The church has found new ways to express itself, down through the generations, through out-of-the box followers who listened to Jesus and did something so radical that it became a movement that changed the world.
What if movements become the new normal for the church today? And not just one type of movement.
Today, I am involved in seeing elements of church planting movements in Africa. These are apostolic, discipleship movements in which followers, churches, and leaders are rapidly reproducing themselves. This type of movement is having a dynamic impact throughout the world. But… even this specific type of movement may not be the new norm. Instead, movements, Kingdom-movements may be the norm that God is after because His church, by definition, is a movement.
Church planting movements are interesting because they show what happens when the church takes on its natural characteristic as a living, reproducing virus. It leads to transformation, change, and the spread of the Kingdom of God. It happens because followers are begetting followers. It happens because control passes out of the hands of man into the hands of God. It happens because the church becomes decentralized and can, therefore, express its inherent, living power. We have learned so much by seeing this type of Kingdom movement viral out of control into the world.
But let’s not clone this one type of movement as the only movement. History shows us that Kingdom movements can take many shapes. When the church is becoming alive and followers are boldly following outside of the rules and boxes, all kinds of movements and reproduction will take place. Consider other movements in history:
Patrick initiated a movement in Ireland that built community and relationship first among the people and then presented the message of the Gospel to them second. He put belonging ahead of believing and mobilized ‘lay people’ to propagate the movement.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, abandoned church and pulpit in order to take the message to the people including the poor, the homeless, and the destitute. He initiated a movement that administers justice and aid along with the Gospel that is still active today in almost every part of the world.
Perhaps we have not yet begun to see or even imagine what the church, Christ’s Body, is meant to look like as it becomes a full array of Kingdom movements.
Even in the natural, decentralized movements are recognized as having the greatest potential for change in our world:
“In a world of rapid and unpredictable change, the leading social entrepreneurs and the millions of changemakers with their tentacles and sensors touching every corner of the globe represent a far better mechanism to respond to needs than we have ever had before—a decentralized and emergent force that, if properly financed, governed and wired together, remains our best hope to construct a framework of solutions that can keep pace with our problems and create a more peaceful world.” David Bornstein
The church, the expression of Jesus, was always meant to be a decentralized, emerging movement led by the Spirit of God. “Decentralized” because no one can control it, no religion can contain it, and no organization can claim it. “Movement” because it is an unleashed force that is designed, by its nature, to cover the earth like waters cover the sea. “Emerging” because it continually brings forth new life in new places and, as it does, emerges in the most unlikely situations and ways.
In three and a half years Jesus initiated a movement that today continues to infuse the world with His living, powerful Spirit through over 1 billion followers! He is alive and on the move.
Our traditional religious approaches to church and Christianity can never serve the movement that Jesus initiated and that is being renewed today. But Jesus followers—loving Him, surrendering to Him, seeking Him, following Him radically into the world—can and will.