Steve Addison has written a great book entitled the “Movements That Changed the World.” In the book he outlines five key elements of every movement that has changed the world.
In the book he begins by defining a movement. He says that a movement is a group of people pursuing a common cause. Movements are characterized by discontent, vision, and action. For good or for evil, movements change the world.
From biblical, historical, and contemporary case studies, we can identify five recurring characteristics of dynamic missionary movements.
1. White hot faith
The great movements of the Christian faith are unleashed through the presence and power of God in the midst of his people who are faithful to his Word, led by his Spirit, and engaged in his mission. Jesus brought his followers into the same ardent relationship he had with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He sent them to the ends of the earth with nothing but the message of salvation and the reality of God’s power.
2. Commitment to a cause
People who change the world live in alignment with their deeply held beliefs. They build environments that sustain and reinforce commitment to their cause. Their agenda for change brings them into tension with the world around them, but they are also deeply connected with their world. It’s the combination of connection and distinction that enables movements to be catalysts for transformation.
3. Contagious relationships
The most important factor in a person’s decision to adopt a new faith is a close and positive relationship with a committed believer. Missionary movements grow exponentially when the gospel spreads through networks of preexisting relationships. For continued growth, a movement must maintain open relationships with outsiders, and it must reach out into new, adjacent social networks.
4. Rapid mobilization
Missionary movements spread through the efforts of ordinary people. The rapid spread of the gospel requires the efforts of non-professionals who are not dependent on external funding and are not strictly controlled. Converts must immediately begin sharing their faith and planting new churches. The role of key leaders is to model effective ministry; they recruit and deploy workers, then train them on the job
5. Adaptive methods
To fulfill their mission, the most effective movements are prepared to change everything about themselves except their core beliefs. Unencumbered by tradition, movements feel free to experiment with new forms and strategies. Movements pursue their mission with methods that are effective, flexible, and reproducible which outlast and even surpass the influence of the first generation of leaders.
Jesus calls us to participate in a missionary movement that will one day reach every tribe, every language, every people, and every nation. These five characteristics point the way to how we can obey his call.