Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What does a Spiritual Movement Look Like?

Since Steve Douglass became the president of Campus Crusade for Christ a few years ago, there has been a phrase that he has used frequently to describe the role that CCC plays in partnering with local churches and ministries. It encapsulates what we're are trusting God for and how He might use our lives. It is this:
"Spiritual movements everywhere so that everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus"
Mr. Douglass goes on to say this,
"When the phrase "movements everywhere" was given, it was in the context of a movement of spiritual multiplication. In other words, this movement is when a small group of true followers of Jesus band together to win, build, and send in the power of the Holy Spirit. Individually, and as a group, they "own" the Great Commission and, as a result, gladly volunteer their time. They are intrinsically motivated and intentionally in doing ministry - not needing ongoing motivation by staff members"
Doesn't that get you excited? To dream that every single person on the planet would have at least one person in their life that is radically committed to following Christ and sharing His love with others is pretty exciting. That idea greatly motivates me to want to look around to see where God is working and to join Him in His work. But, practically speaking, what do these spiritual movements look like? How does this play out in a neighborhood, in a family, on a campus or in a church? I have one example to share...

Though I grew up in a solid church and in a Christian home, it wasn't until my sophomore year at Central Michigan University that I began to really follow Jesus. I think a significant reason that I grew so tremendously in my faith (and, subsequently, led to what I've been doing with my life) was my encounter with a movement of believers that were radically committed to following Jesus. I can vividly remember the first time I encountered this group of individuals. It was at a meeting called "College Life" and there were eight people in the room (and three were tuning their guitars for the meeting). There wasn't a whole lot of people there, but things were different about these people and it made me want to spend more time with them.

What I experienced with this group of people was just not something that I had previously been a part of with people my age. There was sincere love for one another, a real commitment to prayer, and a vision to tell others about Jesus. Though the numbers were not large (there were only about 25 students involved by the time I graduated), there was a deep and abiding commitment to following Jesus.

My involvement with these individuals deepened and I began to realize I was participating in a real movement. We gathered several times a week at 7 a.m. to pray for our campus and world (which is not easy to do in sub-freezing Michigan winters). We consistently shared our faith in Christ with our peers. We were a part of one-on-one and small group discipleship. And in the three years I was involved with CCC at CMU, we had 14 students participate in ten-week summer mission projects. Considering we only had around 20 students involved each year, that's not too shabby.

But the true effectiveness of this movement can be measured by what happened after we graduated. The movement did triple in size in the subsequent years after I left, but look at how God is using us now. Dan is reaching out to college students in Detroit; Andy, Gina and Wendy are planting a church in Grand Rapids; Matt is ministering to soldiers in Germany; Lorena is sharing God's love with children in Ecuador; Laurie is leading youth at a new church in New Zealand; Tracy is telling students about Jesus in a communist country in Asia; I help to launch spiritual movements among ethnic students across the U.S.; and there are many others that went before me and came after me who are leading in their churches, families and communities.

You see, it doesn't take hundreds of people for God to do something special (Remember, Jesus started with only twelve). At CMU, we didn't even have any full-time staff working with us. Just a staff coach and a couple of volunteers. All that it takes is a small group of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, who trust God to use them to touch the world. I think that's what we did during my time at CMU. I really don't think any of us were that gifted or special. We were just naive enough to take God at His Word and ask Him to give us a broader vision than the little town and cities that we grew up in. And He did.

What I experienced is what so many young people are crying out for today. They're tired of being entertained. They want to experience authenticity and a God who is personally involved in their lives. They're not going to be convinced of the Christian faith by someone giving them a book on apologetics. The question they're asking is, "Does it make a difference?!?! They're shouting, "Show me by your life that Jesus is real!"

I'm grateful that I have been able to be part of movements of people that want to see Jesus real in their lives and to see Him come alive in the lives of others. We define a movement as 5 people filled with the Holy Spirit passionate about reaching a specific group of people for Christ. I trust that if you're not part of this type of movement right now that God will lead you to others that have similar passions. And the world won't be the same because of it.

George Barna Cites Current Religious Trends

After studying the results of interviews with thousands of people conducted by his company during the past 12 months, best-selling author and internationally respected researcher George Barna described what he felt were the eight most significant religious trends identified in his firm’s studies. The California-based author of nearly 40 books about spirituality and morality in America listed four trends related to local churches and four trends concerning the spiritual lives of the American people. Read the full story here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Member Culture or Missionary Culture?

I've been doing a lot of reading recently on organic and spontaneous growth among the churches and ministries of the world and it has me thinking a lot about the state of the American church. If we're honest with ourselves, we can probably say that it doesn't seem as though some of our well-intentioned efforts are really making much of a difference in our communities. Though we have huge churches in every major city of America, how many of us can honestly say that those communities look radically different than if those churches weren't present?

It seems that one of the reasons that this may be so is that we have created a country club environment in many of our churches. Now don't get me wrong, there are many solid churches that are doing some great things. But wouldn't we have to agree that most of the activities that our churches sponsor are really for those that are members of our "club?" Do our prayer requests primarily involve those already in the church or those outside of it? Does our giving to the church primarily go to activities within the church walls or outside the church walls? Not only that, but do most of the activities happen within the church's walls or outside in the community?

It seems that our members pay their dues, show up to club meetings when convenient and expect certain services to be provided to them. If we don't like the music played in the services, the color of the carpet in the foyer (foyer - a word we only use in the club), or if the club chairman (pastor) doesn't wear a tie, we just pick up our stuff and go find another club. We (and I include myself here) tend to think about what our preferences are rather than what might be most effective in reach our communities and our campuses.

Reggie McNeal, in his book The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, outlines the difference between having a "Member Culture" vs. having a "Missionary Culture" within a ministry. He mentions six key resources for spiritual leaders (prayer, people, time, money, facilities, and technology) and how a membership culture and a missionary culture would view these differently. [For my purposes, I've replaced church or movement with "club" to emphasize the point.]

Member - prays for current members and "club" needs
Missionary - prays for the unchurched and outreach efforts

Member - recruits other members into "club" activities
Missionary - deploys others into the community

Member - finds time for "club" activities
Missionary - creates time for the expression of the ministry's mission

Member - raises money for "club" activities
Missionary - channels money to mission initiatives

Member - maintains the clubhouse
Missionary - seeks ways to move out into the community

Member - supports the "club's" existing ministries
Missionary - creates ministry opportunities in the world.

It's good to examine where are energies are being expended and who it is that we're really ministering to. It's seems like we erect these big, beautiful buildings out in the suburbs and shout to people that aren't listening, "Come join us -- we're really cool!" Maybe we should change our approach to go where the people are, meet them where they're at, and truly minister to their needs. We might actually have to do ministry outside of our church's four walls and instead of expecting people to come to us, maybe we need to go to them. That means have more Bible studies in Starbucks. It means doing more baptisms at the beach. It means service projects in needy communities (and not expecting people without cars to drive half an hour to hear about Jesus). It's the approach that Jesus took and I'm sure that He would honor our faithfulness in doing the same.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Campus Crusade segment on "Good Morning America"

ABC's morning show, Good Morning America, is going to be having a segment tomorrow morning, Tuesday, December 6th, entitled "Keeping the Faith on Campus." The story revolves around a student who is brought up in a church-going family, but struggles with the temptations of college life. After finding the party scene lacking in fulfillment, she recommits to her faith.

The piece will feature some practical do's and don'ts for parents. There will be footage of the student at her sorority house, at a Bible study, at church and a Campus Crusade weekly meeting. In addition, a Campus Crusade staff member will be interviewed about our ministry.

So check out Good Morning America tomorrow morning or tape it if you'll be at work. You can check your local channel listings for time and channel.

Update: You can read the transcript of this broadcast here.