Could CPM be Taught in Seminaries?

In a recent round-table digital discussion of efforts to develop Strategy Coordinators for CPM, one of the participants raised the suggestion of getting CPM training into seminaries. He hopes we can get people to consider ways to plant the gospel into clusters rather than personal and mass evangelistic practices that often prove extractional.

This suggestion caught my attention because I am currently teaching for two weeks in a small Bible college/seminary in south-central Africa. It turns out that the President of this Bible College is a long-time friend. After he and some of the senior staff attended one of David Watson’s level 1 trainings in Livingstone, Zambia a couple of years ago, we had a lengthy conversation on CPM. (I also spent half a day introducing his brother—who had been my roommate in Bible College for two years—to CPM. This brother is a major donor to this school.) Because of their interest in CPM, this leadership team reached out to Shodankeh Johnson to see if there was someone from his team who could be sent here to assist with implementing CPM in the school’s training program.

The whole program here is in a state of flux (I believe it has strong potential to move in some excellent directions). It is a Church of Christ affiliated school in a nation with some very legalistic churches in our fellowship, so there are some potential pitfalls, but there are also some wonderful opportunities. I am being given total freedom to teach whatever I want and was encouraged to do some CPM training. I have spent this first week training 35 second semester students to do 3-column Bible studies and oral Discovery Bible Studies. The timing of me being here at this point in the school year is truly a God-thing.

One of the new emphases the school is addressing is the need for spiritual formation of the students. A second group of 35 students, who just arrived on campus this week, are starting a first semester that focuses exclusively on developing their spiritual character. They will be paired with older students who are to serve as spiritual mentors. These older students are being mentored by faculty and staff. They began in January and are my immediate students. Because of this arrangement when I assign my students with the responsibility of teaching someone else what they are learning, they have these newer students to teach, coach and/or mentor.

My students are quickly gaining a deeper appreciation of the Discovery Bible Studies. I taught them how to do a 3-column study on Monday and then gave them homework where they had to do a passage. They turned those in on Tuesday and we went over more of the process and introduced doing it in an oral format. They gained new insights into familiar passages by this approach  so they realize this can be beneficial for them—not just lost people. I gave them more homework to prepare for doing a study tomorrow in a totally oral format. I am hoping to build their confidence in the methodology over the two weeks.

Having such a readily available opportunity to pass on what they are learning is a real blessing. As we all know, you must actually train someone else quickly in what you have been learning, or you don’t get the experiential learning. The new group of students, who arrived on Sunday to start their Spiritual Formation semester, is motivated because their future here is tied to character development. Those who grow spiritually will be invited back for further study, but they are not automatically guaranteed a slot.

On Wednesday I followed up on the assignment of sharing what they were learning.  Out of 35 there were only three who had done the assignment. I was so shocked, because they had done everything else I had asked. I expressed my disappointment and then stated that maybe I was not doing too well as a teacher if they were not willing to share what they were learning. The class leader apologized for them and asked for more time to complete the assignment. On Thursday almost every hand went up when I asked who had shared with a new student. I asked how it had gone and they were pleased. They said there were some good questions raised by the new students.

Also, I had them write a prayer for believers in their nation based on Paul’s prayer at the end of Ephesians 3. I had four of the students to stand and read their prayers. They were excellent! Everyone gave me a copy of their prayers and kept the original. For homework for Friday their assignment was to re-write the same prayer, but personalize one copy for the new student that they spoke with on Wednesday. They were to get with that student, pray the prayer for him/her and then give them the written copy. Also they were to re-write the prayer and personalize it for the staff member who is serving as their spiritual mentor and give him/her that copy and tell them, “I am praying this prayer for you.”

When I dismissed the class I failed to pray for them, as had become my pattern. The oldest of the students came quickly to me and said, “Pray for us as you have the other days!” I called the class back to order and prayed a prayer of praise for their hearts and their work. I lifted the stack of prayers up and asked God to multiply them many times over for the sake of their nation and the surrounding ones. It may have been the most special prayer of my life! My heart was overflowing. They made me so proud!

On Friday they were very happy to share about their interactions with the newer students. I also met with the staff mentors and a few of the students that have been selected to be spiritual mentors with the newer students. I asked the staff mentors if they had received anything on Thursday afternoon. They were beaming. One said, “I am going to paper the wall of my apartment with those prayers!”

In addition to my time with the students, I have been able to participate in a couple of the staff meetings and it has given me opportunities to reinforce some of the things Bro. Sandi Mustapha (the believer from Sierra Leone that I trained to do DBSs in 2005) has already been introducing. The meeting was focused on how the spiritual mentoring is going and I will be doing some training of those mentors who are being selected to work with these new students. I am getting to work with every level of the staff, faculty and student body (either directly or indirectly). It is pretty incredible how much the president has pulled me in even though there is much about CPM that he still does not fully appreciate, yet. But that is not totally surprising since he brought Bro. Sandi here.

I have also had some great conversations with the man who works with their agriculture/Access Ministry area. He is the first person who has a vision for using/selling the treadle water pumps. He immediately recognized their potential value when I talked about using them to water tree seedlings which could be sold as a cash crop. He got excited and took me outside to see several small black plastic bags filled with compost and small fruit tree seedlings that he has started to be able to take with him to the villages where he is teaching people to use drip irrigation kits and composting. While the campus has a well, electric pump and a storage tank that keeps them from needing to use these pumps personally, he realizes that these will be very valuable to the villages that have nearby water sources, but would have to haul water to raise such seedlings. Some people in the villages are already raising seedlings, but he knows they could be so much more successful with a pump.

I came to assist a long-time friend, assess how I might partner with them in Access Ministry development and to see if teaching/training the students in CPM might work. Obviously it is too early to really know how fruitful this will be, but I am recommending that round-table team to stay prayerfully open to one member’s suggestion. We all need to investigate whether or not we could nurture a working relationship with the schools where we attended Bible College and/or seminary. Maybe we start by developing a curriculum that could be used in a two to three-week intensive missions course. There is certainly some excellent material in the Perspectives course that could be utilized. The fourth edition Perspectives Reader would be an excellent resource.

There is also some excellent systematic theology material that one of my friends has available online that could be very useful because of how focused it is on the Bible being first and foremost about God. You can access and read through that material at Using it will require some adaptation, but provides a great overview of God’s self-revelation in Scriptures. John Mark Hicks, the author, listened to the CPM training CDs from Sierra Leone in 2006 and finds the approach of having people learn a simple study method very desirable. He loves the fact that the first question we train people to ask of a text is, “What do we learn about God from this passage/story?” We may need to start tuning our sensors to identify “Persons of Peace” within Bible Colleges, Universities and Seminaries.

I am excited thinking of what God may bring out of our discussions. The timing of me receiving the compilation certainly caught my attention. Being part of a multi-national team keeps life interesting. Join me in praying that God will use us to fulfill his purpose of people from every tribe, language and people group gathered around his throne worshiping him in adoration (Revelation 7).


    1. John Mark, just wanted to tell you that I used your stuff on the church from your systematic posts today. One paragraph was so powerful I wrote it out on the white board and had the students copy it. Afterwards a brother from Malawi came up with tears in his eyes and said, “The church is not living up to those three metaphors.”


  1. Praise HIM! It is my prayer that I can share CPM thoughts and methods with classmates when I return to graduate studies in the fall! I hope we can dialogue through the process.


  2. John, I praise God for the work that He is doing through you. It was already obvious that you had blessed the Dunnings and so many other people at Stones River and the Middle Tennessee area, but I love hearing about how He is using you in other areas of the world, as well! I look forward to your return and cannot wait to hear more about what is happening over there. We are praying for you!


    1. Dean, thanks man! Glad you found the post interesting. I sent a report to Angela that will probably go out tomorrow. Thanks for preaching for me this coming Sunday. You guys are helping make it possible for me to be here!


  3. I’ve recently had the privilage of meeting a guy who worked with City Team under David Watson. He moved here about 6 months ago and shared several CPM principles with me. It’s exciting to hear about the same principles at work in S. Africa. Blessings as you go forward, and thank you for sharing this testimony!


    1. Josh, where are you working? It is always encouraging to hear about folks getting some insights into CPM. It is awesome the way God’s using these insights to empower people to discover God’s purposes for their lives.


  4. I think that finding the PoPs will be the key to having the DBS tool being discovered in universities. Maybe even approaching these PoPs when they are with the congregations they serve and not while they are at school in their ‘Professor’ box. I will add, my Chinese students are learning DBS in just regular ole’ Chinese public school and I didn’t have to go through any POP to do it… Maybe it’s harder to find universities in the States that want to discover than it is in China. lol


    1. Stan, traditional practices become deeply entrenched in a hurry. It is actually easier to get people to try DBS before they have learned the obstacles.


  5. It is very encouraging to hear about what is happening in Zambia. I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table with David and some of his teachers as we were first introduced to CPM principles at the conference in Livingstone. I’d love to connect with you and share what is happening in Togo. We are exploring agriculture as access ministry as well and just finished our master plan strategy document. We are on facebook: Matt’n’Andrea Miller


    1. Matt, thanks for your comment. Are you already in Togo? You can email me at preacher at stonesriver dot org if you want to contact me directly. I will be happy to share some of what I am learning and would love to learn more about what you are/plan to do in Togo.


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