It was good to share four days with you last week. I appreciate you putting your thoughts about the CPM training in writing and asking for feedback. You clearly received some things that will help you. I commend you for your five action items.

    I am confident that you have reacted to some of David’s statements incorrectly. This is understandable since you do not know him personally and you have never spent time with people who came to the Lord through his ministry. Yes, the numbers are shocking, but they change when you see faces more than digits. I have spent time with some who were reached in India and Africa through the practice of these biblical principles. I have dialogued with trainers and church planters who have been amazed that their own work has been so much more fruitful than they could have imagined.

    Speaking autobiographically, I spent too many years complicating the gospel of the kingdom. I relished in my education and prided myself for what I knew more than what I obeyed from the Word. I had a truncated set of commands of Jesus that I expected others to obey, but I did not really hold believers to the Sermon on the Mount, for example. I was haughty in my understanding of Scripture. The simple reading of Scripture to ascertain “What does this teach me about God?” and “How will my life be different when I obey this passage?” humbled me.

    When one investigates the history of the Stone-Campbell movement there appears a tension between educated leaders and “everyday students of the Word.” In those early decades, farmers and store owners were expected to dig into the Word, whether or not there was a trained expositor in their midst. We’ve come a long way!

    You question the CPM approach to Scripture and view of teaching. I suggest you do a nuanced reading of Matthew’s gospel with an eye toward “teaching.” Pay attention to what is said about “teachers.” Consider what Jesus says and does with regard to teaching as he calls the 12, trains them and involves them in his ministry. David Watson’s use of the Great Commission in Matthew should be investigated in the context of Matthew. A four-day seminar on CPM does not lend itself to such a narrative-critical reading of one gospel, but I can assure you there are some intriguing insights. Without giving too much away, Matthew 28:19-20 is the very first time the disciples are included as teachers in Jesus’ teaching ministry. What does that mean for us? Have we taken our cues from Jesus?

    Years ago as I started sharing these principles with a young professionals group I had an intriguing conversation with a young man. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “John, do you realize that if people start practicing this stuff you won’t have a job any more?”

    I replied, “David, if that happens, I am fine with it. But I really believe my ministry will shift. Instead of hand-feeding one congregation the Word I will start training church planters. Then I will train trainers. There will always be ministry to be done.”

    I guess the fundamental question we have to grapple with out of this training—on the subject of “teaching”—is, “Will people remember the answers you give them from the Bible better than the ones they discover for themselves?” If our answer is the later, then we are being challenged to assist them to shift into that discovery mode as soon as possible. I know David Watson well enough to assure you that if you or I find a better way of helping people do that here in North America, then he will celebrate that breakthrough and send people to us so they can become more fruitful, also.

    Let’s keep digging. I pray God will use us to build one another up in love!

    Your brother,
    John King preacher@stonesriver.org


      Thanks for visiting the blog and joining the dialogue, John.

      You make many good points. I’m actually reading Matthew right now, so in one of my trips through it I’ll take you up on observing the book’s perspective on teaching.

      You mention the tension in the early Stone-Campbell movement concerning education and everyday students. I think it’s probably fair to say there will always be tension between the too. It’s an indestructible polarity. On one hand we want to fight all education and no everyday students because it leads unhealthy dependence on individual teachers and lack of obedience. On the other hand I also want to resist no education and all everyday students because appropriate obedience depends on appropriate education. Lack of appropriate education leads to lack of appropriate obedience. In other words, there is balance to seek between the two. No doubt North American Christianity has erred on the side of education, and that this is what Watson is reacting to. But I don’t want the pendulum to swing past center in the other direction either.

      We seek this balance in the Storyline Community by gathering our house churches together for a large worship gathering where a teaching component is present. People are encouraged to interact with it and learn how to obey it in various ways. Every other week house churches meet around the Scriptures with no “teacher” and learn to listen to the Scriptures together. We also seek it in formation groups, gender specific groups of 2-3 people who share accountability, pray together, read 25-30 chapters of Scripture together a week, and seek to hear how God is calling them deeper into spiritual formation. There is no “teacher” or leader in these groups either.

      Regarding losing your job – I say right on. We’re already anticipating in the Storyline community how we’re going to lose our jobs (i.e., ministry jobs). I love your vision for training church planters and trainers rather than hand-feeding people the Word. None of my comments are meant to counter this philosophy. I buy into it. I want to live it out.

      My understanding of teaching, however, is similar to the kind of teaching Watson described in reference to 1st century context – more dialogical, more conversational, more discovery-oriented. In fact, recent trends in preaching toward inductive movement are bent toward discovery and ownership by individuals. In other words, the best teaching is discovery-oriented.

      To your question: Will people remember the answers you give them from the Bible better than the ones they discover for themselves? I think a good teacher merely gives people necessary tools for seeking the answers themselves – which implies I think there are necessary tools (e.g., hermeneutical ones) that enable appropriate obedience. Perhaps it’s akin to the trainer role you’re talking about.

        John Kenneth King May 28, 2009 at 3:29 pm


        Thanks for hosting, encouraging and participating in this dialogue. I can appreciate what you have written in response to my discussion above.

        Your views and those of David Watson are more alike than dissimilar. I think there are times when he states things in absolute terms to force a hearing—having been in additional levels of his training and in many personal dialogues with him. He does use terms with a specificity that belies his early training as an engineer and sometimes that “hits us perpendicular.”

        The one qualifier for the level 1 CPM training, is everything David talks about envisions working with people who have no church background. The more they have been exposed to traditional Western Christianity, the more de-constructing you have to do. This is where David referred to the idea, “What I am talking about is starting churches, not church development.”

        Few church starts in North America target the kind of people DW envisions. Such people exist in North America, but we have trouble seeing them because they do not look like us (racially, linguistically, socio-economically, etc.). These are definitely among the ones he speaks of when he says, “They don’t want your religion!”

        We rub elbows with more people who look like us, but don’t want our religion either. These have had a bad church experience and don’t want any more. Those experiences will make reaching them hard because we have to undo the damage, raise the bar on obedience and keep them from being too self-absorbed. We probably need to ask ourselves, “What parts of America is post-Christian?” Then we need to ask ourselves whether or not there are “persons of peace” among such people. If not, then maybe we need to place a higher priority on going to other segments of our nation searching for those who are open. Maybe we expect our work to take so long because of the obstacles we know exist in our target audience. David Watson certainly believes there are other people who have never heard the gospel who will be more open to it. Should more of us go to them?

        Absolutely everyone God calls to post-Christian America should respond in obedience. But without such a call we should probably reconsider who we envision.

        Your brother,
        John King


        I’m convinced there are people of peace in our secular, post-Christian context; they’re just not as readily connected to viable social units in the way they might be in India. Do we leave them behind because they are not gateways to larger social units? See the conversation with Phil below.



    Thanks for this. Very insightful.

    John H. Williams May 22, 2009 at 11:45 pm

    Could you give some examples of the “peace statements” Watson uses to find people of peace?

    Do you know of a site that might contain a list of these peace statements?

    Thanks for an interesting report.

      John Kenneth King May 26, 2009 at 2:29 pm


      These statements will need to be culturally appropriate. Where the culture would have a greeting such as, “What a beautiful day!” it would be shifted to say, “God has blessed us with a beautiful day!” The point is to give God glory for gracious gifts and see who is interested in knowing more about God.

      The other approach David Watson uses is to make the staement, “I learned something new from God yesterday.” This affirmation is offered and only followed up when someone responds, “What did you learn from God?” At this point you have been given permission to tell the person a new insight you gained from your study. This will require daily study with the goal of learning something about God that might resonnate with another person.

      John King


    I really agree with your perspective on CPM’s methods based on my understanding of it. I’ve heard a lot of people buy into it hook, line, and sinker and it’s made me skeptical about the whole thing. I think there are some great things there, just not perfect things.

    I think Inductive Bible Studies would be a great idea for Christians, but the idea of using them for conversion really confuses me. My entire motivation for obeying God in any sense is the fact that He loves me and forgives me through Jesus and His resurrection. If I don’t understand or believe that Gospel, why start obeying Jesus’ commands? As Paul said, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” The power for morality is the resurrection, and a Gospel without it is legalism.

    Also I really agree with your perspective on their view of Church. I don’t think the common mega-Church model is healthy in any way, but not allowing others to join but forcing them to start a new one just seems to go against the spirit of the unity the Church represents.

    I’m always skeptical of methods that boast with numbers. The Kingdom is spontaneous for sure, but Jesus did what He could with 12 guys. I agree; the end goal is not rapid Church production. We must focus on quality, and in my own experience quantity will naturally fall in line. If a Church is full of mature, deeply spiritual people who love Jesus, they will have it in their DNA to evangelize, mature others, and start new Churches. Just because something has numbers doesn’t make it gold.

    My only other frustration (that may be misguided) that you didn’t mention is the lack of personal approach in ministry. Jesus invested in 12 men personally and meaningfully, and He taught them in many ways outside of designated times. Why didn’t He just open up the Old Testament and have them study it on their own, coming to their own conclusions? It seems to me that the Gospel message is transferred through the messenger as much as through the message itself. We cannot avoid it; people will inevitably bear the semblance of the person or group which converted them to Christ. Paul is constantly referring to his personal relationships with Christians in his letters, asking them to follow his personal example and lifestyle.

    Even with all that, I think this method is probably a good thing. But it’s just a method. It’s not the Bible. Some of the principles are absolute (prayer, making disciples instead of converts etc.) but thankfully God has given us much flexibility in how to practically fulfill His Great Commission. Thanks for the thoughtful yet respectful post.



      Great thoughts, Joshua. I particularly liked the one about how the gospel message is transferred through the messenger as much as through the message. “People will inevitably bear the semblance of the person or group which converted them to Christ.” Yes. I hadn’t thought of it from this angle, but you’re right. And you know what, that’s perfectly fine, so long as it doesn’t bind on converts burdensome / unnecessary rules or forms that they shouldn’t have to perpetuate.

      And you’re also right that the Discovery Bible Study, while a good method, is not “biblical”…in other words, Jesus did not, like you say, open up the OT and let people learn for themselves. He taught. Paul taught.

      Thanks for your contribution.


        I would summit that “rapid reproduction” is a part of the DNA. The very word “movement” in CPM implies “moving”. While numbers certainly don’t mean everything they do in fact give us some way to measure progress. Someone in the book of Acts had the presence of mind to “count” the thousands that were saved.

        For years my argument was the same that quality preceeds obedience and production and in fact will lead to those to things. However, I have found that in real life (at least for me in our context) when we focused on quality we ended up producing “passive” knowledge filled christians. Yes, they knew doctrine. They thought themselves mature. They knew theology. We thought them to be seasoned but they didn’t reproduce or if they did it was very minimal. They became hearers of the word and not doers. However, when we changed our focus from quality to obedience things changed dramatically. For some reason we, in the west, tend to think that more knowledge = maturity when in fact it doesn’t. We probally get that notion from the Greeks. Maturity comes with “doing” coupled with learning and taking responsibility. That notion comes from the Hebrews. Yes, knowledge is involved but that knowledge must be obeyed…some would called it application… however, obedience goes even a step further that “application”.

        For a “movement” to take place with “rapid reproduction” it must be intentional and planned that way. It must focus on obedience. It must be decentralized. It must empower people to participate. It must be more about discovery and obeying instead of teacher/student model. Quality implies control of input and and seems to imply we can mature people. We can’t “grow” anything. All growth comes from God.
        Nevertheless, we can use processes that facilitate faster growth and facilitate maturity. On the other hand we can uses processes that facilitate being a hearer of the Word and not a doer. Most pastors know that about 80% of the people in a local church are basically inactive in ministry except for attending church..giving of their resources…etc. Only about 20% are actively involved in “doing” the work of the kingdom and actually “living” the kingdom life.

        Numbers in a sense measure the results of the processes we employ. Time will measure the effectivness of those results.

        The church must employ a multiplication strategy if we ever hope to see the Great Commission accomplished. We have had hundreds of years using incremental growth strategies that have “added” to the church but have not put the church on a course to accomplishing the Great Commission.

        We have basically used growth by subtraction or division. Those two types of growth add no positive value to the kingdom of God. The bible does sanction growth by addition and growth by multiplication. However, while growth by addition is adding positive value to the kingdom, it is incremental growth and cannot possibly lead to the accomplishment of the Great Commission. 26 people are being born every second and 11 are dying every second. The world has a net gain of 15 people a second. The church is no where near growing fast enough to accomplish the Great Commission. Especially when 1 million people a year are leaving our institutional churches probally never to come back. Hence, we have a great dilemma. If we ever hope to reach the world we must employ different strategies. In short, we must employ strategies that give exponential growth and not incremental growth. Multiplication is the only process that can give that sort of growth.

        But to have multiplication entails decentralization and mobilizing everyone for the work. Participatory inductive type bible studies involve folks in kingdom life from the very begining even before they are ever converted. Of course, no one can live the life of a true christian without being first born again. However, there are minimal responses in obedience to scripture that people can begin doing even before being converted. Jesus called Peter to follow him and to learn to be a fisher of men. He didn’t require Peter to first say a sinners prayer and acknowledge that he was a sinner before he called him to obedience. As a matter of fact one is hard put to find in any of the gospels the exact point and time when Peter, James. and John were converted as we understand conversion today in the church. Jesus apparently employed the PROCESS of discipling TO conversion and then continuing the discipleship process after conversion.

        Why disciple to conversion? Because first steps are extremely important in establishing patterns. Imprinting gives an immediate conception of something very important. Perhaps we remember the story of the ducks who upon birth first saw a human and from that point on they followed this human as if he were their mother.

        In the discipleship process it is of utmost importance that people are “imprinted” with the need and responsibility to respond in obedience to the Word and not to just gain knowledge from the Word. Jesus once said “he that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them…….”. Discovery bible studies facilitate that process and imprint unbelievers with the need to “obey” and not just hear. When they do convert they will have already been responding in obedience to the Word and therefore further obedience comes natural or at least is a concept well established in their hearts and hence becomes a sort of “part” of the DNA of living a christian life.

        Examine how we typically lead someone to Christ in this day and age. Generally, we ask or invite them to church where they hear a monologue sermon perhaps on salvation. Then some stirring music is played and we give an invitation. If they respond and come forward we lead them in a sinners prayer. Then they are (some times) carted off to a room for an orientation to the new life and perhaps enrolled in some sort of class or given some resource material to study. They are encouraged to come to church on a regular basis. Soon they are encouraged to be faithful in giving. So week after week they come to church and they give and they learn passively (monologue). If we are fortunate and they are a motivated person they just might get involved in some of the programs of the church and we then consider them a real faithful christian. Of course they do the same and try and get others to come to church and repeat the process.

        Contrast that with CPM. We take 5 to 6 months to lead a person to Christ. In a sense one could argue this is “quality” however, it is really more about the transference of knowledge and the OBEDIENCE to God and His Wod that said knowledge demands. So they are learning about salvation and learning “how” to obey. But lets go a step further. We immediatley moblize them to lead others to Christ BEFORE they are themselves ever converted. Of course, we don’t tell them that is what they are doing but as they start new inductive discovery bible studies with their friends and family, in all practicality, that is exactly what they are doing. In human terms it is a clear case of the blind leading the blind. What happens when two blind men fall in a ditch????? CPM principles calls for all participants to respond in some way to obeying the Word of God. While it may seem like the blind leading the blind it really isn’t because our trust is in the Word of God and in the Holy Spirit to reveal to each person what they need to hear. CPM requires a complete rest and confidence in the Holy Spirit to do His job of convicting people of their sin and their disobedience towards God.

        This is all counter intuitive. In CPM we go slow to go fast. But since no one “teaches” the Word anyone, absolutley ANYONE, can learn to facilitate a discovery bible study. If they want to facilitate a study we will find a way to help them do so or invent a way.

        I am quite sure this has brought up questions of works vs grace. The natural man not understanding spiritual things…etc .

        Consider Mrk chapter 4. The ONE central point of that parable (and by the way according to Jesus this understanding this parable is central to understanding any of the other parables that dela with the kingdom of God. In short if we don’t understand this parable we can’t possibly understand how the kingdom grows or advances) is that ONLY GOOD SEED SOWN IN GOOD SOIL BRINGS FORTH FRUIT.

        Some observations:

        The sower ISNT that important to the process. What is important is the SEED sown and the SOIL it is sown in!

        GOOD soil must be found

        GOOD seed must be used

        Good soil is in the FIELD not the church but we want to haul the good soil to the church where we proceed to plant the seed in it

        The SEED carries the DNA to reproduce. We can’t reproduce.

        The levels of reproduction are three and all three are incredible levels 3000%, 6000% and 10,000% In most of our churches we are happy to get 10%. We settle for mediocre levels of reproduction. God never intended his kingdom to be this way.

        Good seed sown on bad soil WILL NOT REPRODUCE

        GOOD SEED sown in bad soil takes effort and resources but is a total waste of time

        GOOD seed sown in GOOD soil ALWAYS reproduces

        BAD or seed sown in good soil WILL NOT produce. Too often we sow everything but the Word of God…our doctine…our believes…etc.

        WHATEVER we plant is what will will harvest!

        Our part in the process is to find GOOD soil, PLANT the seed and HARVEST the crop.

        Gods part is to PREPARE the soil ( to a smaller degree we are also involved in this process) CAUSE the seed to germinate and grow.

        One seed that germinates and sprouts MULTIPLIES INTO multiple seeds that can be multiplied into multiple seeds that can further be multiplied into even more seed that can……….well we get the picture. What we are talking about is exponential growth not growth by addition and certainly not growth by substraction (i.e. taking members form another church) or growth by division (i.e dividing a church).

        Just some food for thought



    Excellent summary and critique. You have articulated well the most significant strengths and problems of Watson’s CPM about which our mission team has been dialoguing.

    I would add a couple minor points that were of value in my own thinking – one is positive, one is critique:

    Groups have DNA and it is important that prayer, praise, and openness to Scripture be part of the DNA of a study group even before they become a disciple of Christ. In Watson’s groups, each person shares what he/she is thankful for and his/her needs. This lays a foundation for prayer – thankfulness/praise and supplication – even without praying. Great idea!

    I am willing to admit that we may not fully understand Watson in your other points of critique, but your assessment of his view of Scripture is dead on. This was embedded into all his discussion. I would add that culture is not only inextricable from Scripture itself and our reading of Scripture, but cultural lenses are also important. God uses culture for good. We need different cultural readings of Scripture to be in conversation with one another, not intentionally ignorant of one another. For example, I have studied Luke 12:13-21 and 18:18-30 with both the affluent and the poor in our own country and with the poor in rural West Africa. In each context we took a quite different meaning from these texts. For the church to mature, I believe we need to share these different ideas with each other. There are multiple levels of meaning (that require multiple levels of obedience) in the biblical text, and I do not believe one culture can exhaust them all.

    There is a great discussion going on here. Thanks to Charles for getting it started!


    Sorry, friends, for the delay in posting your comments. I’ve been on vacation for the holiday weekend.

    I’m looking forward to processing your comments and responding soon.




    I appreciate your thoughts about the “church” issue. To say that the church is the embodiment of the gospel is not to imply that it embodies the gospel only in its worship gatherings…not that you were assuming that either. In fact, I wonder how much embodiment actually takes place in traditional worship services where there is no relational interaction – which is, to me, the primary vehicle of embodiment.

    To your question: I think you’re probably right concerning how an inclusive posture is influenced by postmodern culture. Perhaps not “unduly” though. Perhaps appropriately and incarnationally. And perhaps “appropriate and incarnational” would look less “inclusive” in other contexts – like yours. Catechesis in the 2-3rd century comes to mind where the church was closed to unbelievers until they went through a rigorous learning of the faith – perhaps because of fear of persecution? That seems like an appropriate response. Now that I think of it, Watson’s Discovery Bible Study is somewhat like a catechesis.


    Well done, Charles. You’ve got a good conversation going. I find it interesting how many times we (who were at the workshop) write something like, “David Watson says. . . .” He really has our attention. His personality is a major component of the workshop.

    One statement of Watson’s I wonder about: “The single greatest barrier to church planting is culture.” This neutral, antiseptic (my words) approach to evangelism and discipleship is possibly necessary for a rapid multiplication movement.

    To declare all churches to be clubs that have not started another church (When? How often?) is a strong statement. To say the (only) definition for a disciple is one who makes other disciples sounds harsh and impossible to measure. Am I just being defensive? Is my disobedience embarrassing me, so I ‘fight back’?

    I like the passion his friends show in defending, interpreting and explaining him. They help me.


    If there is a well-developed process of spiritual formation or making disciples, coming to Christian maturity should not be considered a slow process. It might be a slow process if we our spiritual formation process is haphasard and ill-defined. We have tried to teach that in the Mission Alive Strategy Lab. I think that Watson brings higher intentionality to this process: Our role is apostolic, equipping. walking alongside of, empowering, and expecting others to lead. The Discovery Bible Study models self-learning.


    corey mullins May 28, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Sorry to come into this conversation so late, but I was just made aware of this blog. Excellent points everyone. I really appreciate the dialog.

    I also, like many other participants in these workshops, see some significant shortcomings in David’s presentations. Before I say what those are, let me just say that I am very thankful for David’s dedication to the gospel and his willingness to teach others. He has made many good points which I am trying to apply to my life and my ministry (a greater focus on obedience being one of them). I have attended one of David Watson’s workshops as well as watched a couple online. I think the highlight of the workshop for me was participating in the Inductive Bible Study and the Discovery Bible Study. I think the IBS is a great tool for meditating on scripture and putting what you learn into action. What I like about the DBS is the process of instilling prayer, service, and evangelism in a group before they even become Christians. What I really like about both studies is that they are very simple and easy to teach to others. However…

    One major problem that I see is in the assertion that you can remove the bias and cultural baggage of the teacher by removing “teaching” and replacing it with scripture. This is demonstrably false on multiple levels. Several people have pointed out that even if you remove all “teaching” and simply give people scriptures to read, you are still teaching through your scripture selections, and those selections are as culturally influenced as any other type of teaching. I don’t mean to belabor the issue by bringing it up again, but this is an incredibly significant point. Scripture selection impacts virtually everything. Has anyone noticed as they worked through the scriptures at the CPM workshops that David’s concept of the Mission of God is thoroughly evangelical? Is that just a coincidence? Why do people walk away from the workshops saying, “Man! I have been wasting my time with so many ineffective methods when I should have been focused on fulfilling the Great Commission in Matthew 28 by following the evangelistic pattern of Luke 10.”? Why don’t they walk away from the workshops saying, “Man! I have been wasting so much of my time with materialistic goals when I should have been focusing on the pure religion that James speaks of by feeding the hungry and visiting those who are sick and in prison, like Jesus teaches in Matthew 25.”? The answer: the personal/cultural bias of the one selecting the scriptures. The claim that you can remove bias by a focus on scripture is also proven false by history. If I remember correctly from my church history classes “Sola Scriptura” was the rallying cry of the Reformation. How many divisions are there in Protestantism these days? I think I’ve read that it’s around 3,000. (Or on a more personal note, how many different types of Churches of Christ are there?) Many of those divisions (the majority?) are not over ecclesiastical traditions they are over the proper interpretation of scripture – what sections we emphasize, which ones we take literally or figuratively, which ones are cultural or universal, etc. So is this teaching approach really the missional panacea it’s presented as? I mean really?

    The other major issue I have with David’s presentation is that he glosses over fundamental societal differences that can have a major impact on one’s approach to missions (e.g. group societies vs. individualistic societies; post-Christian vs. pre-Christian, etc.). There is no real sense in his lectures that such differences are major issues…but they are…and I don’t work in India. I work in a very secular postmodern society that sees Christianity, at best, an expression of Western culture, and, at worst, as an outdated relic of the past. We have just begun our work here, but I can already tell you that much of what he says does not ring true in this culture. People are supposed to be obedient to scripture before we teach them anything? That might be a bit of a problem since the response we’re most likely to get is “There are thousands of different “scriptures” out there. Why should I listen to your scriptures?” What am I going to say? “Just read 1 Peter.” I don’t think so. My point is that to have a four day conference on church planting and barely bring up the issue of differing cultural contexts seems to me a major oversight.


      Two excellent points, Corey. You’re exactly right – selecting the texts is a form of teaching and even implicit interpretation of what the gospel is. I found it interesting that in the list of texts Watson uses in the DBS, there is a glaring absence of selections from the prophetic texts, with the exception of Isa. 53, a messianic text used to point to Jesus. Biblical justice as part of God’s mission – caring for the poor and liberating the oppressed – might be neglected in such selections.
      And thank you for putting to words some of my subconscious difficulties with DBS for a secular, postmodern culture. I’m in the very same context. You’re exactly right. We will need to flex and adapt our methods to connect in such a context.
      Please share what you are finding in this regard for your context. I’d love to follow your blog or website if you’ve got one.



    I have three questions to help you resource us: Where can we accesss some material (1) about employing Jesus’ model of peope of peace from Luke 10, (2) the passages used by David Watson using Discovery Bible Studies with these people of peace, and (3) the model for giving, empowering and leaving?

    I am working on an upcoming Strategy Lab and I think these material will be beneficial.

    Finally, is there a place for biblical narrative in CPM? If disciples do not learn the story of God’s work from creation to Christ to consumation, they cannot fully understand the texts employed.


      John Kenneth King May 28, 2009 at 4:12 pm


      You can access all the curriculae an international team has developed at:


      There you will be able to download four distinct studies:

      Discovering God
      Discovering Church Planting (pg. 31 goes into detail on Person of Peace)
      Discovering Obedience
      Discovering Leadership (drawn from Matthew’s telling of how Jesus develped leadership in the 12 he called)

      At this site you can also download two booklets:

      Essential of CPM (see article “Finding the Man of Peace”)

      It was my joy to be a part of that international team. I worked especially on the Discovering Leadership material. While we raise what we believe the passage says, we provide questions that can be helpful in these people to discover the answers from the text.


      P.S., You will find hundreds of texts raised through these studies. DW focuses on a few selective texts during the training so we don’t get lost in the lists and are actually digging into passages, which is what the DBSs model.

      John Kenneth King May 28, 2009 at 4:23 pm


      Here is a link that will take you to David Watson’s blog articles on Transition Points.


      The one you ask Phil about deals with the Person of Peace.




      Good questions. It’s interesting you bring up the need for exposing people to the biblical narrative from creation to Christ to consumation. That is our default setting when studying God’s Word with people for the first time. If we dont’ start there, we find ways to segway there because it’s that important. It’s also David’s approach as you’ll see.

      We don’t assume that just because people in the U.S. went to a church in the past, or have heard that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, or even if they have bee baptized at some point in their life, that they understand what God is like, why Christ had to die for them, or what it means to be a follower of Jesus, etc. That MAYBE was true at one time for the U.S., but it’s not anymore!

      You raise good questions. I’ll take a stab. I would ask you and the CityTeam guys as well. I’m interested how each of us will respond differently, so we can share resources and grow.


      A lot has already been written about the biblical example of finding a person of peace (Luke 10, Matthew 9, Matthew 10). For articles and books, you may want to check out the CMA Resources website (founder Neil Cole) and the House2House website (founders Tony and Felicity Dale). I’ve read some of the stuff they promote.

      Many churched people with a big heart for missions, and a desire for down-to-earth writing, have connected with Neil Cole’s book, Organic Church. I like this book (to discount it because he overstates some of his points). Yet I appreciate Cole how takes it even deeper in his Greenhouse seminar on Organic Leadership. There he deals more adequately with how one transfers from finding the person or family of peace to indigenously-led churches.

      Cole, Dale, and others will tell you they are predated and influenced by the thinking of Roland Allen, author of The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church and the Causes that Hinder It (1927) and Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? – two books which I’ve yet to read but “feel like I already have” because of how often they are quoted. Evidently, Allen saw the wisdom in applying “Luke 10”-ish principles in his efforts to emulate the Apostle Paul’s approach to missions, which was modeled after Christ’s.

      If looking for something specific David Watson has written, then I would refer readers to his blog. He has written several brief, well-worth-the-read articles on the transition points in the “CPM Cycle”: Accessing a People Group, City, or Nation as an outsider-missionary –> Finding (or being found by) the Person of Peace –> From Person of Peace to Existing Social Unit –> From Existing Social Unit to Church –> It’s Time to Say Goodbye (outside leaders’ relational influence continues/morphs while their physical presence discontinues). Here are the links to those articles in order:

      Understanding Transition Points:




      Finding the Person of Peace:


      From Person of Peace to Small Group:


      From Small Group to Church:


      It’s Time to Say Goodbye:



      For the scriptures used by David Watson, I would refer you to his blog on the tab entitled “Downloads”.

      (These are free downloads but you have to register with his blog to access them.)

      If you don’t find all you are looking for there, email me. I can email you what I have from him.

      The CityTeam guys typically start with a series on Discovering God (core biblical stories from Creation through Christ), followed by a series on Discovering Obedience-based Discipleship. The idea behind introducing God’s one before the other is that people first need to know what this God is like that they would even want to obey him.

      The Discovering God series walks people through the biblical narrative from Creation through Christ.

      Note: I’ve seen several versions of this list of scriptures that tells the biblical narrative from Creation to Christ to Consummation. The shortest list I’ve seen is five bible stories for rushed situations. The longest I’ve seen is 100 chronological bible stories. If I recall correctly the Discovering God series resource on David’s blog has 26 scriptures. This # of scriptures is not meant to be a magic formula. The point is to expose people to the biblical narrative so they can discover God.

      Use what you think fits the needs of the group you are working with. For me, it’s nice to have a well-thought out list of scriptures that I know I can default to, but then inevitably I will customize it (by adding or replacing passages) to deal with a particular group’s questions or sticking points in their journey.

      I’ve heard someone suggest another way: Select passages that tell the story of the 1st Exodus (God delivers Israel from slavery in the land of Egypt via his servant Moses) and the 2nd Exodus (God delivers all humankind from slavery to sin and death via his son Jesus, “the second Moses”). In this series, hone in on passages that show both what God delivers people FROM and what he delivers people TO. If someone would like to create such a list of scriptures, I would be very interested to see it!

      As you “inside leaders” emerge, Watson also has a series of scripture on Discovering Leadership (leading like Jesus).

      As a group of new believers becomes a church they will need to learn how to be church. For this, I have three sets of scriptures David’s colleague Joe Hernandez provided me on helping new groups of believers to discover the nature, functions and structure of church. I’ve made my own revisions to it.

      The CityTeam guys are always intentional about calling these lists “drafts” or works in progress.

      Hopefully this will be helpful.


      I think we see Jesus modeling, equipping, watching and leaving in his 3-year training of the disciples. The MEWL (“Model –> Equip –> Watch –> Leave”) approach also seems to be reflected in Paul’s work, especially in his latter missionary journeys. To expore this, I recommend reading Acts and looking for ways that Paul adapted or changed his approach. After that, I recommend reading and discussing the article, “Leadership That Lasts: Journeys to Significance: An Examination of Paul’s Improving Missionary Advancement” by Neil Cole. You can read it here: http://www.cmaresources.org/node/202.

      Cole’s take is that the Apostle Paul grew in his capacity to raise leaders from the harvest for the harvest, but that this understanding and skill developed over time and through learning from his mistakes. In other words, how he began is not how he finished out. His approach to missions morphed as he applied lessons learned from each previous missionary journey. This is an interesting way to read the book of Acts. I think Neil is on to something. If you read this article by Cole, or have already read it, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I would also be interested in hearing you draw from your experiences in Kenya.

      If looking for a modern day example of MEWL in practice in North America, my understanding is that Neil Cole’s organic church movement is getting close.

      As for global examples, well, I would be very interested in actually visiting one of the CPMs David has told us about. Or one of the many works David Garrison has written about in his book Church Planting Movements. If anyone is in a position to visit indigenous leadership in a CPM, let me know. I would love to learn from what you go see in person!


      As for your question about the larger biblical narrative in CPM, I touched on this a little above. The first thing we’ve been trying to do with people when they show an interest in God’s Word is expose them to the larger story of God by beginning at the beginning, and taking them through core stories of the Bible that help explain what God is like, the consequences of sin and why Christ had to come, the significance of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, God’s grace and redemption, what the life of the redeemed is like now and in the hereafter. By doing this Creation Through Christ approach, they have opportunity to learn the larger story of God and where they fit into it. They also have been practicing retelling each chunk of the story in their own words each week so the story becomes “theirs.” As well as sharing and applying it to their lives. I think this is a worthwhile investment upfront.

      Not everyone starts in Genesis. Sometimes they have pressing questions about angels and demons and witchcraft, for example, and we take time out to see what scripture has to say about those issues. But inevitably we find bridge points back to the Creation Through Christ series, because many questions are best answered in the context of the larger story.

      I’ve did this once with the gospel of Matthew. A couple who had grown up hearing scripture read to them in Catholic church really wanted to start by reading the gospel of Matthew, so I did this with them. Along the way, though, they started forming questions that are best dealt with by reading the Creation narrative and other OT stories, so we paused the Matthew study to get some background for what they were learning in Matthew. Later, when they had completed the Creation through Christ series, they read through all four Gospels and several books of the NT with ferver and, in my opinion, greater clarity about the Old-New Testament connections.

      Looking forward to your feedback on any or all of this.

      Also, please contribute what other resources you have to offer to the discussion.




    Way to open a can, Charles. 🙂

    corey mullins May 28, 2009 at 4:21 pm


    My wife and I “share” a blog at http://www.mullinsmission.blogspot.com

    I haven’t been to good about updating it this past month, but I plan to provide a few thoughts sometime soon.

    Glad to have discovered your blog. Thanks for this thought provoking conversation.


      I’m friends with your teammates, the Whaleys and the Griffiths. We were at HUGSR together at the same time. Excited about your work with God in Australia.


    More thoughts on Person of Peace…

    I would argue that when doing missions in your own country, even among some other cultures, there will be times when we don’t need a person of peace. David acknowledges this. The end goal is not to find a person of peace. The emphasis is on accessing existing social units and infusing them with the Gospel so that they can become churches in their own contexts. Very different from extraction evangelism that pulls individuals away from their existing social units to form a new social unit (church) on our turf. If we already have relational credibility and don’t need a person of peace to “get in the door” with an existing social unit, then we should move forward and share the Gospel with that group on our own!


      This is really good stuff. Follow up question: what if social units are so fragmented (e.g., in my single, young professional context) that there are no viable social units in which to infuse the gospel? Do you believe such a scenario exists, or am I just looking in the wrong places? Social groups here are so surface level and non-committal that it’s hard to envision have a significant opportunity to infuse the gospel to such a group, mainly because they have no significant reason to do it together. Is it ever appropriate to form a new social unit around the gospel when social units are lacking, as in my context?



        “Is it ever appropriate to form a new social unit around the gospel when social units are lacking?”

        This is a great question. This is a very difficult (not impossible) obstacle to overcome when applying this CPM approach in the West. Some segments of our socity have embraced individualism to the point of isolation and don’t even know how to be a community any more. How do missionaries find persons of peace and work with their existing communities when community is what the lost people lack?

        One thought: Perhaps we need to think in terms of smaller social units? Do the people you are wanting to reach share life and meaning in “micro-communities” (2 or 3 people)? Do these tiny social units ever grow or connect with other tiny social units, even if for brief periods of time or on special occasions/events? Or is there a way to help them do that? Probably a lame question, but just a thought.

        Another thought: Are they having meaningful connection with the online social networking community? Maybe for some that is their larger existing social unit?

        Another thought: If you were to start a new social unit around the gospel, here are some initial thoughts abut that:

        There is a difference between starting a new social unit of mostly unbelievers who are willing to meet each other and journey spiritually with each other because of you vs. inviting one or a few unbelievers to join an existing Christian group. In the former you are the minority, in the latter they are the minority. Given what we’re learning about CPM, I would lean toward the former.

        Is there a way you could still start it on the turf of one of the people you are trying to reach? For example, rather than doing everything in your home, do it in their home and in their hangouts? You could have everyone in the group take turns facilitating the group DBS process. These kinds of things help avoid dependency on you, the Outside Leader. Also, I would really seek to instill the DNA in this group. In the workshop we practiced doing a group DBS that begins and ends with questions like: “What are you thankful for this week?”, “Who do you know in the community that needs help right now?”, “What can this group do to help that person?” What may be the most difficult is getting an answer to the question, “Who else in your life needs to hear this?” If they are accustomed to living truly isolated lives, they are not going to be sharing what they are learning with anyone. But then again, you might be surprised!

        Another thought: I suspect that in some cases the church in the West will need to show people how to become persons of peace. Some folks have to be shown how to show hospitality. We can model how to make friends in a lonely megacity and show others how to maintain those friendships with depth and accountability.

        We’ve already seen this in our work in LA but with a different segment of society. You’re working with urban isolated single professionals. We work among urban poor immigrants, many of whom arrived to this country alone, isolated, ill-equipped for relating to the multitude of other cultures represented in large urban centers, and unsure how to make friendships here.

        In some cases we are the only friends they have for a time. If it stays that way then we have done something wrong. But if we show them how to be hospitable to others (as we have been toward them), if we show them how to meet and gather friends around them (as we have done with them), and if we show them how to have influence in the community (as we have done with them), then as they build new relationships and learn to adapt to life in the U.S., they can become persons/groups of peace. I wonder if something similar might need to happen among the single professionals you are meeting?


        As one of my coaches likes to say, “Have you asked the “natives” what they think about this?” Rephrase the question of course, but who among the single urban professionals in your area could you ask your questions about social units? To make it less threatening, I like to start by asking people to help me think through real situations I’m running into with OTHER individuals/groups, rather than ask them to comment about their own behavior which makes them more vulnerable than they want to be just yet. Inevitably, I learn insights into the persons doing the talking along the way, and this builds trust because they I am genuinely asking for their help. Who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself at pubs, clubs and coffee houses listening to urban professionals tell you how other urban professionals are finding friendship and a sense of community in the strangest places online and in the DFW metroplex. Just a thought.


        These are really good thoughts, Phil.

        I will be more intentional about asking the natives.

        I guess I’m still waffling on the idea about always keeping unbelievers together in DBS settings and apart from the church’s gatherings. Certainly I think there are times – if we find social units at large that are interested in exploring God’s story – that we keep them together. But in my context, I can’t see how it’s not also very helpful to invite isolated individuals into our existing church gatherings and activities (i.e., for us, house church gatherings, parties, justice initiatives, etc.) to be a part of the new social unit formed around the gospel. Many of them don’t care that they’re the minority – they are thirsty for community. I know that doesn’t start new churches any faster, but what is the alternative when there is no social unit in which to inject the gospel? I’m convinced, as I said in the post above, that our approach should be both / and rather than either / or. Inviting others into the community of faith also allows them to see the gospel embodied in mission and relationships, which I think is a pretty big deal.

        I’ve struggled in asking people I discerned to be people of peace – who were interested in exploring the story of God – to gather their friends to hear the same thing. They would rather talk about it one on one – perhaps because of the private nature associated with religion in our culture. Is there a transition point I’m missing in convincing such a person?

        About social networks: are these social units cohesive enough to have people of peace in them? Facebook or Myspace seems to surface level to me to have that kind of dynamic. Maybe I’m missing something. I know Paul Watson and Mike Cope are working on connecting to people through online social networks. I need to learn more about this.

        Thanks again Phil.


        The POP or MOP or WOP or whaever you want to call it/him/her/ is of course foundational for a PE (external church planter) to gain access into a community where no one personally knows him/her. However, we have found in that, at least, in Honduras, once access is gained multiplication takes place very rapidly along “oikos” lines. These lines many times are in the same village but probally even more so they tend to cross village lines. When the oikos concept is tactically employed it almost always gives immediate “sponsorship” to the gospel within a community. Jacob Loewen in his book Culture and Human Values discusses this concept. I recommend anyone involved in cross culture mission activity (especially church planting) to learn from people such as Loewen and employ them. These type of concepts can help a CPM strategically explode in growth and multiply almost faster than one can count.

        There is a whole generation of missionary statesmen that have left a rich legacy for us to learn from. I thank the Lord that they have left much in writing for us to learn from and apply in mission work today. It seems to me that it would behoove us to learn from such people. Gailyn Van Rheenen…Alan Tippet…Ralph Winter…Charles Kraft…William Smalley…etc. and many others have some excellent thought provoking articles and books.

        The MOP concept of course is foundational to any CPM strategy as taught by David Watson but it does seem to have especially greater importance when the initial church planter/facilitator is on the outside of the community and gaining access to the community. Once entrance is gained multiplication can accelerate thru oikos lines very quickly if allowed to.



    Here is a series of links on the transition points in the “CPM Cycle”. (This includes finding the person of peace and where to go from there.)

    #1 – Understanding Transition Points (intro to series):


    #2 – Accessing a People Group, Nation, City or Segment of a City to which you are an outsider


    #3 – Finding the Person of Peace


    #4 – From Person of Peace to Small Group (existing household or affinity group)


    #5 – From Small Group to Church


    #5 – It’s Time to Say Goodbye (missionary’s physical presence discontinues, but the mentoring relationship continues and morphs)


    Hope this is helpful.


    Sorry, lots of typos in previous comments.


    Charles and all,
    Thank you so much for the reflection on CPM and the great dialogue. It took me a while to read through it all, since I came into the conversation late. However, I enjoyed the read. Thanks for the thoughts.

    Of course, I am processing like many since this is my second seminar and have been exposed to CPM principles since David Garrision’s CPM Booklet first came out. I am excited that many are having this conversation, evaluating, processing and hopefully practicing bibilcal principles that have surfaced in our dialogue and study together. I personally don’t believe that one man, one group or one strategy has all of the answers. However, I beleive that being challenged to return to the authority of Scripture, getting people into the word of God, focusing on obedience based disciples (teaching them to observe all that Jesus taught and commanded) are at the core of who we are or who we ought to be as disciples, as missionaries and church planters.

    I have found many of the CPM principles restorational in their nature and helpful as I seek to apply the biblical principles I see in the CPM discussion. I personally think that I have spent too much time in the past looking for the magical strategy, arguing against certain strategies or people who teach certain approaches or defending particular people or strategy approaches. I want to spend more time applying, living out, failing and picking myself up and learning as I seek to apply biblical principles to join God in His work and mission.

    I appreciat the great discussion and the help you all have given me to process the principles as I seek to live out the mission of God together with you.


    Thank you, Jay, for your wisdom. Thank you, Charles, for incisively launching this blog. Thank you, David, for your words of wisdom, which made this blog possbile. Thank you, Phil and John, for clarifying and nuancing. This blog has been a great example of the words of the Psalmist, who wrote “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Ps. 27:17). We all now know more deeply and are practicing (obeying) more deeply.


    ok, so… are you looking to get to that 63 number and move on?
    interesting thoughts… the culture in india is definitely different.
    we’re in a conversation here that is asking… ‘what is the gospel we are presenting to kids’? is it consumeristic? is it get out of hell free card? is it a “God commodity”? and i’m asking to stretch the question to “what is the gospel to these families of teenagers?”
    what intreagued me about your blog was what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t have much to do with getting wet or religious affiliation or creeds. it’s about following the commands of Scripture… i like that.
    i’m in the middle of trying to detox the southern hills youth group from the big hype, events and big program to just obedience to God and community building… yes, i have grown too, my young padawan learner…



    Thank you for your responses to Charles’ blog, especially the one in response to my questions. I want you to know that I have worked through your material closely. Thanks, especially, for the tone of your posts. They were not argumentative or defensive but factual. Becky and I are currently on a cruise to Alaska . . . to celebrate our 40th anniversary. I hope to talk with you soon, perhaps next week, by phone.

    For the love of God and His kingdom,



    It seems that the things Mr. Kiser found uncomfortable about Mr. Watson’s process is a reflection of the differences always seen between ‘ministry gifts’, i.e. the apostle, or the teacher, or the pastor. These same subtle differences seem to conflict when peers function as a leadership team, but yileds in the end, a much better result. If we learn to embrace the differences, we come out stronger. I think Mr. Kiser is on the road to do this and I commend it.


    I was first trained by David Watson in September 2006. Then again in April 2007. We went to Honduras to start a CPM from scratch. We spent the rest of the year getting the base set up and training workers for CPM and doing our first attempts at it. Much of 2008 was spent learning “how” to adapt it to Honduras culture. David Watson and Paul Watson came in December of 08 to share some with our team and help us access where we needed to make changes. We began to implement the changes. But, we still struggled with the best format to use for the inductive discovery bible studies. We work in a semi- literate society and it was too tedious to do it written and also bottled-necked the fast reproduction process. I suppose people felt it was too complicated for them to be able to reproduce. In Jan 09 I had a conference call with Paul Watson and David Parish (our mission president) and after sharing with Paul the struggles we were having he suggested we treat the society as if it were an oral society. So, between Jan and March of 09 I taped the inductive studies and field tested them …redid them…changed them..etc until they were fine-tuned for the Honduran cultural setting. By March 09 we had about 30 home bible studies going. By June 25 “09” we had 73 with 3 generations deep. Soon we were over 100 …then over 200.. now as of November 9 we have 261 bible studies done in 261 different locations for a total of over 1000 monthly bible studies (since each place has a weekly study). It is growing almost daily. And I expect we will be in 1000 locations by Feb/Mar 2010.

    I know from experience that what David Watson and Paul Watson teaches will indeed work. It is just a matter of adapting the principles and putting them into practice. I too didn’t agree with what I heard in the David Watson conference in 2006 and argued almost daily with our mission president over how it wouldn’t work…etc. However, during the week something clicked (not sure what) and I found myself telling our mission president that I would be wiiling to go to Honduras and do a pilot project using these principles. He agreed and this is where we are at. I have done missionary work since 1981 and have never had in our previous ministry that kind of fast reproduction. I have been a church planter for years.

    I would suggest; assimilate the principles and discover how to best adapt them, and implement them, and then just do it! Don’t worry about all the things I worried about at first like theological soundness…doctrinal purity…control. It will all work out. God blesses simple obedience to His Word.

    Decentralize on the cutting edge. Let anyone and everyone who has the desire to start new bible studies. Train them and let them do it. We have actually incorporated all the training process of how to faciltate a bible and frontloaded it into the first 3 bible studies. So, any bible study group that gets started by the time they have done 3 bible studies each and every member can actually go out and start a new bible if they like on another day of the week, with another group of people. From study 1 we begin to have them participate in the facilitating of the studies.

    By the way, the reason David Watson isn’t keen on “teaching” the studies is because it WILL bottleneck production. The group will “see” you as the authority and as their bible teacher and then when you try to get them to go out and start new studies they will not feel capable of doing it. We never teach any study. It is always discovery. The facilitator only facilitates the process. The Word of God and the Holy Spirit are the teachers. We are simply particpants in the study. We even tell the people we are learning with them! They immediately take ownership of the study and see the bible as the authority. We never tell them how they must apply the Word. They decide how they need to apply it. We trust God to reveal this to them.

    May God bless,




    Thanks for the post! I remember you from the training in 2007, when I helped David with the 3-column section. I have kept up with what God has been doing through the team in Honduras. It is awesome to see what He is doing there.

    I know that recognizing the need to go strictly oral was fundamental to the success that is happening now. I praise God for your willingness to learn by doing. Too many of us wait until we have it all figured out and never get started. Most often the only way to figure it out is to start and rely on God to teach us along the way. He blesses our obedience to what we do understand by giving us insights into additional pieces of the process. If we never start we do not figure it out.

    Thanks brother,
    John King



    Thanks for your input. I too remember you from the second time I took the training. If I remembe correctly that was in April 2007.

    I too think it imperative one start BEFORE it is all figured out. As a matter of a fact there is no way it can be all figured out before starting. Some problems only present themselves “in live” so to speak. CPM requires a flexible mind, a willingness to work hard. a willingness to change on a dime when necessary. More than anything a willingness to learn..evaluate…and redeploy or apply tactically the concepts and resources as one learns “how” to adapt the principles for a specific culture/situation.

    The principles as taught by David Watson..Paul Watson..you.. and others such as Jerry Trousdale…Shodanke are sound and will work if one can focus on applying them and adapt “on the fly”.

    I just finished doing a CPM training conference Nov 21st in Honduras where 5 missions were represented. New studies have already been started since this conference and I suspect anywhere from 50 to 100 new studies will be started within 30 days. The missions represented ranged for Pentecostal to Christian Reform. The principles are already working. So, I suspect that the particular theological stances have little to do with the success or failure of it. However, we have learned that traditions can slow it down or stop it all together. And traditions are the hardest thing to change.

    Having the right principles in place..a strategy based on those principles…a complete dependence upon the Holy Spirit and the Word and a willingness to work coupled with simple obedience to scripture should help any group, denomination, or mission to be effectively involved in a church planting movement.

    Thanks for your efforts to expand the kingdom of God through spreading these principle and concepts.




    The news about these new studies launched by groups you have trained must give you great joy! The lessons you have learned give them the advantage of your experiences and prevent them from having to “re-invent the wheel.”

    I praise God for what He is doing in that nation. While the political situation has surely been painful for the people there, God is certainly fulfilling Romans 8:28. David Parish keeps me in the loop on some of the good things that are going on in your work. We just had a team of young people return from Honduras who were building houses there. It is exciting to anticipate the ways the kingdom will spread!



    Thank you for writting this overview of your opinions on this subject. I found it very helpful. Some of the people I have been working with are very interested in this model for church planting and I have been questioning some of the things they have been pushing for. For me one of the main concerns is the way unbelievers seem to be pushed away as I have seen in the past that many people in a similar cultural setting to the one I am now living in came to the church first because of the community and to see what the community was about before becoming believers.
    It is exciting that there is great growth particualily in Northern India but I think people also lose focus of the past when they look at current growth. I recal a seminar at a large missions conference a few years ago where the presenter was excitedly telling of how they were the first missionaries into an area and how the church had just exploded and grown rapidly. Sitting there was an old missionary with our mission who was greatly moved by this. Not because these people claimed to be the first missionaries and that the church had grown seemingly without much work but becasue this was the area he and his wife had worked in for their whole lives until they had to leave India. They had prayed for the area and strived without fruit. He was not upset at these people for not realizing just thankful that the seeds he had planted were ready for harvest and that someone was there to do it. As a friend of mine once stated “If you are succeeding without suffering, it is because others before you have suffered; if you are suffering without succeeding, it is that others after you may succeed.” — Shane Nabess
    We look at out lives and minsitries too often forgetting who has been their before perhaps they didn’t talk to these particular people but they were preparing the area with prayer and Grandparents and Parents teach theier children what they have learned even if they have not become believers but have simply seen principles they liked in the community of belivers near them. I really feel there is a danger in focusing so much on numbers and not on community and depth of growth in the believers.


    God knows who has worked where and what each has done. He will reward each according to his work. Nothing is lost. Even the giving of a cup of water is recorded. Our passion should not be who gets credit for this or who gets the credit for that but our passion must be for lost souls and expansion of the Kingdom of God. If we can stayed focused on this then we will want to employ whatever can best help us accomplish this. I still don’t completely understand CPM principles as taught by David Watson but I employ them simply because it results in faster kingdom growth and more sinners coming to know Christ than any other set of principles I have previousley employed in over 30 years of ministry as a missionary in several foreign countries. I am sure I have labored and reaped where others labored before me. I am also quite sure I have labored and have seen no harvest but someone else will come along and reap the harvest. Does it really matter? My job is to be obedient to the Word, love people, follow Christ and He will grow His church, however, and with whomever, He sees fit to do so. Nevertheless, none shall lose their reward. I really believe God is absolutely going to be completely and perfectly JUST about all this. Many times we have trudged in the rain..the mud..crossed swollen rivers…in danger of thieves and murderers to reach villages with the gospel. Going places others didn’t want to go. Only to have other denominations or missions come in afterwards and do everything they could to get the new church to join up with them. Some did. It used to really bother me. Nowdays I can say it doesn’t bother me anything like it did. I am just glad they are still serving God regardless of the name over the church building.

    Christ’s mission was and is to seek and save that which is lost. Is that my mission too? Is that your mission too? Should it not be every christians overriding mission and passion?


    Thanks so much for this loving and balanced appreciation of the work of David Watson. I’m still rather stuck in a traditional preacher centred attempt at growing and planting churches, and find Watsons approach amaising, Biblical and somewhat scary.


    Just a little update on the implementation of these principles taught by David Watson. Here we are a few years later and we have seen aprox 1561 discovery bible study groups started. Hundreds have become churches. This was from the last trimester report ending March 2015. We will soon get another trimester report near the end of June 2015 and already expect to see another …at least…another 250 new DBS’s started between March and June of this year. So, yes the principles seem to be working well but there one has to stsy focused and work hard. But the multiplication is in the DNA if one follows the principles well and works hard. To God be the glory!



    By end of june 2015 1978 DBS’s. That is an increase of 417 DBS’s during april may june 2015. Other data for same time period…New Attendees: 2264 ..New Believers: 1250 …New Baptisms: 1016. Our goal was 2000 by december 2015 but looks like we may end up with more. Maybe berween 2300 and 2500.

    You must set goals. They help keep one disciplined doing what they should be doing. Cpm is alot of work and requires intense focus. We do our part..and God will do His part. Only God can regenerate people. Only God can plant a church. But God has chosen humans to be the sowers. We have to do our part. We have to use correct strategies and employ elements of a tactical nature that facilitate cpm. Cpm generally doesn’t just happen. To be sure there are some exceptions (especially in early stages) but for it to continue requires hard work..discipline..and measuring…adaptation.


    Just another update. We count right around 4000 DBS groups and churches. As of august 2016. We believe we may see 5000 by the end of December 2016. By the end of 2017 we hope to see 10,000. It has been quite a journey. Alot of work. Alot of discipline. Focus. Mindfulness. But praise God thousands are being impacted. It doesn’t seem that long ago that is was 25 struggling DBS groups. Please don’t discount DMM (Disciple Making Movements) and CPM (Church Planting Movements) principles simply because you could not seem to get them to work in your first initial efforts. We failed many times the first two years. It is a process. Stick with it. Adapt. Pray. Attempt. Be disciplined. Work. Believe. Set goals. Focus on what you must do today and simply do it. The failures of the past have nothing to do with the present opportunity. Learn from them but focus on what you need to be doing today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. 21 Critical Elements of CPM | The Kiteline - December 7, 2011

    […] 21 Critical Element of CPM – a blog post from 2009 of someone who went to a simular training. […]

Leave a Reply to John Kenneth King Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s