Movements That Change The World

Movements That Change The World is a great little book that I first learned about while perusing one of the church planting blogs that I visit frequently.

In the book, author Steve Addison writes about and discusses five core characteristics of missionary movements that he has discovered as he has studied Christian movements throughout the ages and around the world. These core characteristics are : 1) white-hot faith, 2) commitment to a cause, 3) contagious relationships, 4) rapid mobilization, and 5) adaptive methods.

Addison makes two statements in the Introduction of the book that established the tone of the book for me.

The first is his very succinct definition of a “movement”:

In general, movements are informal groupings of people and organizations pursuing a common cause. They are people with an agenda.”

The cause that we are concerned with here is the cause of Christ and the agenda is the expansion of His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.

The second statement is:

In the renewal and expansion of the church, the breakthroughs always occur on the fringe of the ecclesiastical power – never at the center. In every generation, in some obscure place, God is beginning something new. That’s where we need to be.” (p.33)

And that is exactly where I want to be.

Below are a number of quotes from the book’s chapters as well as some of my own comments on each characteristic.

Chapter 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. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (p.36)

You can run an institution with systems of command and control, but Jesus founded a movement…. A passionate faith is at the heart of every dynamic missionary movement. It is the greatest resource. Today, where Christianity is expanding quickly in the developing world, it is often the only resource.” (p.49)

Chapter 2 – Commitment to a Cause

Movements that change the world deal with the ultimate issues. They are causes that make demands on followers. Apathy changes nothing, and it is the surest sign that a movement, organization, or society is in decline. Change takes place because people care enough to act on their deeply held beliefs. They choose ‘to live divided no more’.” (p.56)

Addison points out at the end of the chapter that commitment does not necessarily guarantee the rightness of a cause. Any one of us can think of evil causes and movements that were and are characterized by the commitment of their adherents.

But we are talking about the cause of Christ, His glory, and His Kingdom. So, the author reminds the Christ-follower that “Jesus expected the same unwavering commitment from His disciples …. to make the same sacrifices and demonstrate the same commitment that He did” to the will and purposes of God. (p.65)

As we make this commitment to Christ and His cause, we must remember that Christ said if we are going to be His disciples, we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses daily, and follow Him (Luke 9:23), and that unless we place Him above all others and all affections, we cannot be His disciples (Luke 14:26,27).

Chapter 3 – Contagious Relationships

This chapter, and the next, were my favorite chapters in the book. In fact, it was as I was reading this chapter that I decided to read The Bridges of God by Donald McGavran (posted on below) because of the emphasis of both on “people movements,” organic connections, and the multiplication of churches.

Here are several of Steve’s quotes from this chapter.

Like a virus, the Gospel travels along the lines of preexisting relationships.” (p.72)

Christianity’s spread was fast and spontaneous; it happened without a centralized coordinating agency.” (p.73)

Christian conversions followed networks of relationships. Missionaries often led the way, but their ministry focused on making initial contacts with members of a social group. Once some insiders were converted, they became the key to the Gospel spreading throughout the rest of the social network, ….” (p.74)

New religious movements fail when they become closed social networks. For continued exponential growth, a movement must maintain open relationships with outsiders, and it must also reach out into new, adjacent social networks.” (p.75)

These quotes in the chapter are followed by two insightful sections on “principles of contagious relationships” and “Jesus and contagious relationships.” Addison notes that “Jesus recruited His band of disciples through relationship networks” and that He “…turned individual encounters into opportunities to touch whole social networks.” (p.81)

If this was Christ’s missionary-relationship strategy, how much more should it be ours as we seek to reach our world for Christ?

Chapter 4 – Rapid Multiplication

The rapid mobilization of leaders and new churches are the subjects of Chapter 4.

A few pages are devoted to the teaching of Roland Allen, the Anglican missionary, best know for his Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? and The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. From Spontaneous Expansion, Addison lists Allen’s conditions that inhibit the spontaneous expansion of the church and those that enhance its expansion. Pretty interesting stuff.

The author then makes reference to Jesus and His ministry of mobilizing workers and leaders.

Jesus’ model of training assumed that the disciples did not know something until they had learned to obey it. Jesus’ teaching was obedience oriented.” (p.97)

This statement of Addison is characteristic of much of the material that I have been reading lately in which much is made of the need for obedience-based discipleship in our churches and church planting endeavors today. It is one thing to know about God and the Bible; it is a radically other thing to obey God and His Word.

I have read or heard the following question asked at least twice lately as I have been studying CPMs: ”Why is the United States not experiencing church planting movements like those occurring around the world?”

The answer: Failure to “obey every command that I have taught you.” (Jesus)

Chapter 5, the last chapter of the book is entitled, Adaptive Methods, Addison declares that it is important for movements to be flexible in their use of methods because “adaptive methods enable a movement to function in ways that suit its changing environment and its expansion into new fields.” (p.106)

The thought is furthered when the author states that,

Movements that drift away from their core beliefs are always at risk, but so are movements that regard the way they currently function as sacred.” (p.110)

I believe that this thought can not only be applied to materials, methodologies, and strategies, it can be applied to church form as well (traditional program based-design, contemporary, seeker, etc.)

Ralph Neighbour, pastor and cell church authority, wrote about this matter of adaptation (at the church level) in his book, The Seven Last Words of a Dying Church – We’ve Never Done It That Way Before. In the book, Neighbour tells his story, and that of the church he pastored in Houston, Texas, West Memorial Baptist Church, as it adapted and transitioned from a traditional, program-based design church to a small group-based church, and then, to a cell-based church in an intentional effort to better reach and ministry to its surrounding community and regional area.

A couple of last quotes from this chapter come from Addison’s discussion of “Jesus and adaptive methods.”

Jesus trained His disciples in a way that was reproducible and transferable. He did not place unnecessary restrictions on who could be trained and entrusted with significant ministry. He expected faithfulness to the Gospel in word and deed, but there were no artificial academic or institutional requirements for trainees.” (p.115)

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.” (p.115)

The Early Christians … wanted to win as many people as possible to faith in Jesus Christ and gather them into communities that became mission centers as they eagerly awaited His return.” (p.115)

Paul argued for cultural relevance, not cultural relativism (I Corinthians 9:19-23).” (p.116)

An important element in Paul’s strategy was the establishment of new churches. He did not just win converts, he gathered them into communities of faith.” (p.116)

This chapter includes a great chart in which Steve compares “Unsustainable Church Planting Strategies” with “Sustainable Church Planting Strategies.”

Finally, in conclusion from the Conclusion:

What would it look like to align your life with Christ’s command and join a missionary movement that will one day reach every tribe, every language, every people, and every nation? … What needs to change in you (in me)? What do you need to do differently? (p.128)

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Hey, thanks for hanging in with me on this post, even if you had to come back and visit the blog two or three times in order to get it all read. It was pretty long. But, I hope you have gotten something of a sense of what Steve Addison’s book is all about.

If you’re interested in such things I would encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself.

God bless you as you commit yourself to being swept up in God’s great movement to reach the nation’s for Himself.

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This post was moved over from my other blog, taethnenetwork. It was originally written and posted in November 19, 2009.

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