As more and more folks have discovered the biblically suspect underbelly of Disciple Making Movements, I have begun to frequently hear, “Oh, we don’t use pure DMM, we have made some adjustments to it.” Some omit Obedience Based Discipleship (OBD), some allow facilitators to correct wrong ideas in the midst of a Discovery Bible Study (DBS), while others are becoming careful to not have unsaved individuals leading Bible studies. All three of these adjustments are good, biblically well-founded changes. But the reality is that DMM is so flawed at its most foundational levels that making adjustments to it feels akin to rearranging deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.

While I applaud the hearts of those who came up with DMM and appreciate their desire for the quick spread of God’s Word, DMM ignores or misses many key biblical concepts. When “self-correction” is put forward by DMM proponents, they do so in the face of countless passages where teachers are teaching, preaching, persuading, explaining, and reasoning. 

Teaching:        Mark 4:1, 6:2, I Timothy 4:11, 6:2, II Timothy 2:2, 2:24, Titus 2:1

Preaching:       Matthew 4:17, 11:1, Mark 3:14, Acts 10:42, 16:10, Romans 1:15

15:20, 1 Corinthians 1:17 & 9:16, Ephesians 3:8

Reasoning:      Acts 17:2 & 18:4

Explaining:      Mark 4:34, Acts 8:31

In previous Radius Reports we’ve gone into further details about other aspects of DMM; you can look at past issues for a fuller explanation.

 Yet recently a fully revised version of DMM has begun to be embraced by many—the “Four Fields Method” (FFM). It has not been around long enough to have been critiqued or endorsed by the broader missions community. So this edition of the Radius Report looks at this new acronym to consider if this is actually a “new method” or a kissing cousin of DMM. 

First off, the language of the FFM is borrowed from DMM, at times with minor changes. The Oikos (relatives, friends and connections) of the individual is the starting point, same as DMM. Even here we find the troubling vagueness of language so common in DMM circles. When viewing one video on finding people in your Oikos, the instructor continually uses the phrase, “people who are far from God.[1]” In time it’s clear he’s talking about non-believers, but the vagueness is unnecessary. Instead of looking for a Person of Peace (DMM), folks using the FFM look for a House of Peace, if they are not in their home area. 

Within the FFM there is the same expectation that DBS practitioners have of non-believers obeying God[2]:

The acronym “S.P.E.C.” ( –Sin to avoid?  Promise to claim?  Example to follow? –Command to obey?) is a commonly used application that is very similar to obedience based discipleship.

Again, these are not concerns that a discipler is asking of new believers, these are expectations that the bible study leader is putting on non-believers. Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Animists are looking for ways to please God. This type of teaching will inevitably lead to works-based salvation. This flaw alone is a showstopper.

Couple that with the virtual silence on needing to be an excellent communicator (everyone talks of that need, but lack of serious preparation in the Language and Culture Acquisition area shows it is not the priority it should be), and FFM truly does recreate DMM with many of the same flaws.

On the plus side, FFM holds a deep commitment to prayer. Yet it must be said that those who are serious about evangelism have for centuries taken prayer seriously. Surely no new or historic method can claim that prayer is unique to them.

It also must be said that in a stateside (same language and culture) setting, the downsides of the FFM can be greatly lessened. There are many inroads that work when a person is within his home culture. The concern with FFM is that when taken overseas, especially into a third-language context, a person MUST be working at a high level of language and cultural understanding. Putting Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms has been an effective tool for decades in the USA, but putting those same Bibles into an area steeped in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Animism would be folly. Without a competent teacher, the Scriptures alone will rarely be adequate. (See Acts 8:26-40.)

Historic methods DO take time, but churches established via historic methods last. Even proponents of DMM and CPM admit to that reality![3] 

[1] https://e3partners.org/training/

[2] https://globalfrontiermissions.org/why-training/

[3] http://www.ijfm.org/PDFs_IJFM/30_2_PDFs/IJFM_30_2-Esler.pdf

Brad Buser

Brad Buser

Founder of Radius International

Brad and his wife Beth planted a church among the Iterri people in Papua New Guinea. Now he is a sought-after speaker for Perspectives classes around the nation, and the instructor of Church Planting at Radius.