"And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again." (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Movements require much more than a simplistic approach to conversion and evangelism. Evangelism is more than seeking to proselytize, baptize and abandon. Such programs count conversations and baptisms. In my context, they have caused great pain, disillusionment and a mass rejection of the gospel.
Yet, there seems to be no end to those who engage in these harmful practices.
Programs that organize for conversion alone will not get us to movement.
Movements shift heart allegiance in three areas:
- Allegiance to Christ
- Allegiance to the Body of Christ
- Allegiance to the mission of Christ
Each of these is a challenge to our self-serving lifestyles. Most religious activity, including secular activity, revolves around ourselves. Religion is the idea that I am able to please God through achievement. It is deeply selfish, even when it purports to be otherwise. It focuses on how I can become better in order to achieve acceptance. The deep driving force of all religion is the cry for acceptance.
Christ comes into our lives to set us free from this selfishness. He frees us from the prison of self and the continual drive for acceptance. He ‘seals the deal’, accepts us as we are, forgives, restores and embraces us.
He also demands a change of allegiance. We cannot embrace His embrace without surrendering ourselves. This is a heart allegiance, not a manipulated conversion. In this surrender, we experience His freedom from having to earn acceptance. We can enter His rest. We strive no more.
The journey that Christ takes us on demands total surrender. However, we often experience this in stages. We grow, learn and develop in our understanding of the Christ-life. When we first give our heart allegiance to Christ, we may not fully understand that this decision includes an allegiance to His Body and to His mission. Many people believe that they can pick and choose between these. They try to segment the Kingdom and embrace only those parts they feel comfortable with.
Imagine giving your allegiance to the CEO of a company but refusing to be part of the company. Imagine saying to this CEO, “I will meet with you, but do not ask me to promote your business or to work with your employees.” My guess is that the CEO will show you the door very quickly! Joining a company means giving total allegiance to the boss, the company and the mission of the company.
In the same way, when we enter the Kingdom, we give allegiance to Christ, His Body and His mission. But our hearts do not always grasp this immediately. This is especially true in urban environments and individualistic cultures. The idea of a “personal relationship with Jesus” has often been pushed too far.
Christ calls us to participate in His body and His mission. Yet, we have re-interpreted this in our culture of individualism to a list of things we do for acceptance. We feel we ‘keep God happy’ when we…
- Attend church regularly (rather than participate in body life)
- Pray about our problems (rather than having communion with Christ)
- Listen to sermons (rather than obeying the commands of Christ)
- Pay our tithes (rather than participate in the mission of Christ with our time and money)
This is why our churches are stuck with members rather than disciples. Members will force us deeper and deeper into religious activity. They consume religious goods and services in order to gain a feeling of acceptance. Disciples, on the other hand, start movements. Making disciples means leading people into allegiance to Christ, His Body and His mission.
In Accelerate, we structure movements as:
- Groups - where people journey towards alliance to Christ
- Gatherings - where people journey towards allegiance to His Body
- Teams - where people practically grow in allegiance to His mission. It takes teams, groups and gatherings to see a mature movement emerge.
If one of these structures is missing, people will not fully mature and a true, sustainable, multiplying movement will not emerge.