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!”

The Reconstruction of the Church

Reconstruction of the Church book cover

Looking for a good book on how to reform the church?  Here’s one to start with.  This is a 28-year old volume published (1985) by the old Geneva Ministries of Tyler, Texas, called The Reconstruction of the Church, part of a series called Christianity and Civilization. It was edited by James B. Jordan.

It is a symposium that was held on this topic, the fruits of which are this series of essays written by some of the leading figures in the early years of the Christian Reconstruction movement, dealing with the theme of the Church and its mission and role within the context of society and the modern culture.

The essays are provocative, illuminating, and really do represent the broad range of opinion that has always characterized the movement–no monolithic band of biblical ideologues, this bunch!

James B. Jordan, Peter J. Leithart, Gary North, Ray Sutton, David Chilton and George Grant all contributed along with other lesser known reconstructionists, Lewis Bulkeley, James Michael Peters, Marion Luther McFarland and Jim West.

If you’re familiar with the work of most of these men, you know what gifted writers, teachers and thinkers they are.  And each of the chapters in this book is its own self-contained monograph on its respective topic.  Great reading!

The book is divided into four sections:

PART I: THE CHURCH IN DISARRAY

PART II:RECONSTRUCTING CHURCH GOVERNMENT

PART III: RECONSTRUCTING WORSHIP

PART IV: RECONSTRUCTING MISSION

The essays all have intriguing titles like, “Church Music in Chaos,” “Clothing and Calling,” Culture, “Contextualization and the Kingdom of God.”   Some are historical: “Revivalism and American Protestantism,” “The Church in an Age of Democracy.”  Some are theological/expositional: “The Marriage Supper of the Lamb.”  And some are a whimsical allegory driving home a larger, powerful point: “Conversations with Nathan.”

The shared conviction of what this collection represents is best summed up in Jordan’s introduction, where he says that there are three principles (“pedagogies”) that need to be at the heart of any real reformation, beginning with the Church: true government (discipline/boundaries), true worship (sacramental liturgy/ritual) and true teaching (doctrine/instruction).

The perspective of the organizers of this symposium is that the reconstruction of the Church requires the reestablishment of all three of these pedagogies… When these things are recovered by the Church, since judgment begins at the house of God, they will also be recovered by society at large. The Church is the nursery of the Kingdom, and there can be no reformation in state, school, or family, until there is reformation in the Church.

Man’s problems are indeed religious, but religion is not just theology, and man’s problem is not just bad theology. Religion is also the discipline of ritual and the restraining virtue of court-enforced boundaries. There must be recovery in all three areas, or there will be recovery in none.

Nothing in this book is pietistic, contemplative or introspective.  All of the essays are powerfully written, practical and forthright, with an appropriate mixture of humor with intense, relentless candor about the graveness and importunity of the subject at hand: the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ in the world to the unconverted and the lost, and the faithful advancement of God’s kingdom and God’s principles implemented in time and in history on earth.

In Part I, James B. Jordan addresses what he calls “the present mess” that he sees in the American Protestant church, with its “anti-ecclesiastical piety.”  Lewis E. Bulkeley talks about church renewal biblically applied to ailing congregations.  Peter J. Leithart discusses how revivalism, despite its positive impact, has undermined our biblical conception of the Church.

Part II is on church government.  Ray R. Sutton defines it and talks about its role in handling church schisms.  Gary North argues for preserving the integrity of the church through “two-tiered” membership.  Jim West talks about the role of excommunication as a curative tool for preserving the health of the ecclesiastical body.

Part III covers worship.  David Chilton crafts a witty and fictitious dialogue between himself and his young son, exposing the liturgical shortcomings and infelicities that he finds in a typical, contemporary American evangelical church service.  Ray R. Sutton discusses formality and informality in worship, and defends the argument for clerical garb as a biblically and historically warranted expression of the minister’s calling.  Gary North draws the theological-biblical parallel between the Lord’s Supper and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  James B. Jordan addresses what he terms “the abominable state of music in the church.”  And James M. Peters explores architecture, imagery and symbolism as it relates to liturgy and worship.

In Part IV, on the outward focus of the mission of the Church, George Grant defines biblical charity and what that should look like in the surrounding culture.  And, finally, Marion Luther McFarland posits a biblical-covenantal approach to transforming culture, “liberating” it through the Gospel and sound doctrine taught and applied, as opposed to the standard, theologically liberal way of “contextualizing” Christianity to fit its native, indigenous setting.

There’s something for everyone here–as long as “everyone” is interested in reconstructing and reforming the Church to the glory of God and in accordance with the Scriptures and historic, orthodox, biblical Christianity!

You can download and read this excellent book by clicking here.

“Restoring America”: The Action Manual We Have Been Waiting For!

Restoring America One County at a Time

This is it.  This is the big one.

For more than 150 years, statists and socialists have had their Communist Manifesto–a puny pamphlet full of revolutionary, rabble-rousing rhetoric that gave voice to the repressive, totalitarian leanings of generations of anti-Christian, anti-free-market despots and their minions.

Now, thanks to this monumental “labor of love” from Joel McDurmon, the anti-statists and God-fearing, Bible-reading, libertarian-leaning folks finally have theirs: a “localist manifesto”!

In Restoring America, One County at a Time, Joel McDurmon has written and published his magnum opus.  It is an absolute masterpiece.  It is a historical, political, theological–and rhetorical–tour de force.

Finally!  A book that very compellingly brings together all the practical aspects of biblical Christianity to bear on the reality of what Sorokin called “The Crisis of Our Age,” what Buchanan called, “The Death of the West”, and the civilizational slide described by Barzunin in “From Dawn to Decadence” and Bork in “Slouching Towards Gomorrah.”

Forgive me for gushing like a teenager, but,… this really is a TOTALLY awesome book!

It almost brings a tear to my eye.

Yes, I know, it’s only a book. But, McDurmon’s jam-packed how-to guide for reforming (some would say “reconstructing”) America through a systematic return to localism, fiscal responsibility and transparency and sound principles of government, law and economics, is so well-written, so tightly-focused, so well-argued, thoroughly-documented, comprehensive in scope and yet eminently readable and understandable–and, above all, actionable–for the average person (voter/citizen), that it almost defies all possibility of any negative criticism, at least from me.

But, I am not writing this as a literary critic.  No, sir.  I am writing as an enthusiastic, RAVING fan of biblically sound, intelligently reasoned and concisely presented information that is both historically faithful and intellectually challenging to the status quo of virtually every other book that treats of the same subjects (except, of course, for those written by fellow reconstructionists who have been arguing for 40+ years the principles behind what McDurmon is setting forth here), such that “Restoring America One County at a Time” has the potential to radically change a lot of people’s lives and even change the course of an entire nation.

That’s a BIG deal.

That makes McDurmon’s book a truly path-breaking work.  It is a new manifesto for a new generation of liberty-loving, tyranny-hating Americans.

A Localist Manifesto

This is a ten-step recovery program for a nation mired deep in the throes of a chronic, long-term addiction to statism, centralized government, coercive empire-building, global governance by private corporate interests and, as of late, advancing stages of executive tyranny.

Joel–or, more accurately (now that he has been awarded his Ph. D.), DR. Joel!–has put together an extraordinary combination of historical causation, political and theological foundations for how we can get back our freedoms and restore, little by little, the nation’s collective cultural and societal health, an abundant array of examples showing our ideological short-sightedness, historical ignorance and political laziness (especially of Christians, who have in their possession the best political science textbook and manual of social theory ever written–the Bible!), with an almost “fool-proof” game plan for us to follow–a highly specific “to-do” list of reform measures and simple technological tools (like WordPress and You Tube) that individuals and communities can use to begin the dual process of exposing the fraud, corruption and systemic problems that exist, and presenting the particular biblically and historically based solutions that will correct them.

The unique thing about his proposals is this: none of them are intended to be applied at the federal level. NONE!

This is a road map to recovery that leads straight to local governments.  It never touches Washington.  It is all about counties and municipalities (with states included only as a secondary objective, the “next level”).  The federal government is left completely out of the loop here because, well, to quote the late President Ronald Reagan, “Government (federal) is not the solution to our problem; government IS the problem!”

Think Biblically, Act Locally

The wrong-headed political thinking of so many Americans, and so many Christians, is that the only way to bring about real “change” and national reform and stem the tide of our nation’s decline is by changing the folks in Washington who represent us (or purport to), thereby leap-frogging over and effectively disregarding the state and local government levels because they’re, you know, minor league, and, well, after all, there’s a lot more “bang for the buck” when you head straight to the top and go for the whole enchilada.

McDurmon says this is wrong, wrong, wrong!  That is what got us into this fine, socialist, statist mess in the first place.  We got here and have reaped the whirlwind rewards of “salvation through legislation” the old-fashioned way–we earned it–slowly, progressively, and, alas, as Joel elaborates in chapter 4 on States’ Rights, constitutionally!

The broad scope of this little 400-plus-page book is simply astounding.  That makes it all the more valuable and all the more vital to read, especially for “activist”-minded Christians and the rising generation of libertarians (small “l”) who have been searching for a handbook giving them a detailed strategy to follow of how to defeat the tyrants of the 21st century and their enablers and supporters, as well as the failed philosophies, hare-brained theories, hokey economic principles and academic fantasies that have undergirded them for far too long, once and for all.

I won’t do a full-blown “book report” here.  I just want to whet your appetite to entice you to HURRY up and finish reading this article and then click through to your nearest (or favorite) online bookseller and buy yourself a copy of this fabulous book.

There are so many excellent quotes that could be pulled from almost any page you read.  I’ll just give you a sample:

Education in a free society means exclusively “private” education. We are never free as long as we are subjected to compulsory government education shored up by threats, penalties, fines, and taxes—to any degree or at any level.

So, instead of thinking of Social Security as some kind of investment program, a fund you’re paying into on which you can draw in the future, you need to see it for what it is—a tax now, spend now scheme (tax you now, and spend on others now scheme).

In principle, limited and localized government is an outgrowth of specifically Christian thinking; particularly the demands that 1) rulers are not divine, but are themselves subject to a higher law, 2) private property is to be protected and property owners invested with powers against encroachments even from government, 3) social relationships are based on legally binding contracts, and 4) power enables corruption and should therefore be limited, checked, and safeguarded. In short, we have a society based on religious faith, property rights, honoring of contracts, and individual responsibility—all fundamental things derived directly from the Ten Commandments.

But if taxes must exist, they should be as decentralized as possible. Only the most local municipality should have power to tax the individual.

The biblical prescription for markets and business is very simple: non-violence, enforcement of property rights and enforcement of contracts.

Civil rulers are to be representative servant-leaders of the people, and thus biblical government is representative government.

Civil disobedience in egregious cases—necessary cases—is a long accepted and ancient Christian right and practice which modern Christians need to recover.

What is clear here is that God’s society makes no provision for a standing army and none for military conscription or a draft.

…the Constitution defines the President’s power so broadly that he can essentially create new laws by interpreting undefined areas of existing law according to his own agenda, interpreting how to implement existing laws, or he can perhaps even ignore specific laws of Congress if he thinks they infringe upon the broad interpretations he comes up with.

And so forth and so on.

Joel does a masterful job of laying out and expanding upon all of the ten topics he discusses in his book.

  1. Education
  2. Welfare
  3. County Rights
  4. States’ Rights
  5. Taxation
  6. Money
  7. Markets
  8. Courts
  9. Defense
  10. The Executive

His Epilogue is his final “pep talk” to his team-mates, and he follows it with an Appendix calling for the Repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment, which he argues was “an important assault on states’ rights” that ultimately weakened them and “magnified the power of special interests in Washington.”

A Scripture and Subject Index round out his seminal work.  Of course, the iBook and Kindle versions of “Restoring America” contain word-searchable texts with hyperlinked footnotes and links to many of the sources he cites in his dozens of footnotes.

This book is destined to be a runaway non-bestseller among Christians.  That’s because too many of them believe, (a), the Bible has almost nothing to say about politics, economics and the proper role of “biblical” government in our lives, and, (b), what little it does say promotes “Christian socialism” and the welfare state.  (Thank you, Jim Wallis.)   The remainder believe that it is a waste of time to go about trying to “restore’ and reform very much of this world, since, after all, it’s about to be totally immersed in the conflagration of the Great Tribulation, and we (meaning they) won’t be around anyway since ‘Jesus is coming soon’, i.e., any minute now, and the imminent Rapture will make all of this a non-issue anyway. . .  It should be a hit among a large contingent of the libertarians–those who are not seduced by the anarchic, extra-biblical tendencies of so many of the proponents and writers in the liberty and Austrian economics movements.

Be all of that as it may, my advice to you is, get this book (immediately), read it thoroughly and thoughtfully, and then begin to DO what it says.

The nation’s 3,143 counties are counting on you to implement its vision!

Buy it here (Amazon). And here (American Vision).

I bought the e-book version.  I plan to buy the hardcover as well, because, well, like a lot of you, I still suffer (voluntarily) from Picard’s Syndrome. 🙂

Hostile Takeover or Populist Makeover? Why Uganda Poses a “Problem” for Some Christians

Uganda-at-50

If there’s one criticism that is most often hurled against Christian Reconstructionism, it is that the movement is really a sort of nefarious, political action committee that seeks to surreptitiously “take over” the country and impose its “top-down” theocratic agenda on the rest of the population, bringing its own brand of “taliban”-style totalitarianism to bear on the levers of power and overthrow our Western-style democracy in favor of a brutal and backwards “biblical oppressiveness.”

There’s just one little problem with this “popular” assertion. . .

It’s COMPLETELY WRONG!

All that has ever been written or said by any of the major players in the now-40-year-old Christian Reconstruction movement–whether Rushdoony, Bahnsen, North or any of the others–points to it as being, (a), a grass-roots, bottom-up, voluntary association of believers acting co-operatively, lawfully and peacefully to bring about biblical reforms within the realms of politics–the state–the family and the church, and, (b), a movement that has a STRONG “Christian libertarian” vein running through it:  SELF-government under God.  LIBERTY under His law. SPIRITUAL transformation of individual hearts and minds first, cultural transformation of societies and institutions second.  Renewal and restoration from the ground up, from the inside out.

No totalitarianist tendencies here.

Let’s take a look what has been happening in Uganda over the past two months.

In October, President Muzeveni prayed a public prayer of confession and repentance for the national sins of Uganda committed during its first 50 years of existence as an independent, self-governing nation, thereby doing what NO other political leader has done at any time in modern history: placing his entire nation and its people directly under the covenantal sanctions of God and begging for His mercy, clemency and forgiveness!

In November, a bill toughening criminal penalties against the practice of homosexuality in Uganda passed through committee and is scheduled to be voted on in Parliament this month (December).

The original 2009 “anti-homosexuality bill” reads like this.

The media, of course, has been apoplectic and unrighteously indignant at the inclusion of a death penalty in the bill for certain “aggravated” offenses involving acts of homosexuality.  Lawmakers caved (to pressure and their own misgivings), and that provision has since been removed.

Now, in all the hysteria, the focus has been almost exclusively on WHAT they’re doing over there (i.e., oppressing gays, discriminating against, penalizing/criminalizing sexual orientation, etc., etc..)

Hardly anyone has focussed on WHO is doing it.

Or more to the point, who is not doing it. . .

It is not the leaders “seeking to impose a top-down, theocratic agenda” on the people of Uganda.

No, no, no, gentle reader.  That’s what the critics want you to believe.  That is what those who hate government-enforced biblical morality want you to believe.

Rather, it is the people of Uganda who are doing this.  They are telling their elected officials, this is what WE want!

Big difference.

Let’s take a look at demographics.  Uganda is a country whose population is over 80% Christian.  Now, do you suppose that a pretty good-size chunk of those 80%, maybe, go to the polls and VOTE?  Yes!  Do you suppose that, perhaps, some of those same voters occasionally (or perhaps regularly) go to their elected leaders from time to time (“write their congressman”), attend their meetings and hearings, voice their opinions and perhaps tell them, you know, in light of all that our little nation has been through, this is the kind of legislation we’d like you to pass, these are the kinds of laws we think would be best for our people?  Ya think, hmmm?

Yes!

Well, that is exactly what happened in Uganda.

Coincidentally, that is exactly how “Christian reconstruction” is supposed to work.  How it does work.  The people, having had a “change of heart” and change in their thinking, begin to make changes in their government and in their laws as they see fit and as they begin to see the need and opportunity, according to their values, their shared beliefs, their shared convictions of what is right and wrong.

Now, here’s another twist to the unusual developments in an already theologically-loaded situation there in the east-African nation.

What’s going on in Uganda poses a unique “problem”, not only for liberals and gay activists.  It poses a sticky eschatological problem for some Christians.

Not all God’s people are saying ‘Amen’!

You see, what’s happening over there doesn’t fit neatly into certain eschatological schemes, prophetic timetables and other artificial doctrinal and  theological constraints placed on the belief systems and “worldviews” of millions of evangelical and Reformed Christians.

Darn those Ugandans!

Don’t they know, we’ve almost got “Antichrist” right where we want him now so that the prophetic time clock can be restarted and we can finally have our long-awaited Rapture and subsequent Jewish holocaust and unbiblical reinstatement of temple animal sacrifice like we’re supposed to?

Don’t they know the Gospel and Christianity are ‘for individual use’ only?  Not intended for resale (or wholesale) to cultures and societies?  Certainly not for institutional use?  Don’t they know the Church of Jesus Christ is destined (predestined) to be a complete and total, global epic failure in history, and ‘Satan is lord’ (politically) until Jesus comes again to dethrone him and clean up the unholy mess we’ve made?

Bojidar Marinov, Bulgarian missionary and firebrand Reconstructionist, has written an excellent article on “a problem called Uganda” as it relates to the preconceived notions of premillennialist, dispensationalist, amillennialist, antinomian and anti-Reconstructionist Christians.

I highly recommend reading what Bojidar says.

Those of us who embrace postmillennialism (the Gospel WILL succeed globally before Jesus returns), biblical preterism (fulfilled prophecy), theonomy (God’s law, our liberty) and covenant theology (historic, not the modern discombobulated kind), on the other hand, are greatly encouraged by what we see happening in the nation of Uganda (and in Zambia, too)–unlike our unlike-minded brothers in Christ who see Uganda the way Churchill saw Russia: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.

Maybe we can invite President Museveni to come speak to a joint session of Congress and talk to our lawmakers about how we can avoid going over the “moral, ethical and spiritual cliff”!

We Americans have a lot of national sins to repent of, too.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Before Facebook inexplicably erased the share count on Dec. 5, 2012, this article had been shared 31 times!  I don’t know what happened, but I want to thank all of you who thought what was written here was worth sharing–PR.

Dec. 7, 2012: Looks like they reset the share counter to zero, but at least it’s working again!–PR.