Very good points, and a lesson to take to heart, but terrible title, a bad trend of crude, false misleading, shocking statements to grab attention, truly a product of Machiavellian marketing campaigns we are bombarded with daily.I understand his point, though I didn't cop to the charge of Machiavellianism:
Well obviously I take a different view. My ironic title is intended to be provocative, of course, insofar as it provokes a stark reexamination of evangelical methods which themselves approximate marketing techniques. One might also suggest that Hosea's taking an adulterous wife and giving his kids names with meanings like "not my people" constitutes Machiavellian and shocking marketing behavior, but since God commanded it we accept that there must be a better explanation. I don't claim the prophetic gift or direct mandate, but I believe that sometimes a rhetorical device such as the one I employ here can be useful in driving home an important point.I went on to point out that my implicit point was that if Jesus "flunks" our church's course on how to evangelize, there are only two possibilities--either (a) something was wrong with Jesus' approach; or (b) there's something wrong with our courseware. The first suggestion is ridiculous (and blasphemous), so we are left with the second.
Think of it like this: imagine John Calvin were to take a test on "The theology of John Calvin". The only way his answers could be wrong would if he were to misrepresent himself, since his honest answers would have to be correct by definition. If he fails, there must be something wrong with the exam.
In the same way, Jesus's evangelistic methods--coming as they do from Him who is the way, the truth and the life--must be right. So if He fails our methodological tests, the only right conclusion is that they misrepresent Him.
So in short, it's possible for Him to flunk our evangelism tests, but that tells us something important about our tests.
Let me take this a step further. One may say that so-called "church-planting movements" represent the current evangelistic state of the art. The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board defines CPMs as "a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment." To accomplish these, they use a model of aggressive evangelization coupled with training in disciple-making techniques and accountability, so that every new believer is encouraged to make more disciples.
|CPMs are all about rapid, multigenerational growth|
Now, there's certainly nothing wrong with rapid growth. If God is truly giving the increase, we should indeed rejoice and join hands! Moreover, it is important to recognize that much of what passes for discipleship in our churches neglects this accountability to the Great Commission, so spiritual growth becomes more about self-fulfillment and navel-gazing than about our primary mission here on earth. We become mere lights under a bowl, comforting ourselves that if only someone were to peek underneath, they would find us shining purely.
In other words, the primary advantage of CPMs is their emphasis on personal obedience to the Great Commission, which is a discipline the organized church tends to neglect in favor of programs that make our lives comfortable and predictable. In this sense, CPMs have an important message for the church, illustrated as follows:
One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody's reply was "I agree with you. I don't like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?" The lady replied, "I don't do it." Moody responded "I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it."However, the risks associated with these method-based growth strategies seem substantial to me:
- Over-emphasis on reaping the harvest over cultivating the soil and sowing the gospel. CPMs tend to leave the "hard cases" behind because they don't respond quickly enough.
- Quantity over quality: a ministry so focused on rapid evangelism may fail to build other aspects of doctrine, godliness, relationships, family, etc.
- Heresy (that is, serious theological error), especially when new believers immediately become leaders. Some will bring in some strange concepts, which their disciples, peers and even disciplers are unable to recognize due to the lack of a biblical foundation.
- Rapid burn-out, especially if/when a new discipler's aggressive reaping attempts prove unfruitful over time.
- Pragmatism, or reliance on technique rather than the Holy Spirit.
To their credit, CPMs are making a serious attempt to do what many of us pay mere lip-service to: fulfilling the Great Commission through personal evangelism. In so doing, however, they appear to pay lip-service to true reliance on the Holy Spirit's work, and to the kind of patient and genuine love for our neighbors that should be the hallmark of a godly witness.