A big question at Wikipedia regarding the global Emerging-Missional Church is this: Is it a movement or not?
It hasn’t been easy to answer. Some countries have seen fast organic growth, spontaneous reproduction and display definite signs of being a movement and other countries just have a few networks or even just a few churches and would not be a movement at all.
I was stumped . . so I asked my history teacher from Fuller School of World Mission, Dr Paul Pierson. In his class in 1995, we studied revitalization movements and he had 7 criteria (or was it 10? my memory fails me). These were never published online. I know because I googled and googled and googled until the heated twinges of early carpal tunnel forced me to cease googling and instead ask Ryan to track him down and ask him. Which he did. Here is the answer.
Email from Dr Paul Pierson [typos corrected and bullets added]:
“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
Most excellent, and thanks to Dr Pierson for these characteristics.
Also helpful is David Garrisons book “Church Planting Movements” which David gave me in Budapest last year. and we discussed emergent theory and emergent phenomena – which is obviously present in what David has observed in India and China and beyond. But it is not limited to those countries. Davids book is helpful in USA to explain what is happening there. A DAWN ministries leader in USA told me that the number of house churches in USA has gone from a few hundred to 3 thousand in the last 6 years. An early version of David’s book, also called “Church Planting Movements” can be downloaded on the DAWN resource page. And while you are there, grab a free PDF copy of Wolfgang Simson’s “Houses That Change the World”
But as for the question, are we a movement? The observations from Dr Paul Pierson will be a good resource to begin to answer that question.