What is a Movement?

What is a movement?  Throughout history, most significant change in human society has been caused by various forms of what we would call “a movement.”

There are many examples of movements that have greatly influenced Western culture: The Reformation, the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings, abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, ecology, and feminism, to name a few.

A Secular Definition:  “A group of people who are organized for, ideologically motivated by, and committed to a purpose which implements some form of personal or social change; who are actively engaged in the recruitment of others; and whose influence is spreading in opposition to the established order within which it is originated.” —          From People, Power, Change: Movements of Social Transformation, by Gerlach and Hine

Spiritual movements have played a huge role in society and some are well documented in Scripture.

Three prominent biblical examples:

  • 2 Chronicles 30 (Revival under Hezekiah)
  • Nehemiah 1-6 (Wall of Jerusalem rebuilt, people of Israel renewed in faith)
  • Acts 2:41-47 (Birth of the Church)

In these three accounts of spiritual movements we see some striking similarities:

  • It was a “God Thing.” (initiated and sustained by God himself)
  • There was godly leadership promoting and encouraging it.
  • There was unusual motivation and momentum at the grassroots level.
  • There were feelings of joy, awe, and the sense that God was at work doing unusual things.
  • Lives were dramatically changed.
  • Spiritual growth was rapid and deep.  New spiritual leaders emerged.
  • Great unity was experienced within the fellowship of believers.
  • The surrounding culture was impacted.

Not all spiritual movements are as large or as far-reaching as these.   A movement can begin on a much smaller basis-perhaps just four or five students praying to reach their friends for Jesus Christ.  But regardless of size, a movement will display most of the traits listed above.


Description of a Movement

If you were to ask a number of experienced Christian workers to describe what they have seen in spiritual movement they would say that in a movement….

  • We see unusual motivation and initiative on behalf of the participants.
  • New people are always being enlisted into it.
  • There is a clear sense of purpose and most can articulate it.
  • People love to “tell the stories” of the movement.
  • New leaders continue to germinate from within.
  • Core values are strongly embraced and there is “transferability” of those values to new members.
  • There is a warm affection for one another, a genuine respect, and the “we” feeling runs high.

 Multiplication Defines a Movement  

A movement includes three elements:

  • Connecting lost people to Jesus
  • Life-changing discipleship
  • Multiplying leaders

A movement is set apart from mere ministry by the last two items.  If the gospel is being shared and if those who come to Christ are beginning to follow Him, then you have “ministry”-and that is wonderful. But it is when you have a growing number of men and women reproducing their faith through others in a multiplying fashion that the ministry has developed into a “movement”-and that is even more wonderful.