Jay: Let’s go on to your fourth characteristic — rapid mobilization.
Steve: This is a simple concept — everybody has a job to do. Movements don’t abolish the clergy, they abolish the laity. They ordain everyone for ministry.
You see it in Jesus’ ministry. Even before the woman at the well has come to a full understanding of who he is, she’s off telling her town and village about this man who has told her all about her life and bringing them to see Jesus. Right from the first steps of Christian discipleship people are mobilized for ministry and there are no artificial or non-Biblical barriers to entry.
The US frontier was won by the Baptists and the Methodists because they mobilized young men on horseback (this was especially the Methodists) as circuit riders; as preachers. Francis Asbury in the US, and before him John Wesley in the Britain were criticized for releasing ordinary people to spread the gospel and to lead groups of believers. Wesley would not apologize for it. He felt that these common ordinary people were ministers of the gospel.
So movements just don’t create those artificial barriers that keep people out of ministry; that professionalizes ministry. The problem isn’t the clergy, the problem is clericalism; which is the concept that somehow there’s a class of people who do ministry and everybody else is on the sidelines. It’s all hands on deck if you’re in a movement.
Jay: What’s the balance between rapid mobilization and empowering young believers and the whole process of discipleship and leadership development? How rapid should mobilization be?
Steve: The reason for the rapid mobilization is that movements create learning opportunities in what we call leadership farms.
An example I could think of this is how young players are developed in Australian Rules Football. From a young age they are learning pieces of the game and putting those pieces together and step-by-step they’re growing in how to play football.
It’s the same for movements, they put everybody to work, but then the best movements, and Wesley was great at doing this, create supportive environments where as people are doing, they are learning. And so Wesley’s circuit riders, may have started out uneducated but they didn’t stay that way. They were continually reading, they were educating others, they were even selling educational literature to the common people and raising the level of everybody’s education and learning.
The key balance is, you throw people in the deep end and then you build supportive environments and relationships around them so they continue to learn as they go.
Roland Allen wrote about rapid mobilization almost a century ago. George Patterson was a great practitioner of this in Honduras. It is essential that people learn by doing and have mentors, that their learning is field and life driven. Its not just the fact I have to pass an assignment, that I need to study this book of scripture, its because I need to teach it next week to a new band of disciples and so help me understand this piece of scripture so I can go and teach it and then let’s debrief how it went. So that’s the model, it’s not an either/or it’s a both/and.