Is God calling you to lead a movement? Is it a social or cultural movement? Maybe God is calling you to plant, replant or revitalize a church. No matter the direction of the calling of God, movements are often needed, and they do not just happen. Preparation is needed. Let’s consider these nine principles that can guide you in the process of leading a movement.
1) ASSESS THE CURRENT REALITY. Before trumpeting grand announcements, making promises, or changing anything, you need to know what is happening and why. Investigate how the current circumstances came to be. Ask questions to as many people as possible who have credible knowledge of the current situation. Ask, “Where are we, why are we here, where do we want to be, and what needs to change?”
2) DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE. If you don’t know what success looks like, others with clearly defined purposes can hijack your movement quickly. Your purpose cannot be defined merely as a destination or single objective; instead, it should be defined as the actions or culture it will take to reach a destination or goal.
One of the churches I helped revitalize did not want to merely become a healthy church but rather a multiplying one. We believed that “multiplying” defined the actions and culture that would clearly define the kind of success we were looking to accomplish. Our motto became, “We are a church that is inspiring and equipping followers of Jesus to expand His kingdom.”
3) DEVELOP AN INITIAL STRATEGY. Develop a clear action plan outlining the steps needed to achieve your goals, and identify the resources and support necessary to execute it. Strategies often change as the movement progresses, but you need an initial plan to know what to change as you move forward.
Culture is often defined as a group of people who share common values and behaviors. Behaviors flow out of values; therefore, develop strategies that focus on specific behaviors based on your values. I frequently ask myself, “What must people do if we are going to improve?” Movements happen when more and more people adopt the same values and inspire each other to behave in ways that reflect those values.
4) MODEL THE MISSION. The best type of persuasion is not a lecture but a demonstration. Most people learn best when they can watch someone else model the behavior. People will observe you and determine if your mission is worth the effort. If your mission is worth it, people will join, and they will become the new influencers. At this point, the movement has begun.
5) CREATE A CULTURE OF INCLUSIVITY AND COLLABORATION. Movements are bigger than one person; they thrive on inclusivity and collaboration. As people join your campaign, find ways to give them ownership of the movement. A plurality of leadership is biblical and vital to staying humble, accountable, and unified. Inclusivity helps eliminate blind spots and utilizes the strengths of the collaboration. Remain committed to the movement’s mission and be open to adjusting strategies and tactics based on feedback and changing circumstances. Protect the movement by keeping everyone focused. Say “no” or “not yet” to everything not part of the mission.
No culture is properly inclusive if God is not included. Pray often with your leaders and influencers. Ensure that God’s will and Word are at the movement’s center. Always seek the presence of the Holy Spirit. Without His power, the movement will either become destructive or soon die.
6) CREATE SMALL, ACHIEVABLE GOALS. Short-term goals create opportunities for members of your movement to work together for the cause and build momentum. People also learn better when given small achievable behaviors to practice and perfect. Short-term goals allow people to develop the vital behaviors that define their movement. When those behaviors are practiced repeatedly, culture is created. And that is a successful movement!
7) CELEBRATE THE VICTORS. A movement is ultimately about people, so celebrate people. Remind them that what they are doing is to the glory of God! Success creates hope. Back-to-back successes multiply hope, and hope is vital to a sustained movement.
8) PRACTICE SELF-CARE. Leading a movement is about leading through constant change. It requires resilience. It will be more complex and more prolonged than you ever imagined. Self-care includes both sufficient rest and effective delegation of responsibilities as the movement grows. If key leaders within movements do not practice self-care, they may burn out long before the mission is accomplished. Even worse, they may become the destructive force that stops the momentum.
9) KEEP SAYING YES TO JESUS. Any movement that is not Spirit-led is not worth the time and energy. A Spirit-led movement requires leaders who are fully committed to saying “yes” to Jesus every step of the way. Spirit-led movements often achieve more than the leaders ever imagined, and I can guarantee it will go differently than the initial strategy. Why? Because anything worth doing must be done by faith.
Dr. Jason Robertson, a pastor of Huntington Beach Church, has thirty years of ministry experience, pastoring and planting churches. He is a Count the Cost Champion for the CSBC, serves in the Orange County Southern Baptist Association, is president of the 2023 CSBC Pastor's Conference, and is an assessor for NAMB. He earned a DMin from Gateway Seminary, where he is an adjunct professor of preaching. He and Tasha have been married for twenty-five years and have three children.
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