FAQ: Does the Discovery approach work in a “top-down” society?

From time to time, someone will ask this question.

“My culture” is a “top-down leader culture” in which the normal way of doing educational and religious activities is that the expert tells everyone what to think.
So, in this culture people want and expect this which makes the inductive Discovery / DBS model not easily accepted. Maybe this won’t work in our culture..?..!

Here is an answer to this question from Dave H.

This is my main response:  EVERY CPM I’ve heard of in our day is in “top-down” cultures (a better term might be “high power distance” cultures—one that’s often used by sociologists for this phenomena):  India, Indonesia, Middle East, African cultures—ALL OF THESE ARE AT LEAST AS HIGH-POWER as “your place”.

And, what’s more, the cultures that ironically are low power distance (America is among the most egalitarian) seem to have a much harder time seeing movement.

How do I explain this?

Well, first of all, let me say that I DO believe that Persons of Peace are real and that movements are happening. But how exactly they can be happening in cultures that would seem to be anti-Discovery due to their educational systems and their cultural norms, I can’t really explain. Except that when the sociologists do studies of High Power cultures, leaders and emerging leaders always say that they “prefer” that cultural value BUT the vast majority of people who are not in leadership, vow that they’d LOVE to change it.

You know it’s also important to note that when the early church spread like wildfire, the form was much more like DBS than like modern-day, pulpit centered, strong unilateral leader type Protestanism. 1 Cor 14:26 is the clearest “example” for that.

So, really your question is not if these movements happen in “top down” cultures today, but why are they happening and how is it they happened in the 1st Century in a hierarchical culture as well?


CPM FAQ: When does a group of seekers (Discovery Group) become a church?


The Spirit of God is launching Church-Planting Movements (CPMs) around the world, just as he has done at various times in history. With Acts-like DNA disciples, churches and leaders are multiplying every few months. In the glorious mystery of God causing the growth, we find that he calls us to join him in the work.

As these modern movements have emerged, the Spirit is using a variety of “models” to start CPMs. Perhaps the majority of fruitful CPM models are adaptations of two major approaches: Training for Trainers (“T4T” – developed by Ying Kai) and Disciple-Making Movements (“DMM” – sometimes called the Discovery Bible Study model – “DBS” – taught widely by David Watson). There are other approaches God is using to start CPMs, but these two major models seem to be producing the majority of CPM results in the world.

We are often asked if we prefer the “T4T” model or the “DMM (DBS)” model. Do we teach more a “Ying Kai” model or “David Watson” model? Is a particular training more of a “Steve Smith” or “Stan Parks” approach?

To which we would all reply:

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Cor. 3:5-7 ESV)

See this two part article for more examination of this issue.



CPM FAQ: What if they want to make an immediate decision?

We do see immediate decisions in the Book of Acts, so we cannot argue that this is “not allowed.”

We should recognize that those decisions seem to happen with Jews or God-fearers who already had an understanding of the Scriptures and were prepared. But sometimes we see similar circumstances in modern Disciple-Making Movement efforts.

90% of faith decisions in the book of Acts are described as group decisions. So our 90% plus preference (especially in persecution areas) is group decisions. If they have been prepared by the Holy Spirit and/or an event like a miracle or a crisis creates desire for immediate commitment, you want to go through a decision process with the oikos (family/group). Lead them in an intense time of scriptural study (often an entire 1-2 days) so they know who God is and the cost of being His disciple. 

You can start with a more intensive Creation to Christ sequence like this one. Then take them through a commitment discovery process like this one.

Some will be ready to proceed – and you can lead them in commitment and baptism. Then start back in the same Discovery Group process from Creation to Christ to help change their worldview and create the right DNA of obedience and sharing. This will also help them understand and know how to disciple others that do not make immediate decisions.

Others will want to wait and you can then lead them through the normal discovery process.



CPM FAQ – Does rapid growth of a movement lead to shallow discipleship?

Shallow discipleship tends to take place when new believers learn that:

  • The main thing expected of them is to attend church meetings once or twice a week.
  • Obedience to Scripture is encouraged but not required.
  • The most important teachings from God will be presented to them by a church leader.

Sadly, these are among the messages many new believers around the world receive.

The best way to nurture real discipleship is to train new believers to:

  • Interact with God’s Word (the Bible) for themselves and discover (together with other believers) what it says and how it applies to their lives.
  • Obey what they believe God is telling them to do through His Word.
  • Share the “real situation” of their lives with other followers of Jesus, to pray for and encourage one another, and apply the “one anothers” of the NT.
  • Share the reality of life in Christ with those who don’t yet know Him.

These patterns of real discipleship are at the heart of what we see in church planting movements. 

CPM FAQ – What is a CPM?

A definition for Church Planting Movements (CPMs) that has held sway for more than a decade is: “a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.” David Garrison

Many groups agree that is consistent (multiple streams) 4th generation reproduction of churches is happening, then church planting has crossed the threshold and is probably a sustainable movement that will continue to grow.

“A CPM is a rapid multiplication of reproducing congregations which plant reproducing congregations in a way that sweeps through a people group or population segment. Whole households are discipled together to obey all that Jesus commanded and immediately begin serving their communities. They are guided by the authority of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel in word, deed and miracle…. A movement is reached when obedient disciples have made obedient disciples to the fourth generation.” See more here: Beyond

See the article: “Kingdom Kernels: CPM Essentials On a Napkin

“A Church Planting Movement is an indigenously led Gospel Planting and obedience-based discipleship process that has resulted in a minimum of 100 new locally initiated and led churches, three generations deep, within two years….Less than 100 churches, regardless of generations, do not constitute a CPM. More than 100 churches, but not at least 3 generations deep, is not a CPM. It has to happen within two years or it does not qualify. The two years can count from the initiation of the work, or count back from a given point in time. If counting back, 3 new generations must be demonstrated. If the work is not locally initiated, locally led, and obedience-based, and ministry-producing it is not a CPM.” David Watson

CPM FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) – What is a Church?

  • Fundamentally, it is a group that is seeking to become like the group(s) of believers we see in Acts 2:37-47.
  • At its core, a church is a community of believers seeking to obediently follow Jesus Christ. From God’s perspective, church is a continuation of what Jesus began 2,000 years ago. This is why Paul and Luke frequently refer to the church as “the body of Christ.” David Garrison (March-April 2011 Mission Frontiers)
  • “The church is a group of baptized Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who meet regularly to worship, nurture one another (feed and grow one another), and fellowship (practice the one another statements of the Bible), and depart these gatherings endeavoring to obey all the commands of Christ in order to transform individuals, families, and communities.” David Watson, “When is a Church a Church?

Note: On the FAQs we will usually have more than one answer because in movements as in life there are often more than one perspective and more than one “right answer.”