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How To Spot a Church Movement

Good conversation at Neil Cole's blog on whether the organic church movement is actually a movement or not, and what some of the secrets of igniting a movement might be. Lets be honest - most of us wouldn't recognize a a spiritual movement if it turned into a giant marshmellow and fell on our head! And its even harder to spot one when it is going on around you.

So what does a spiritual movement look like?

Dr Paul Pierson, my missions history prof at Fuller, and a pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, compiled a very helpful list of characterstics of renewal movements. I used his ideas to research the Toronto Vineyard movement when it was only 6 months old. Thanks Ryan for asking him to write them down so that others might use them.

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"Dear Andrew; Ryan asked me to send this to you. The list of factors observed in revival and renewal movements throughout history is flexible and some of these can be combined, but here is a list.
- They always begin on the periphery of the institutional church
- They are motivated by a transforming experience (grace) of God by an individual or group.
- The result is the desire for a more authentic Christian life that often leads to concern for the church and world.
- Face to face groups for prayer, Bible study, mutual encouragement are important.
- New methods of selecting and training leaders become important. These are less institutional, more grass roots and lay oriented.
- There are theological breakthroughs, that is, rediscovery of aspects of the Biblical message that have been forgotten or overlooked by the Church, usually they involve a focus on the gifts of every believer.
- There is a leveling effect, distance decreases between clergy and laity, social classes, races, men and women, and denominations.
- The movement is countercultural in some ways, often because it reaches out to those who have not been valued by their society. - Consequently there will be opposition by many in the dominant culture and church. - There will often be manifestations of spiritual warfare. such movements sense the reality of evil and the need to recognize the vistory of Christ in the cross and resurrection.
- At times there will be unusual manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit; healings, visions, glossalalia, miracles. etc.
- More flexible structures of church and mission will be needed and often emerge, different from traditional structures.
- The movement will be led to significant recontextualization of the Christian message, which will be communicated more widely by lay persons to those outside the church.
- New music is often a characteristic.
- Biblical concepts ignored by the traditional church but relevant to the hearers are often discovered.
- There will be a growing concern for the marginalized, often expressed in ministries of compassion.
- At a later stage this often leads to concern for broader social transformation.
- As the movement matures there will be concern for the renewal of the broader church.
- As the movement continues to mature many will see themselves not only as part of the particular movement but as citizens of the Kingdom of God, transcending their own movement.
- Finally, every movement is less than perfect and often messy at the edges and sometimes, at the center. This is inevitable as long as sinful humans are involved.

I hope this is helpful. Cordially, Paul Pierson

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