Church Planting for Dummies: A Lesson in Missions from a Master Builder

David Watson (CPM)
Holy Cow! (to use a culturally-appropriate exclamation for our subject).  I am absolutely certain that practically NONE of you have ever heard of David Watson, missionary extraordinaire.

David who?

David Watson, of Church Planting Movements non-fame, the man who has planted (and whose influence has directly resulted in the “viral” planting of) more churches in the third world than entire denominations have in the history of modern missions.

“Mr. Watson, come here (to North America)… we need you!”

I had never heard of this man until a brief online discussion I had with Dr. Gary North in a forum this past weekend.  I asked a question regarding Gary’s Feb. 25th article, “Hidden in Plain Sight: the Non-Superclass”, and what author Philip Jenkins (a Roman Catholic) had to say in his book about “the next Christendom” that is currently taking shape outside of North America throughout the third world: Asia, Africa and South America.

Gary responded with a reference to the astronomically successful missionary/church-planting efforts of one David Watson: “When a rumpled guy like David Watson starts 80,000 churches on his own in India, and 200,000 worldwide as a trainer, with 60 members per church, the Catholic church cannot compete. No Western church can.”

He then referred to this article.

I was impressed. But more than a little concerned.

After all, this maniacal obsession with starting new churches at near-warp speed for the sake of merely populating the kingdom of God without a good doctrinal foundation (these things take time!) to bring the new converts along in their new-found faith, caused me to wonder aloud (to Gary), Is Watson’s work making a “positive contribution” to the cause of Christian Reconstruction?

The 21 Habits of Highly Effective Church Planters

His “21 Critical Elements” of CPMs surely seemed like just what the doctor ordered to get the Church Impotent out of the pews and onto the field with a winning game plan for reaching the lost in third world countries.

Here is how the author of the article referenced above summarized these 21 elements after attending a conference taught by Watson:

  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

Notice # 20: Redeeming the Culture.  I like that one!

But, then, those hard-won, ecclesio-centric, theologically-entrenched Calvinist-Reconstructionist ‘biases” kicked in and made me skeptical.

How can this be any good for rebuilding civilization according to a truly biblical model.  It’s WAY too successful!

Gary answered my question regarding Watson’s “contribution”: numbers.

I responded, “quantity vs. quality”.  Gary responded, Pareto.

Ah, yes.  The Immutable 80/20 Rule.

Watson’s approach to missions and church planting is ALL about the numbers.  Get the multitudes into the kingdom of God first.  Train them later.

Gary posted two articles today on this remarkable man and his remarkable “process” (not methodology): “The Unknown Christian Revolutionary Who Has Launched a Massive Recruiting System to Transform the Third World,” and, “Foreign Missions That Work.” (Sorry, members only!)  Here, he says to adopt the 80/20 rule: “target the 20% who will be the leaders in 10 years. Target 20% of them. Target 20% of them. Go after the top of the pyramid.”

Pareto and the spiritual pursuit of excellence.

Watson’s presentation begins at about the 13:00 mark on this video.  It is a captivating and compelling monologue.

Pay close attention to what he says about culture, evangelism and the Gospel.

“Mr. Watson, come here (to North America)… we need you!”