Category Archives: Movements

Movements & Organizational Boundaries

Yesterday I was sitting in some important meetings with a group of organizational leaders trying to determine how to best spawn movements.  A focus of our organization is to see thousands, if not millions, of micro movements around the world that are led by volunteers.  But we are an organization that has been around for over 60 years.  It is a significant challenge to structure existing organizations in such a way to actually be nimble enough to see this through.

Steve Addison characterizes movements that change the world as having five elements: white-hot faith/belief, commitment to a cause, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization, and adaptive methods.  I agree with Steve that any movement would have to possess these elements to truly be impactful-whether they are spiritual, political or social in nature.  But what role does organizational leadership play?

In my mind, organizational leadership will always play one of two possible roles regarding movements.  Either the organization will act with institutional controls that actually prevents true movements from happening or it will act as a channel to spur on movements and aids them in being highly effective.  Notice that the issue is not one of boundaries or a lack of boundaries.  But in the 1st instance boundaries are used to protect and prevent.  In the 2nd instance boundaries are used to direct and support.

True movements by their very nature are unpredictable, messy and alive.  They resist control and thrive best when their is vibrant, entreprenurial leadership and a common will.  Organizational leaders must keep the end in mind and resist the temptation to control rather than support and provide.

What are your thoughts?

Seeds of Movement-What Are We Learning from North Africa?

I am intrigued by what is going on in North Africa.  I don’t believe we will know the full impact of these days for sometime-in terms of ruling class, religious foundations, and the domino effect.  We are also observing the impact of movement-not just in Tunisia, but also in Albania, Jordan-and now Egypt.  What are we seeing?  What are some of the principles of movement at its inception?  Here are my quick observations.  What are the implications?

1. A Disaffected Population-In each and every case (Tunisia, Albania, Jordan, and Egypt) there is a portion of the population that feels left out or ignored.  It could be over a lack of personal freedoms.  It might be related to personal economics.  It may simply be due to being worn down by a very old and domineering ruling class.  The Mediterranean world and the Middle East has a long history of one strong man at the top.  But there has to be a tipping point where the common man’s experience of life is painful enough that he has to act and demand change.

2. A Catalyzing Event-True movements do not begin with organization and vision.  They are birthed in a moment of time where the disaffected population is granted psychological permission to act.  In the case of what we are currently seeing in North Africa it was the radical response of a Tunisian fruit vendor towards having his livelihood taken away.  He chose to set himself on fire-and a nation was captured by his sacrificial symbol of protest.  Permission was granted to rally and change.

3. Swift & Effective Communication-Never before in human history has there been this kind of ability to quickly communicate with the masses.  Social media has become the common man’s means for spreading a message-positive or negative-to a group ready to act.  As the protests have spilled over into Cairo the government has “banned” Twitter.  But as we have seen in other parts of the world-this wont work.  The erected firewalls are not able to stop the technological knowledge available to all.  The communication playing field has been leveled-and the movement spreads.

4. Leadership-Leadership has to exist for movements to form and spread.  Right now we are not being introduced to the leaders that are behind what is going on in North Africa.  But they are there-in small and larger ways.  Leaders take the seeds of movement-and they replant them and grow them.  They sow them in new ground-either for good or for bad.  Sometimes leaders step into the vacuum for the greater good of the disaffected population or they become opportunists and act on their own behalf.  But there is always leadership.

What are the implications-for any type of organization or setting?  Thoughts?

Reflections on Genesis-Organic Ministry

I am reading through the Bible in 2010. I have done this many times over the years and greatly enjoy it. More than anything else it begins to put the whole Bible together for me-seeing its themes and storyline. So I thought I would throw in a few observations along the way.

One of the things that stood out to me in my reading was from Genesis 1:11-12. In these verses the Lord God creates vegetation and fruit trees-all with seed bearing quality-meaning the ability to reproduce is inherent in the plant or tree, according to its kind. Both of these notions become biblical themes and are picked up in the gospels of the New Testament-reproduction and fruit bearing. You see this especially in the Upper Room Discourse of John 13-17 and the Great Commission passages.

There is a lot of talk these days about “organic ministry.” The usage primarily means that ministry is done in such a way that growth and development is analogous to that of a living organism. It is not an artificual structure that is put in place-but a pattern that matches what would arise naturally rather than being manufactured. The hoped for result is that ministry is sustainable where it is planted-it exists and thrives within the community that has been inseminated by the gospel and according to its kind.

This seems to me to reflect the created order as well in Genesis 1-each plant and tree contains the very elements necessary to reproduce and bear fruit. It is natural that they would reproduce given the right environment and conditions.

In Italy right now we are thinking and talking a lot about “greenhouse” growth versus indigenous growth. Often in ministry we see the gospel take root in someone’s life and we immediately transplant that person to another location to help them grow an develop-rather than helping them grow naturally within their own environment where the gospel actually has the best opportunity to reproduce naturally. A couple of things are necessary. First, that we are actually planting the right seed-the true, biblical gospel in all of its power and fullness. Second, that we walk closely with people as they seek to live our their new faith in the field from which they came. I don’t want to minimize the fact that there could be a few weeds that need pulling for someone to thrive.

Our faith goal in Italy is to actually implant the gospel into existing relational networks-so that it might natually take root, bear fruit and reproduce in the most natural way possible. As I read Genesis this seems to match well the created order-every form of vegetation and tree had the ability to bear fruit and reproduce built in to it. And while the fall of man has made that endeavor more difficult-the natural pattern is still observable-and possibly more effective.

More on Presence and Proclamation

I have spent more time thinking about the need for both presence and proclamation. I also happen to be studying 1 John for my devotional time. 1 John 1:1-4 stood out to me as a great biblical picture of both presence and proclamation. Read below.

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– 2the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– 3that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

John is saying something significant about Jesus Christ. First, he is combating heresy that had crept into the believing community–the heresy was that Jesus was never truly a man. John counters with his real life experience of Jesus. John even goes overboard on describing his personal experience of Jesus. But second, John wants to make sure that his readers understand that this Jesus “was made manifest.” In other words this eternal God took on a real presence–a human presence. Notice too that what John experienced–that which was made manifest–had to be proclaimed. There were two reasons for this proclamation–that these people might have fellowship with John and his companions–and that they might have real fellowship with the living God–Father and Son. And this proclamation brings John’s band great joy.

John links presence and proclamation. The very real life experience of Jesus results in a very joyful proclamation of Him. The result is sharing–participation–for that is the real meaning of “fellowship.” When one responds to this proclamation they get the great privilege of participating in Christ–and in the body life of other believers. That brings us back to presence. It seems in the Scriptures that there is no presence without proclamation and there is no proclamation without presence. They simply go hand in hand.

The Other Three Critical Components

The picture to the right is a depiction of Jesus and the twelve on an outer wall of the Montserrat cathedral. While quite striking I did notice that all 13 figures are portrayed as very old and pretty stoic–I wonder if that is how they really lived and led in this new venture called Christianity in the 1st century.

Today, I want to complete the description of what Alan Hirsch posed as six critical components of church DNA for the 21st century. In the last post I attempted to describe Jesus as Lord, Missional Incarnational Impulse, and Apostolic Leadership. Now for the other three:

4. Disciple Making
Hirsch argues that we are not really that good at this in Western Christianity–but we are comfortable with the notion because the concept is familiar. Hirsch sees this as the core task of the church–and it is vitally connected to the center, “Jesus as Lord.” The scriptures tell us that we are to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ–to become true representatives of Jesus out in the world–this takes real discipleship. Hirsch also advocates that we disciple both believers and unbelievers–and know that some will be evangelized along the way. This makes sense in Hirsch’s paradigm in light of an incarnational gospel–because this is a life on life approach to both evangelism and discipleship. One of the key phrases you will hear from Hirsch is that “we must lower the bar on church and raise the bar on discipleship.” He feels we have weakened discipleship in our current settings–even in the midst of an emphasis on small groups. Discipleship should result in a person embodying the message of Christ–and embodiment of the message is essential to transmission of the message. Hirsch goes one step further in stating that the quality of our leadership will be completely in line with the quality of our discipleship. The bottom line of discipleship is a deep involvement in a person’s life. Discipleship is face to face and it is primarily experiential. It is not just about educating a person’s mind–but engaging them in experiences that cause them to trust God in new and fresh ways.

5. Organic Systems
This is how we organize movements. Hirsch argues for organizing according to natural life systems. It has the “feel” of a movement–very spontaneous, flat in its organizational structure, and self reproducing. At the core, people absolutely believe in the message of the movement. Power and authority are distributed out–not centralized. There really is a sense of chaos and organization working together. The centralizing piece is the DNA–the core concepts or principles of the movement–but there is great freedom in the function of living our that core DNA. These core values combined with freedom of function is what can propel the movement and keep it organic.

6. Communitas
Notice Hirsch does not list number six as “community.” He is not advocating that just mutual fellowship will get the job done. He is aiming at something else–he is aiming at community built around shared faith experiences. This creates a different quality of community and bonding. Two critical aspects of this communitas are liminality (being thrown into something that is over your head) and ordeal (the actual challenge or goal to be reached). Hirsch points out that we see this both in Scripture and in our culture. In recent times, events such as September 11th and the Tsunami tragedy served to greatly rally people together in community to minister to the victims. In the Bible we see Jesus taking the 12 out and exposing them to many faith challenging situations–resulting in a greater learning and bonding. A part of this is to help a disciple really learn to live out their faith in the world. This also provides the sense of adventure in life and in the movement.

There you have it–six core components that Hirsch would say are essential if the 21st century church is to survive and have significant impact. I have been thinking at two levels as I consider this–both for my church here in Austin and for Campus Crusade as whole. I am still thinking–join me. I look forward to your musings on this topic.

More on the Innovation & Mission Seminar

Alan Hirsch presented six core principles for the 21st century church. Today I will try and give a brief description of the first three.

1. Jesus is Lord
This sounds obvious–but Hirsch took strides to exegete Duet. 6:4-5. He argued that the Great Shamah is not just about monotheism–but it is essentially about lordship. Jesus is not just one of many gods but He is God and He is God over every aspect of our lives. We in the west are famous for segmenting our lives–allowing Jesus to be Lord over the convenient parts. But the passage emphasizes that not only is Jesus Lord–but He is my Lord. In the diagram that Hirsch uses to portray these principles–this one is at the very center. This is bedrock and gives meaning to the other five.

2. Missional Incarnational Impulse
Hirsch described this phenomena as the kingdom of God being sneezed out–spreading like a virus. Like all social movements the gospel spreads from person to person. This is the missional aspect–every follower of Jesus “sneezing” out the gospel. This stands in contrast to what Hirsch calls the attractional model of many churches today–where we expect by putting on a great “show” the unbeliever will come to us. The incarnational aspect is that we must move among those we want to reach. Just as Jesus was God incarnate–donning human flesh and moving among us–so we must live, work, and play among others we intend to “sneeze” on. A virus does not spread very well from a distance–but it is almost impossible to stop when close up.

3. An Apostolic Environment
This is the leadership environment of the church. Hirsch argued that true spiritual leadership is bottom up leadership–not hierarchal. It’s authority comes from a life well lived–not a title. Apostolic leadership is leadership that extends the mission. The apostolic leader lives to extend Christianity and his chief concern is to protect the gospel message. Hirsch argues that these types of leaders are not valued today–the teacher/pastor gift is far more valued in our current model of church. Hirsch states that there is really a five fold leadership structure that is needed within every body of believers: apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. But he would stress that he believes that the first three are rarely valued and empowered–yet very necessary. This is what propels the missional incarnational impulse.

I will follow up on the other three elements tomorrow. Think on these things.

Mission & Innovation

The second half of my week in Spain was spent at Montserrat–a 1000 year old Benedictine community north of Barcelona. The setting was incredible. The focus of the time was a conference on Mission and Innovation within the church. Alan Hirsch, coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come, was the guest lecturer. Representatives from some nine different European countries and the U.S. were present.

Hirsch laid a foundation for why he believes that the current model of church will not be effective in reaching the 80-85% of the unreached peoples of the world. He cited statistics
showing the rapid decline of the current established church–noting that the current models are that of church growth and the attracitonal model.

Hirsch argued for six core elements of missional DNA that he feels are essential if the church is to survive and be effective in today’s postmodern setting: first and foremost, the clear biblical principle that Jesus is Lord; second, a Missional Icarnational Impulse; third, an Apostolic environment; fourth, Disciple Making; fifth, Organic Systems; and sixth, Communitas.

There were some great exchanges within the group as we sought together to figure out what it might take to become a more missional movement in Western Europe and the U.S. More later on each of the core elements.