For those of us in the Christian world, we often reflect in awe at movements of the gospel in history. Most Jesus followers want to be part of a movement. Many people call themselves one. Few people, I think, understand what they are. Before I tell some of my dumbest mistakes trying to grow a movement, here’s my attempt at a definition for what one actually is for Jesus followers:
MOVEMENT: “The rapidly multiplying, expanding influence of the gospel among a given population, with ensuing transformation in all spheres of life.”
After four years growing a movement on college campuses (or at least trying to), I thought it would be a good time to sit down and evaluate my mistakes. For some bizarre sociological reason, people respond better when I tell them the stupid things I’ve done, rather than just the sweet stories.*
Maybe being honest about our quirks and missteps helps pave the way for others. Before I tell some of my own painful blunders from the last few years, I’ll give myself some anaesthetic by relating a quick story of one failed expedition that led to others’ success.
About 450 years ago, a group of devoted, prayerful Jesuits set out to expand the gospel where it had never been planted before. The Jesuits were founded by ten friends, among them a quirky, often criticized guy named Ignatius of Loyola who once pilgrimaged barefoot all the way to Jerusalem (only to be promptly kicked out of the city and sent home). God often uses strange people to start movements.
The Jesuits were the most prolific force for expanding the gospel in unknown regions prior to (and in many cases, after) the era of modern Protestant missions. Along the way, several of them looked for a faster land route to get from India to China. One of them, Benedetto de Goes, traveled for four years by foot through icy, snow-packed mountains and murderously treacherous deserts searching for a new way to China before finally dying, a thousand miles short of his destination. Before he died, he left some notes with a traveling merchant that (miraculously) made it back to his Jesuit friends in Europe. The contents of his note basically said:
“Don’t come this way.”
Sometimes our mistakes can help others get where they need to go. (Not to mention, ourselves.)
So, with a shout out to Benedetto, here’s a note from me about a few of my dumb mistakes in growing movements: “Don’t come this way!”
1. Build a Network and Call it a Movement…