Steve Addison’s book, Movements that Change the World, is filled with stories that keep the pages turning with a message that is both simple and profound: the church—in it’s essence—is a movement.
Jesus did not come to found a religious organization. He came to found a missionary movement that would spread to the ends of the earth.
Steve offers five characteristics of missionary movements and illustrates each of these points with wonderful story-telling. He brings to life Wesley and Methodism, Patrick and the Celtic missionary movement, the Moravians, as well as many other known and not-so-known movements and movement-starters. From these stories he brings clarity to the five characteristics of movements that the book focuses on:
1. White-hot faith
Church history is not made by well-financed, well-resourced individuals and institutions. History is made by men and women of faith who have met with the living God.
2. Commitment to a cause
The approach of targeting Christian leaders did not work because early Christianity was a mass movement with a highly committed rank and file who were active in spreading the faith.
3. Contagious relationships
Christianity conquered the Roman world without an organizational structure, without access to significant resources, without academic institutions, and without a professionalized clergy. Ordinary people, on fire with the love of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, told their families, friends, and casual acquaintances what God had done for them.
For a movement to grow rapidly it has to spread both within social networks and between social networks.
Jesus turned individual encounters into opportunities to touch whole social networks. The Gerasene demoniac begged Jesus to be allowed to join his band of disciples. Instead, Jesus told him to go home and tell his family what God had done.
4. Rapid mobilization
The Baptists and the Methodists developed strategies that made it easy for gifted and committed laypeople to take up leadership and go where the people and the opportunities were. Deployment was rapid because very little upfront investment of resources and education was required. Methodist preachers, many of whom were teenagers, were trained on the job as “apprentices” by more experienced workers. They were expected to be continually studying as they traveled. They practiced lifelong learning and graduated the day they died.
5. Adaptive methods
Adaptive methods enable a movement to function in ways that suit its changing environment and its expansion into new fields. A movement’s commitment to both its core ideology and to its own expansion provides the catalyst for continual learning, renewal, and growth. Dying institutions display the opposite characteristics— willing to sacrifice their unique identity, conservative in setting goals, and unable to face the reality of their mediocre performance.
I give this book a “highly recommended” not just for the rich story-telling and inspiration. It puts the spotlight in the right place by examining the core of what the church really is: something that is powerfully and organically alive; something that loses its very essence when it is no longer a Spirit-led movement.