02
Jun
10

get into the water to learn to swim

When I recently taught and coached CPM principles and approaches in Africa, I had a student from Malawi. He was attending a Bible college in neighboring Zambia and became very engaged in the class. I knew he was on board when we chatted during one of the breaks. He told me about a study group that he had started near the college.

Early on he had success with the head of the household through personal evangelism. But lately the man had been absent and was clearly avoiding my student. He wondered out loud  if the situation would be different had he used a household evangelistic approach. He was not approaching my classes as an abstract exercise, but was thinking experientially.

So much Western education works counter to this happening because it is a slow tedious knowledge-based process that runs counter to the hands-on learning demanded by discipleship. The more highly educated in Western traditional practices the individual is, CPM strategies generally prove to be little more than mind-game diversions. Unless one has already become highly frustrated/disappointed with traditional practices and has actively begun the search for new ways, the less likely he/she is to attempt CPM approaches.  To become open to experience-based learning, one must acknowledge that the old paradigms will not get the job done and begin applying CPM strategies to real-life situations.

Interestingly, though, it is best if this dissatisfaction arises from within the person being discipled without being forced by the trainer. When the motivation to change is primarily external, there is an internal frustration that hinders transformation because this person is not yet equipped to counter the opposition that will naturally arise to changing.

Just as you do not learn to swim without getting into the water, people will not learn to disciple in CPM ways without attempting them. Implimenting CPM strategies in North American contexts will demand we identify people who are working in settings that are very difficult or it is highly unlikely they will make the effort to experientially learn new ways. As long as people assume they can do traditional things better, more, and/or smarter they will refuse to invest the effort change demands. For example, when people have been called by God to reach an immigrant community that is close-knit and using their native religion as a way to maintain their sense of identity, traditional practices will not work. Only a total novice will assume that doing traditional things better will result in a breakthrough.

Like my student in Zambia, these workers are more likely to consider CPM approaches. But they will have to begin using them personally before they are likely to train someone else. (When I shared how to do a 3-column study with my dentist, he replied matter-of-factly, “That’s not how I study the Bible.” While he acknowledged that his personal practice of opening half a dozen commentaries, a Bible dictionary and a concordance was not feasible for men in jail, he refused to consider the possibility that maybe he needed to learn a simple, reproducible approach that he could share with them.)

You must do it before you will train someone else. You may teach information you do not practice daily, but most people will not coach skills that they do not personally utilize. Since CPM is fundamentally about hearing Scripture, preparing to re-tell what you are hearing and identifying what you need to do to obey the passage, you must do these things personally to coach someone else in doing them. You have to get into the water to learn to swim.

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