For the past five years, I have been consumed by the concept of “movements”. It’s just fascinating to watch the evolution of trends in our generation. Just look at how something like those funny looking Crocs can make its way into every home in North America, or how everyone all of a sudden felt the need to start wearing flannel (I’m guilty of buying into both). How is it that certain motif’s and styles become mainstream? Malcolm Gladwell describes that climactic moment as a the Tipping Point, the minute momentum builds enough strength to tumble into a movement. But beyond speaking in terms of quirky fads, movements play a large role in the way the world works. On serious matters, movements arises out of a common (and often unspoken) discontent or concern that everyone is quick to detect and eager to respond to. A movement occurs when a group begins to organically advance towards a shared vision. Take 2011 as an example. From revolutions in the Middle East to Occupy protestors in every major city of the world, the events from this past year epitomized the definition of a movement. The cooperation wasn’t coaxed and the involvement wasn’t manufactured. The global shifts that took place derived out of a natural inclination that many simultaneously shared.
It’s as if the world reached it’s limit with injustice. The velocity of greed and suppression evidently broke through humanity’s threshold of pain. There comes a point when the infliction of pain causes one to moan and even scream out of necessity. There are moments of sadness when one can’t help but cry. This past year, we witnessed a world that could no longer simply clinch its fists and bite its lips. The proliferation of evil rose to a level that required an outcry, a plea for justice. It seemed like the toleration for suppression mysteriously and concurrently ran out among the masses.
In the Middle East, the movement began through the desperate act of a young food vender who felt wronged by his government. In America, it began outside of Manhattan’s Financial District with a group of campers speaking out against the richest 1%. Whether you agree with either movement or not, it’s crucial to observe the fundamental aspects of is progress in light of our mission as the church. It’s important mainly because we all live in systems that don’t encourage the messy process of a movement. Our jobs, family and churches function in structures that can only see growth in terms of calculated and measurable patterns. We have graphs and charts that forecast predictable patterns of growth and thus our actions act accordingly to those predictions. It seems like church growth can now be determined by mere advertising campaigns, increased website traffic and a charismatic preacher. If you get those things down, your church will grow, but chances are you won’t see any signs of a movement.
You see a movement requires an alteration of priorities. In a movement your work focuses more on embedding values rather than accomplishing objectives. A movement emphasizes an ideology more than a strategy. Strategies are implemented, ideologies are internalized. Ideologies transform the way decisions are made and instills convictions that cannot be shaken. You hinge your success not on outcomes but on the faithful expression of your tenets. In fact working towards a movement actually delays the materialization of your desired outcomes. A revolutionist requires patience. 2011 wasn’t the first year protests were held in Tahrir Square. They held rally’s many times before to no avail yet it didn’t stop them from gathering again on January of 2011. History revealed the probability of their failure yet they continued on in the revolution.
Although my churches reality doesn’t mirror a exponentially expanding movement, I believe our values are slowly aligning us towards that end. It’s tempting to veer off, implementing quick gimmicks to rile up the crowd or increase the numbers, but when our outcomes are carefully manufactured by human hands, we’ll soon confront our shaky foundations and fleeting results. I’m writing on this topic to encourage us all take a good look at how we’re building our ministries and for us to examine whether we’re constructing an efficient machine or a dynamic life-giving organism. My prayer for the new year is that we would have the courage and the conviction to choose the latter.