Malcolm Gladwell made that phrase more popular than ever. His writings offer insight for every leader desiring to lead something that is moving slightly beyond their reach and that is definitely out of their control. Isn’t that the essence of movement, though? And who wants to lead something that they themselves can control?
It is somewhat trendy to hear church leaders make statements about wanting to start a movement. “Starting a movement” seems to be a paradox in and of itself. If I can start a movement, that therefore implies that I had something to do with its inception as well as its continuation. That contradicts the very ideal of what a movement is. Something I “manage” would be something I initiate and maintain. A movement is much more. It takes more than my manipulation to begin it, and it is beyond my ability to continue it, simply because to be classified as a movement would require so many elements beyond my control.
For example, my friend Billy and I were reminiscing the other day about all the phrases and games we used to say and play growing up. He posed the question, “How did some of that stuff spread like it did.” My reponse was, “Cousins.” Kids in one town came upon something to say or something to play probably about the same time as kids in another town did. Cousins would visit from out of town, either to affirm what was being said or being played, or to learn something new and take it home with them. That’s just how it works. Movement. No one is sure who started it, but everyone involved is sure that they dig it and they want to be a part of spreading the virus.
It’s the same with what the Old Testament calls the “remnant.” God’s people, now known as the church, steadfast and faithful to continue to love one another deeply and through those selfless relationships make the King of King’s fame known among the nations. The church, living sent, making disciples, coming near in love to a people who need to know of the God who came near in Christ. A movement I heard teacher say began even back in Genesis. Regardless of your ecclesiology and when you think “the church” began, one thing is for sure – no one is sure which particular human started it (of if a human could have for that matter), and everyone who tastes is wants to share it with someone else. That’s how the movement Jesus called church has continued.
Needless to say, and with the intention to call out leaders who throw around the notion, “church” is not a movement we will begin anytime soon. It is however, this God-declared-beauty, interests-of-others-above-my-own, profound-togetherness, daily-cultivated, abundant-life-blossoming, what-God-intended movement that we can join. And we had better. Cause the remnant will remain whether we join or not.
Those involved with ReproducingChurches.com have prayed and desired to join that movement. For almost three years now, we have witnessed God blossom His church in various ways in local communities across Central Florida. And we are entering a season where the “beyond” Central Florida is happening. When leaders are sharing what they are tasting with other leaders from Central Florida and beyond, and others are joining the movement. Not the “Reproducing Churches Network” movement. That is no movement. Names are irrelevant. It is probably best called “on earth as it is in heaven.” It is simply the movement Jesus called the church. Leaders are relinquishing the pressures they have carried to “grow churches” and instead are being the church, cultivating the Gospel and equipping followers to live sent. It is definitely beyond our reach and feels more and more beyond anything we could control.
Dr. Jimmy Dukes, long-time pastor and theological educator, recently commented about what he sees going on with ReproducingChurches.com:
God is doing something among these leaders and among these churches unlike anything I have every seen in my almost 50 years of ministry. My prayer is that the leaders of the network will not bottleneck what the Spirit is doing with ego or manipulation.
And that is our prayer. May we not reach to grab and not try to control. May we simply listen and say yes when the Spirit says yes and no when He says no. And watch this small sentence in the grander story of the Kingdom tip away from a few guys’ recollections of what we’ve seen so far toward the unimaginable we’ve yet to see.
Let’s keep living sent.