Dave Gibbons: Movements and Mustard Seeds

Dave Gibbons: “Can we ever forget the greatest movement of all began with a group of 12 misfits?”

The buzz at a lot of conferences is about movements. How to start a movement—or a pitch to join one—is appealing. Don’t we all want to be part of a movement? I know I don’t want to be left out!

That’s probably why I, too, have been caught by the “movement mojo.” I even included it in a bio that I allowed to be released. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in something that has the potential to transform so many lives? I mean, it’s a movement! What’s not to love?

The Nomenclature of Big

But how did we get to this point?  It seems the momentum toward movements began with American churches who initially loved the idea of megachurches, but eventually grew more skeptical of the big and the corporate. Now people almost apologized for being a large church. So the flavor went from megachurches to organic/simple churches and then to multisite churches. The progression of conversation seemed to favor the smaller—or at the least the decentralization of anything big.

We innately gravitate toward the nomenclature of the big. In time, the conversation turned to the language of movements—something both big and small groups of churches can use as a way to feel more significant. I mean, who would respect us if we’re just 30 people meeting in a small traditional church in Iowa?

Size and Significance

While again, I like movements, I’d offer a humble word of caution for those of us who like our fries super-sized, our shopping in malls and big-box stores, and our gatherings stadium-size—equating significance with size. Perhaps the mindset we’re to focus on when it comes to the work of faith is not a movement of the masses but a movement of the Spirit.

Our primary concern should not be to start a movement—or necessarily to join one—but to faithfully plant mustard seeds and leave the catalyzing and multiplication to the Holy Spirit. The growth in organizations—and in us—is up to him, as we center not on exponential size but rather on radical love for those in our midst we can tangibly touch and care for.

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Movement talk is another way of feeling like we’re important and actually doing something grandiose. But this type of movement ethos and conversation can actually produce people who feel like failures because their work isn’t “movement like.” And it can lead to processes that are diffused and ineffective, less customizable to indigenous people groups and cultures. Thinkig big can actually cloud one’s thinking to the point they miss out on what is within their reach.

The movements that last and are truly transformative require a move of the Spirit, and often begin with the small and the unlikely. Can we ever forget the greatest movement of all began with a group of 12 misfits? Jesus has always chosen to use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty and the foolish to shame the wise. Those things that seem small in our eyes often hold the keys to the kingdom. Sure the large is beautiful and of great value, but when it comes to the front lines of God’s kingdom work, the small, the fluid and the adaptive can flow with the Spirit with speed and liquidity. God stirs movements and moves mountains with mustard seeds.

Jesus said the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. With this small nonmovement like word picture I feel free. Our mission is not to focus on building movements as much as it to simply plant mustard seeds that can turn into a movement if God desires. It’s wholly up to him. And as Paul reminded us, some plant, others water, but only God gives the increase.

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