Part 8: Movement Dynamics
Although we need some institutional structure, institutions stagnate without movement dynamics. A movement is characterized by a clear vision rather than being governed by rules. The vision is so compelling that people commit and sacrifice for it. Movements are open to partnering with others who can help accomplish their goals, and they have the freedom to recognize new ideas and leaders. Institutionalism needs to be avoided, but every movement needs some marks of an institution in order to be well organized for long-term effectiveness. Every church should be an institution and a movement, an organization and an organism. Jesus is the great prophet, priest, and king, and his followers have these roles, too (speaking the word of God, offering spiritual sacrifices, having authority). There are also special offices in the church, where the Spirit equips certain Christians for special leadership and responsibility. A local church that has movement dynamics will have unity that is created around the vision, it will demonstrate self-sacrifice and eschew tribalism, there will be a willingness to partner groups that have overlapping visions (without compromising on essentials), and there will spontaneity and ideas that come from the bottom-up. It is very difficult to maintain the proper balance between being an institution and being a movement, but we naturally gravitate towards institutionalism over time.
Churches with movement dynamics will want to see growth beyond themselves—this leads to church planting. In the Book of Acts, church planting was a natural part of the spread of Christianity, and it needs to be a natural part of our church life today. A church planting mindset requires being willing to give away control of resources and personnel. It also requires giving the church plant freedom to develop its own distinctive style. This can only be done if we are more interested in the kingdom than in our own tribe. New churches see far higher rates of conversion growth than established ones. They are also one of the best means for renewing and sharpening existing churches. Cities need far more churches than most people think. Planting a church requires learning about the community, loving God and our neighbors, linking the church to the community through contextualization, and launching the plant.
Church planting is required if the city is going to be reached, and this requires churches practicing a proper catholicity and willingness to help other groups that differ on secondary issues. Every church has strengths and weaknesses, and although each should try to be as balanced as possible, different models and emphases will work better in some congregations than in others. A gospel city movement changes a city through the involvement of multiple churches and agencies, providentially empowered by the Holy Spirit to create a gospel ecosystem. A gospel ecosystem can be envisioned as three concentric circles: in the center is the contextualized theological vision, in the next circle are the church planting and church renewal ministries, and in the outer circle there are specialized ministries where churches and agencies partner together. These ministries include prayer gatherings, evangelistic strategies to reach particular groups, social justice initiatives, networking professionals together, education, and more. Church leaders need to have a high degree of unity for this to succeed. Cities can be transformed when a high enough percentage of the population knows Christ—we need to pray and work to see this occur.