Friday, March 30, 2012

Ingredients of a Good Catalyst for Movements #4: A Significant Principle

A Good Catalyst is Significant.

It is certainly not enough to have a simple process packaged in a surprising and small way, if indeed what you are passing on is of little to no value. After you have fiercely scrutinized your ideas to the core, if that core is potent than you have a significant principle.

From my point of view, what we are spreading must be important although importance is given less value in the increasing literature on viral marketing. Some write about the spread of Hush Puppy shoes popularity,[i] or an innovative vegetable peeler,[ii] but those are fads, not a movement. A movement does more than change your footwear; it moves you to do something or be something. It asks more of you than to just buy a product, but to buy in to an idea. It lasts longer than a fad and it leaves behind a lasting mark on society. This can be a good mark or a bad one. The Nazi Youth movement in Germany was not a good thing, but it was a movement that left a mark on history.

The difference between a fad and a movement is in the way it changes people and leaves a mark on the world. A fad, like a Hula Hoop, simply comes and then goes away. Today it is seen in nostalgic footage edited to reminisce about the good old days. Yes, you can still find a Hula Hoop in some places, but you are not likely to see a commercial for it today because so few are interested in buying one—the fad is over. “Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.”

If you drop a stone the size of your palm into a small, calm pond you will see the water ripple outward until they stop at the shore. Within a few minutes all the energy is absorbed and the reaction is gone…the pond is unchanged. That is like a fad. If you drop a tablet of Chlorine the same size and weight of the stone, you will also see the same ripples come and go, but there will also be a chemical chain reaction that will cleanse the water over the hours. That is what a movement is like; it creates a chain reaction that changes things.

Many ask me if the organic church movement is just a fad. It is my belief that if we see lives transformed than it will not be a fad. If we just see Christians meeting in homes and doing the same thing they previously did in church buildings—or more significantly still not doing the things they didn’t do before—than we will be a short-lived fad. The key is: do we change lives? Are people so moved and changed that they cannot go back to the old way? Ultimately, it is not the missiologists, theologians or even the statisticians that determine whether or not you are a movement…it is the historians of the future. Simply doing church in a home rather than a cathedral is not enough of a significant principle to incite a movement, only a fad. Hopefully we are passing on transformative ideas and methods that will birth a movement and not just a fad.

While there are plenty of good ideas in the kingdom of God, I have personally found that the most transformative has always been the Scripture itself. How could we miss that? When we devise a simple process that involves a small group that lets the Word of God speak for itself, then it is something that not only can spread, but is worthy of spreading. I have found, working on these things for two decades now, that this is not hard to do at all. The Scriptures are given to spread. We simply need to place our faith in them rather than in our own ideas. Later on this blog I will present a couple examples of how the Scriptures can be the significant principle that speaks for itself as a catalyst.

The truth is if we have the truth, we have the most significant principle of all. As I pointed out in my earlier work, Organic Church, Sir Walter Moberly, a non-Christian educator, once said to us as Christians: “If one tenth of what you believe is true, you ought to be ten times more excited than you are.”[iii] We should ask why we are not seeing more movements. I suppose the answer would be that we are not letting out the most significant part of our faith—God’s revealed word!

[i] Gladwell, The Tipping Point, pp. 3-5
[iii] Cole, Organic Church, p. xxviii, quote is from Sir Walter Moberly in his work Crisis in the University

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