Movements That Change the World

Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel


Steve Addison

IVP Books, 2011, 191 pp.  ISBN 978-0-8308-3619-2


Steve Addison is the Australian director of Church Resource Ministries.  His calling is to spark church planting movements everywhere.  Beginning with St. Patrick, Addison tells stories of dynamic missionary movements that illustrate five common characteristics: white-hot faith, commitment to a cause, contagious relationships, rapid mobilization, and adaptive methods.  He wants to help you get in touch with the dreams God has for you to make a difference in a broken world.  The book is followed by a group study guide.



"Eventually every movement declines; it ceases to value the treasure stored in the world to come, and it begins to trust in the treasures it has found in this world."  (22)


"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 immediately begin sharing their faith and making disciples." (24)


Introduction - Why Movements Matter

Movements are informal groups of people with an agenda for change.  They have leading figures but no one person in control.  Movements make history.  "Movements change people, and changed people change the world." (29)  Pentecostalism was the largest and most expansive and world-shaping movement of the 20th century. 


Jesus started a missionary movement that now spans the globe.  "Just when Jesus' disciples thought the job was done and it was time to put their feet up, Jesus commanded them to go and make disciples of every nation.  He did not offer them resources or a plan.  He just commanded them to go and promised his presence through the Holy Spirit.  That's how the mission of Jesus became a missionary movement.  The church Jesus founded was a missionary church.  Its existence and activities were an expression of its missionary calling."  (30)  "The New Testament is a missionary document." (31)  "The church, in its very essence, is a missionary/missional movement…." (31) 


Mission has a threefold reality: a message, communication of truth and a new way of life, and the purpose of conversion.  (32)  "We have a mandate to make disciples and multiply churches--everywhere.  We are a missionary people." (33)


"Each new movement has a unique contribution to make to the kingdom - its 'founding charism' or gift of grace.  Monasticism modeled a deep devotion to Christ….  The Franciscans' gift … was God's heart for the poor.  The Reformation upheld the authority of Scripture and restored the truth of salvation by grace through faith.  The Anabaptists emphasized the importance of discipleship….  The Moravians were an inspiration as the first Protestant missionary order.  The Methodists and Salvation Army combined evangelistic zeal and holiness….  The Pentecostals rediscovered the untamed power of the Holy Spirit." (33)


"The periods of the greatest vigor and expansion of the Christian faith are the periods in which new movement arise."  "…the breakthroughs always occur on the fringe...." (34) 


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." (37)  "Profound encounters with God are important catalysts in the formation of movements….  A white-hot faith produces right-heartedness, right thinking and right action along with compelling authority that energizes a movement.  (38)


Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann began the Moravian missionary movement when they left for the West Indies in 1732.  "The Moravians were the first Protestants to treat world missions as the responsibility of the whole church." (42)  Moravian missionaries received enough money to get to the port. 


Pentecostalism is perhaps the fastest expanding movement ever.  Communism, fascism and militant Islam shaped the last century, but none of them matched the impact of Pentecostalism.  (44) 


"There are two means by which God develops such white-hot faith in us: crisis and process. In the moment of crisis, we learn to surrender to the grace of God.  The practice of spiritual disciplines is the process that deepens our life in God." (45)  "This pattern continues throughout the history of the Christian movement.  Deep experiences of surrender precede revelation of God's purposes and the outpouring of power to achieve his will." (46)


A passionate faith is at the heart of every dynamic missionary movement.  It is the greatest resource and often it is the only resource. 


2. Commitment to a Cause

"Change takes place because people care enough to act on their deeply held beliefs."  "Power does not finally depend on military or economic might but upon the ability to mobilize people around a cause." (56) 


"What set Wesley apart was not the gospel he preached but his ability to gather converts into a disciplined movement." (57)  "Every Methodist was expected to have a ministry. … Discipline and accountability at every level became a key distinctive…." (59)  Methodism eventually drifted to leniency.  Commitment is nearly impossible to recover once it wanes. 


Three factors enable a movement to maintain strong commitment: founding charism, alignment, and medium tension. 


"Living organisms are constantly seeking self-renewal by referring back to their essential identity and adapting to their environment.  Likewise, movements must adapt to their changing environment while remaining true to their identity." (61)

"Every aspect of the movement must be aligned with its overriding purpose." (61) 


Successful movements walk a tightrope with the surrounding environment.  "If a movement is regarded as too deviant from the mainstream, it may only recruit those who are relationally isolated.  However, unless a religious movement is demanding and different, it will not be taken seriously…." (63)  It must be distinct and connected.


'Declining religious institutions sin by 'omission'--it's what they don't do that is the problem.  Movements, by contrast, sin by 'commission'; it's what they do that upsets everyone."  (68) 


"Commitment does not guarantee the rightness of a cause, but it does determine the likelihood of any cause making a difference.  Committed people make history by living in alignment with their deeply held beliefs." (70) 


3.  Contagious Relationships

"The most reliable predictor of conversion is relationships, especially preexisting, positive relationships."  "Conversion is a social phenomenon; it is often about accepting the faith of one's friends." (75)  "As open movements grow, their 'social surface' expands exponentially.  Each new member opens up new networks of relationships….  Contagious relationships are at the heart of the spread of every movement…." (75)  "Relationships play an important part in forming and maintain your beliefs.  Ideas spread like viruses, from person to person."  (77)


Movements become contagious because of a) the strength of weak ties (acquaintances that link people to other networks), b) tight but open networks (where committed people are retained), and c) the fact that everyone is only six people removed from almost everyone else. 


4.  Rapid Mobilization

You don't disciple young men by sitting around in someone's living room.  Des, a builder, recruits, selects, grows, multiplies, and sustains leaders.  Bishop Asbury's circuit riders lived by three rules: poverty, chastity, and obedience.  "Methodism was a kind of Protestant missionary order under one leader, adapted to reaching isolated communities in harsh conditions across an entire nation." (87) 


In 1776 only 17% of the American population was affiliated with a church.  By 1850, it was 34% and most of the gains were by the Methodists and Baptists on the frontier.  The only institution in the nation larger than the Methodists was the U.S. government.  "The Baptists and the Methodists developed strategies that made it easy for gifted and committed laypeople to take up leadership and go where the people and opportunities were.  Deployment was rapid because very little upfront investment of resources and education was required.  Methodist preachers, many of whom were teenagers, were trained on the job as 'apprentices' by more experienced workers.  They were expected to be continually studying as they traveled. They practiced lifelong learning and graduated the day they died." (90)


"Jesus' teaching was obedience oriented.  His model of training assumed that the disciples did not know something until they had learned to obey it." (95) 


Great leaders grow leaders.  They "create opportunities that equip and mobilize others.  They focus on the whole person: hands, head and heart.  And they don't just grow leaders, they multiply them." (100)


5.  Adaptive Methods

"In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.  The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."(Eric Hoffer, 101)


Why did soccer become the world's most popular sport?  At a basic level it can be played by anyone, anywhere.  It can be infinitely adjusted depending upon the circumstances, resources and people involved.  "Adaptive methods are just like soccer.  They're simple, easy to learn, fun, contagious, adaptable, transferable and low cost." (103)  "Adaptive methods enable a movement to function in ways that suit its changing environment and its expansion into new fields." (104)  "Adaptive methods serve the purposes of a movement without becoming an end in themselves." (106) 


"Every method must be evaluated against the desired outcome."  We must "continually evaluate the fruitfulness and effectiveness of our methods.  If we don't, self-preservation will become our mission."  Powerful movements in one era can be crippled in the next because they are so convinced that what they are doing is right they stop learning and adapting.  The methods that brought success become formalized in inflexible policies and procedures.  The cure is to revisit the core beliefs and then give young people freedom to pioneer something new.  [See the excellent chart of unsustainable vs. sustainable church planting strategies on p. 110.]


"Are our methods so simple that the newest believer is employing them?  "Centralization and standardization are the enemies of innovation." (111)


"To fulfill their mission, the most effective movements are prepared to change everything about themselves except their basic beliefs." (116) 



"What would it look like to align your life with Christ's command and to join a missionary movement that will one day reach every tribe, every language, every people and every nation?  To be involved in seeing countless millions make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives?  What needs to change in you?  What do you need to do differently?  Who will you go on the journey with? … What part will you play?" (126)