Movement Leadership

Steve Smith

Steve and Laura Smith

Steve and Laura Smith

In December 2005 I had just left China and was passing through Singapore where James Creasman introduced to two men named Smith who were devoting their lives to training and coaching movement pioneers across Asia. I knew movements as a careful observer, they knew movements as participants. I shared the lessons that ultimately ended up in my first book, Movements that Changed the World. They listened and encouraged me to keep going, as I was on the right track. One of those Smiths was named Steve.

I understood movement principles, Steve Smith helped ground those principles in action. I met Steve again in Singapore in 2010 at a gathering of movement trainers. I think there might have been 40 people. Steve got us in the room and facilitated peer learning and application. I watched the way he drew people together, among them some strong personalities and opinions. He led with skill and spiritual authority. He was a man committed to building coalitions to fulfill the Great Commission.

When I stop and think of Steve Smith right now, two words come to mind — grace and determination.

We met many more times at various gatherings, I can recall Houston, Dubai, Dublin and England.

This is what Steve Smith taught me—give your life to obeying Christ’s command to make disciples of the nations. Pursue it with all your might. Don’t be content with your own efforts, train and mobilize God’s people, build coalitions, learn from other practitioners. Go deep with God as you depend on the Holy Spirit and obey his Word. Steve and Laura modeled what it means to go this journey together as a family. Lastly, Steve taught me that you can face anything in this life, even the horror of cancer and the confusion of unanswered prayer, and with Christ, you can triumph.

After a long illness, Steve Smith died on March 13. He was fifty-seven. He leaves behind Laura, three grown sons: Cris, David, Josh and wife Caroline and twin grandsons.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Tim 4:7

176-Return to Athens

The world is arriving on Athen's doorstep. God is at work multiplying movements across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Will Burnham reports in.

When leaders fall

David, Nathan, you are the man.jpg

More resignations, more shocking details of a leader in disgrace. Bill Hybels joins John Howard Yoder and Karl Barth in the hall of shame. Few leaders finish well.

The Bible is strong on grace without ever losing sight of the reality and seriousness of sin. Forget the debates on once saved always saved. We can all agree that saving faith perseveres to the end. It is perilous to confess Christ with your lips and set our hearts to deny him in deeds.

We are at war. Jesus laid out the terrain in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Between his first and second coming the world will be characterized by conflict, natural disasters, wars, false prophets and the ever-present temptation to fall away. The danger is real.

So who makes it through? The ones who in their weakness, cast themselves on him. This world is passing away. Jesus has overcome the world. He led the way as the obedient Son who entrusted himself to his Father and triumphed over sin, death and Satan. His victory is ours.

There was a time in my life when I had no hope left. I wasn’t convinced my life was worth living. I had no strength left. The enemy was using my weakness to bring death and destruction. God had another plan. In my brokenness, I called out to God. I claimed my identity as one hidden in Christ’s death and resurrection. I rebelled against the reality I was experiencing. God is faithful and in his time and in his way he restored me.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, 

We do not want you to be uninformed … about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead (2 Cor 1:8-9).

Leaders don’t fall because they are not strong enough, they fall because in their weakness they rely on themselves, not the God who raises the dead.

Answering Why?

Sam Metcalf

Sam Metcalf

In August, Michelle and I travel to the US to be with our friends from Church Resource Ministries.

Ahead of the CRM worldwide conference, Sam Metcalf set the tone for the gathering in a letter. Here's part of what he wrote,

In the last year, along with our various leaders, I’ve sensed a shift from a focus on the “what and the “how” to a more profound question: “Why we do it.” I believe God has been gently, but firmly, drawing us together toward the grand scope and magnitude of that calling. He is graciously wooing us with his cosmic vision that stretches beyond time and space. This captivating “why” is succinctly captured in the following phrase:

...I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb (Rev 7:9:).

The ultimate expression and realization of the Kingdom of God is when the redemptive reign and rule of Jesus happens in the lives of people …when the Kingdom breaks in and the highest and most excellent of the created order—human beings—become committed followers of the King of the Kingdom. While there are certainly other essential manifestations of the Kingdom, this remains the ultimate biblical centerpiece of the mission of God. A phrase that I like to use to describe this priority is that "the Kingdom of God is never fully present unless people are becoming followers of the King."

This is what movement leaders do, they remind us of the why. Get that wrong and you drift into the missional fog.