David Garrison — addicted to speed

iStock_000017099890XSmall.jpg I have heard disturbing reports concerning David Garrison, acclaimed author of the book Church Planting Movements. He is not what he appears.

From the mouths of learned men, David Garrison is in fact a triumphalistic, neo-charismatic, Brethren, Restorationist, with tendencies toward postmillennialism and dominion theology. (Ed. I think these are cuss words in theologspeak.)

It gets worse. David Garrison is hasty. In a misguided attempt to reach the world in this generation, he has become addicted to “the need for speed.” Yes David is a speed addict.

Fortunately there are a number of caring theologians in David’s own denomination who are willing to intervene and rescue him from himself.

I want to add my weight to their intervention and call on David to listen to his critics. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov 27:6).

How can David reform? The advice of his seminarian friends is to follow the example of Jesus. David that’s what we’re asking you to do.

As your friends point out, Jesus was not hasty. He worked methodically and never sacrificed quality for speed, nor did he set artificial time limits on God.

David let’s set some goals that will aid your recovery from these errors. We’ll base them around the example of Jesus in the Gospels, and his continuing ministry as the Risen Lord in Acts.

The first thing you need to do is to stop training leaders in a classroom. Find your workers among common people like farm laborers, small business owners, former corrupt officials, and women. Stay away from academic theologians, they will just want to argue with you over the finer points of the law.

Next you need to hit the road. There were 175 towns and villages in Galilee, Jesus visited every one of them—two hundred thousand people. Just a day or two in each place. And we haven’t begun to talk about Judea, Jerusalem and Samaria.

Train your workers in the field. Teach them to heal the sick, cast out demons, preach the gospel and endure hardship. Ensure their biblical and theological reflection is done around a meal after an exhausting day of ministry.

After three years of field work leave them to fend for themselves and give them an impossible task to achieve. Promise them the power of the Holy Spirit as they take the dynamic Word of God to the ends of the earth.

If they settle down, expect the Risen Lord to unsettle them through persecution until they hit the road again.

On occasions, give them the task of establishing a new church in just a few days, as Peter did in Cornelius’ house. Or a few weeks, which is all Paul had in Thessalonica.

Sometimes your workers can stay up to two to three years in one place as long as they don’t settle down to become senior pastors of just one church. When Paul was at Corinth (18 months) the Word spread throughout the whole province of Achaia in modern Greece.

At Ephesus (2-3 years) the gospel went out to the whole of the Roman province of Asia in modern Turkey. Meanwhile Paul’s coworker Epaphras planted churches in the neighboring cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colossae. For Paul, long-term ministry meant he had 18 months to three years to reach a whole Roman province.

Give your workers the challenge of not just planting a church, but reaching whole regions. Paul had a vision from God, and a plan that he completed. From Jerusalem to Greece he fully proclaimed the gospel, so there was no more room for him to work in the eastern half of the Empire. Next he set his sights on Spain and the western half of the Empire.

Like Paul, don’t you dare attempt to write good theology in the comfort of your college library. Your best thinking will be done on the road, in prison, in the middle of church conflicts and turmoil. Let theological reflection come as you grapple with the Scriptures, your mission and the living God. That’s the best way you can equip your workers who will multiply the ministry.

Don’t be hasty. Start small, multiply local workers, keep moving. Expect a harvest. Above all, don’t be distracted by unfounded criticism.