Disciple-Making Movements: A Critical Discussion With Dr. Glenn Sunshine

Disciple-making movements (DMM) and church planting movements (CPM) are more than just buzzwords—they represent controversial methodologies that are dividing missionaries along organization and theological lines. Do these methodologies represent faulty views of conversion or ecclesiology, or are the critics guilty of prayerlessness and quenching the Holy Spirit? We’ve explored these topics in the past on the podcast, but this week, by popular demand, we’ve brought in a strong DMM proponent to help make a positive case: Dr. Glenn Sunshine.

Glenn Sunshine is Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and a Senior Faculty Member of the Colson Fellows. An award-winning author, Glenn has published books, articles and book chapters on history, theology, and culture, online and on both sides of the Atlantic. His most recent book, The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church, was co-authored with Jerry Trousdale. Glenn has taught a variety of Bible, history, and worldview seminars and courses to churches around the U.S., Europe and Asia, as well as leading church retreats, seminars, and renewal weekends. He is the founder of Every Square Inch Ministries and he & his wife Lynn have been married for over 30 years and have two children. They live in Newington, Connecticut.

During the episode, we referenced our previous interview with Brooks Buser—listen to that episode here.

Wherever you stand on this critical missiological topic, we believe this dialogue will edify you—and challenge you.

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Want to ask a question for a future episode? Email alex@missionspodcast.com.

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One comment

  • I never thought that as I developed CPM and later, DMM, that it would cause a clash between brothers and sisters who serve the Lord faithfully with devotion and sacrifice. I am an evangelist and church planter. All that I had learned from experience and training was not working where major world religions took extreme oppositional stances that lead to the death of local and foreign believers. Some of these were my friends, and I asked God to show me a way to see outsiders and insiders work together, regardless of training, to see the Gospel transform places that were known as the Graveyard of Missions and Missionaries. All the questions you have raised, and more, have been where I have focused my life for the past 47 years. It has grieved me deeply to see brothers and sisters wound each other over semantics, and religious and theological differences. I find it fascinating that there are a number of people who speak for me, and that I am rarely asked to speak for myself. I promise you, there is no one else who has thought as much as I have regarding the core values of DMM and some of the challenges it poses for modern theologians and missiologists. I think that if we could come together in prayer and humility, and without feeling like God needs us to defend Him, we might just find out what He wants us to know and do. The descriptive and prescriptive debates seem to be put to rest by what Jesus said in the closing verses of Matthew: Teach them to obey all that I have taught you. All mean all and that’s all it means. I cannot teach less than everything, nor can I obey less than everything just because something Jesus said has been labeled descriptive and moved to the periphery of belief and practice. DMM was built on what was considered a descriptive passage from Luke 10. If the Great Commission is strategic, then Matthew 9 and 10, Mark 5, Luke 10, and the writings of Paul are tactical ways of fulfilling the teachings. Take a look at the core values of DMM one by one, and help me understand how there can be dissent in the body of Christ regarding it in part or the whole. The debates over proclamation and teaching are ludicrous. I spend four to five years developing every leader. I have trained this since the beginning. All I have had to say about preaching and teaching is that both are not good vehicles for evangelism, as is the case in the post revivalist church of today. Words don’t convert. The right words help the lost begin to ask the right questions in relationship with Disciple-Makers, which lead to knowledge and challenge of worldview, and give birth to new believers who have to be trained how to speak the Gospel and speak about the Gospel, and make Disciple-Makers as never before in history. There are at least 165 movements on our planet right now. I’m sure the number is higher because I have not looked at the numbers in past couple of years. I do not find fault with any evangelism technique that leads people to the Cross and Christ. I do, however, find fault with systems who win the loss and fail to produce Disciple-Makers. Success is not found in baptismal records. Success is found in how many Disciple-Makers one has developed during their brief time on Earth. I still spend half of my time mentoring, equipping and training Disciple-Makers. This focus has allowed me to see more than 500,000 churches bloom from the grounds that were once the Graveyards of Missions. I apologise of the length of this comment. I certainly have much more I would like to share. We find the right answers when we begin to ask the right questions. Right questions rarely arise from a single field of thought or a single point of view.

    David Watson
    Lantana, Texas

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