Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The birth and growth of movements

Stephen Currie continues his comments about movements.

Movements are spontaneously sparked on the periphery. 

Human effort is not a good predictor of where Gospel movements will happen because it is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Movements do not arise out of central planning of church leaders, so we cannot work harder or smarter to generate Gospel movements.

Movements are spiritual, and arise when the seeds of the Gospel are widely sown.  This is how the center of New Testament missions shifted from Jerusalem to Antioch.  A few men began preaching the Gospel to Gentiles, and they received it gladly.  For a Jewish sect that was inconsequential in the wider Roman world, we realize that Antioch was very much on the periphery, and far away from the activity and control of church leaders in Jerusalem.  Antioch emerged spontaneously, and that is happening today in places like India and China.

Movements must be easily reproducible.

Movements spread when simple patterns of church life and spiritual practice are passed on to new believers.  Rick Warren observes, “Simple does not mean simplistic.”  Today’s churches are too complex to be the soil for Gospel movements in our culture.  They require specialized expertise to maintain.

When I look at how Paul established practices for the churches he started, it is striking that there is little or no energy expended on building institutional structures.  What structure Paul does give us are roles and responsibilities.  In 1 Timothy and Titus, we see the roles of overseers, elders, and deacons.  In Ephesians 4, we see the roles of apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors.  And the influence qualifications of these leaders come from maturity defined by sound relationships and sound doctrine. And Paul tells us, “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church (Ephesians 4:12 NLT).

With simple forms and easily defined roles and responsibilities, the New Testament church was free to expand exponentially without the bounds of institutional forms.  In this way, leadership is easily transferred and multiplied.  No buildings and programs to maintain.

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