“Here is an excellent article written by a friend and colleague in mission. Great insights!” Doug Gehman
Is a Movement Like a Tomato?
by Mark Roland
I stood on my balcony terrace overlooking a school and watched children kicking a ball.
And I asked God, “What are you doing over there? What are you doing with those kids? Are you doing anything noteworthy? Is there anything going on? I mean, really?”
I live in the second largest city of an African country. It is modern with high speed internet, traffic jams and one of the best train systems in Africa. I live here as an entrepreneur. A spiritual entrepreneur and catalyst whose task is to see other spiritual entrepreneurs “raised up” and a disciple-making movement begun.
And I maintain that we live at a time when the Spirit of God is being poured out in the earth. I maintain and teach that we live in that time when the Holy Spirit is active everywhere and especially in the Muslim world where we live.
So if the Holy Spirit is active, my question of God is, “What are you doing there – where my finger is pointing, where my eye is seeing? What are you doing right now? Right here?”
But I fear we have been lulled to sleep and taught to ignore the workings of God in favor or the illusions of church. I was birthed in a movement back in the 1970’s that eschewed “churchianity” in favor of just Jesus. We hated the idea of churchy stuff and relished the ideal of plainly following Scripture and listening to the Holy Spirit. But somehow we have evolved to a whole mindset of churchy stuff today. Instead of choirs and hymns, we now have worship teams and bands that do “worship sets.” And we do mission trips as part of the economy of church. We raise money, send our kids in an annual rotation to nearby impoverished countries and call it The Great Commission. But stop! That’s not what I started out to say…
Is God doing anything here?
The first sign of revival – or God working in the lives of His people – is the reemergence of the “Priesthood of the Believer.” This is where the average guy or gal puts their trust in Jesus, has a genuine born-again experience and senses that they are clean and new and empowered, just like Jesus said. And this new found freedom and sense of righteousness results in an organic, heartfelt “witness” – where they talk about Jesus and their experience to everyone that will listen. But the “priesthood” part comes in as they take it upon themselves, not just to talk about Jesus, but also to demonstrate Jesus to others. They cast out demons, pray for the sick and baptize people in their backyard pool or even their bathtubs. A “move of God” is best evidenced when individuals realize that they have a relational privilege to act in Jesus’ name, in Jesus’ stead, with Jesus’ authority and responsibility.
But eventually this ebbs away. It just sort of reverses, like a receding tideline on the beach, in favor of experts, people with certain gifts and certain ministries. It just goes away and those “priests” begin waiting for permission and looking for authorities who say it’s okay to step out in faith.
And eventually we end up with a religion that uses the same verses and the same words and vernacular, but is geared toward comfort, stability and respectability. The Priesthood of the Believer becomes the Priesthood of the Clergy, the specialist, the anointed, the guys with an office and title.
(Yikes! I’m back to where I just don’t want to go!!)
It’s reasonable to believe that thinking, acting and organizing “organically” would be natural and simple.
But probably not. We live in a world that has been built and ordered by engineers, architects and programmers rather than farmers and gardeners. So pretty much we think in mechanical and mathematical terms. You’ve heard it, “GIGO, Garbage in = garbage out.” And we talk about being “wired” or “geared” a certain way, hence making it near impossible to change. Pretty mechanical, huh, for something that has a heart and bleeds? And prays.
As Winston Churchill said, “We want a lot of engineers in the modern world, but we do not want a world of engineers.” But that’s pretty much what we’ve got. I’m not against engineers, but the Kingdom of God is more relation and organic than rational, mathematical and mechanical.
It takes intentionality just to think organically. “Organic” refers to “living,” not mechanical. And living things grow. Growing things change; changing things challenge and challenges cause us to grow.
Thinking about disciple-making as an organic movement and my role in developing such a movement, tests my thinking. We are accustomed to programs that are systems of learning and acquisition. They have a beginning, a specific duration and an ending, so we can begin the next program. Their processes are well defined. There is a place for programmed learning, but it does not grow organically and exponentially. And for most people, “organic” is more about “hobby” or grocery preference than cultivation.
A true movement is built upon organic disciple-making relationships. Relationships require nurture and accountability. And, the Kingdom of God moves at the speed of relationships.
Disciple-making happens best in small micro groups of 3 and 4. We’ll call them huddles.
Huddles are organic. Huddles are small so they are flexible. Huddles can gather anywhere – homes, coffee shops, McDonald’s, classrooms. Huddles can be brief and to the point: “What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?” Huddles are not about just “doing the material.” Books and courses are tools, but the outcomes of huddles are disciple-making disciples – coaches for new huddles – that multiply and grow.
Because they are alive, huddles are to be the leaven that leavens the whole lump. They are to be the intentional living relationships where life is transferred and movement begins.
And movements are like tomatoes.
I have been taught that there must be three reproducing generations before discipleship or church-planting is considered a true movement. Three generations. And I recently randomly found out that “heirloom” tomato seeds must reproduce three generations without cross-breeding to be considered a true heirloom. Heirlooms are the tomatoes that Granny grew. They are not the ones that Monsanto engineered.
Heirloom tomatoes produce large numbers of seeds and bear tomatoes genetically identical to parents. They are considered flavorful, and even superior to commercially-produced varieties. And they are known for their individuality. Many heirlooms have distinctive shapes that are often unusual, misshapen, and inconsistent. Sometimes they won’t fit properly on a perfectly round hamburger bun. And they come in a variety of un-tomato-like colors: purple, yellow, white, orange, pink, green, even black, and striped.
But mostly we get Hybrid tomatoes. Heirlooms take longer to mature and produce fewer tomatoes than hybrids. Hybrid tomatoes are a cross between two genetically different tomato varieties. With a hybrid, you get the best qualities of both parents. Commercial growers like hybrids because they are predictable. Home gardeners prefer them because they present fewer problems. And they produce. Most agree: cultivate hybrids, you’ll harvest more tomatoes.
Most store-bought tomatoes are hybrids. Tasteless, uniformly shaped hybrids that cannot reproduce. Hybrids are known for yielding tomatoes of similar size and with fewer blemishes. If you go to the nursery and buy tomato plants they will give you tomatoes – hybrids – but you won’t be able to plant the seeds from the crop and have tomatoes next season. There is an innate sterility in the hybrids. Every year you have to start over.
Movements grow. Movements are lop-sided and happening in the most unusual places, using regular people. My friend Lance Ford says, “It is almost as if we have come to believe that anything that is not at least semi-complicated is suspect. How can it be legit if just anyone could do it?”
Movements do not require experts, just experimenters. Movements do not require geniuses, but people with love and passion. And an intense desire to please the Father.
But Seth Godin says, “A genius looks at something that others are stuck on and gets the world unstuck.” So perhaps we do need a genius or two to get us unstuck and get some real activities going.
Movements happen when the strategic partnership between the Holy Spirit and intentional apostolic on-mission-with-God believers team up. God does the supernatural and we do the obedience. We pray, believe, listen and respond. Jesus appears in dreams and visions to regular folks. Perhaps even unsuspecting regular folks. But we as strategically placed spiritually gifted individuals who give witness to who Jesus was, is, and will be and to His resurrection and to His intention for Creation.
Movements happen when every believer senses their place and their role in the will of God in the earth. And they have the nascent faith that says, “Why not?,” breathes a sigh and steps out, right into the center stage of God’s redemptive activity.
“Whatever You’re doing Lord, I want to be a part of it. I’ll plant it, water it, dig it, dung it or harvest it.” Just saying.