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My Journey Toward Movement Thinking

My Journey Toward Movement Thinking

– By Doug Lucas
President, Team Expansion –

I remember trying to define Team Expansion with the lawyer who helped us incorporate, back in 1978. It wasn’t easy. We were a collection of independent thinkers, each focused on a different location, yet united behind a common vision: church planting.

That hard-won clarity might be one reason I struggled as Team Expansion’s President, nearly 35 years later (in 2013), when I heard rumbles of a different strategy for missions. As I look back on my journey and our organization’s journey, I wonder how it took me so long to embrace it. Why was it difficult? How did I navigate the transition personally? And how are we, as an organization, seeking to apply these strategies?

First, movement thinking seemed too “fuzzy” for me, with no single source of truth. And what I heard people describe seemed too simple. Surely, if all we had to do was live out the book of Acts, why would it have taken 19 centuries for us to sort it out? I asked myself: “If there really are 1000+ movements, with millions upon millions of participants, why can’t we see them? And can we really be sure those aren’t just inflated numbers?”(1) I also wondered: “Even if the reports from Asia and Africa are true, if this is so simple, why doesn’t it seem to work in North America and Europe?”

Besides, I reasoned, we had always focused on a central nucleus: a group with 100 people in a rented or purchased building. I had been trained to define a church as having a staff, programs, and a budget. My years of training had prepared me for one paradigm: the “standard” model of a church. With all those expectations and definitions imprinted in my mind, the mold was hard to break.

So what changed – in me and in our organization? The following elements aligned to bring a paradigm shift:

1) An advocate: a person I trusted championed the cause. In our case, he’s our Executive VP. Eric has been my lifelong friend. I respect his vision and passion for the lost. As I look back at how he “won me over,” I can identify some additional things he did that were helpful.

2) Patience: the advocate spoke my language and understood how to influence me.  He didn’t lecture me or talk in a condescending way. He asked if we would allow him to begin  experimenting with training selected field workers in our organization. We gladly blessed his efforts, and he often invited me to those training to get me involved. He was sneaky in a good way. How could I welcome all those workers to a training in this new approach if I didn’t endorse it? But I still wrestled. For months and months, I poked around, trying to “get it.” But I kept asking: what exactly is “it”?

3) Endurance: The advocate never gave up on me. He held a steadfast belief that our organization would transition to movement thinking more effectively if its founder and CEO was in favor of the change. I’m not the kind of CEO who calls all the shots. But he saw the clear benefit of  having the CEO on board. He just never gave up on me. I remember specific discussions like they happened yesterday. “You mean this all happens rather simply? It just keeps multiplying? There has to be more to this.” He would just gently walk through case studies and principles with me, helping me understand.

4) Case Studies: he showed me examples.  He always looked for stories, so I could embrace an illustration – especially from one of our own fields. Once we started seeing some fruit from our early adopters, he knew I’d start talking it up. That’s part of the CEO’s role: telling stories about the organization’s ministry at its best. It helps people believe in the organization’s effectiveness and helps people feel good about partnering with our workers.

But besides these four things, I still needed TIME. I had to break the entire process down into components that I could digest a little at a time. Rather than eating the entire elephant, I just focused on one meal… sometimes just one bite. I started prayer-walking in neighborhoods of my own city (Louisville, KY) where internationals live and work. I began inviting others to meet with me in training cohorts and peer-mentoring groups. I worked with two other families to start a “My Spiritual Family” weekly gathering, using the easily-learned three-thirds (DBS) style format. (Learn more about these simple ideas at www.Zume.training.) As I took these simple steps, some groups flourished while others seemed to fail. Once I started experiencing the process personally, it suddenly just clicked, within a two-week period.

Along the way, I began to group together ideas and jot them down as principles. I did this with a friend, trying to multiply from the beginning. These principles, for me, turned into a training website for my own needs, along with those of others on a similar journey. Writing down what I learned was a good practice for me. (It’s available free of charge at www.MoreDisciples.com.) As I worked on More Disciples, we were blessed to have a part in testing and implementing the online training materials at www.Zume.training. That course now trains thousands of others in dozens of countries and languages all over the world. 

As an organization, we began doing frequent trainings. Thankfully, many of our workers began implementing CPM/DMM principles both personally and as teams. Today, we estimate that 80-90% of our workers have embraced DMM strategies as their primary approach. And in the entire transition, we might have lost just one family over it. It’s been a huge success. We are now a much more effective organization because of the change. Even in the middle of a pandemic, God has worked through our team members and those we’re training to baptize 2,400 people and launch 796 new groups. There are now over 4,000 active groups in the 50 countries where we serve, with over 25,000 people attending faithfully.

We’ve wondered why more people aren’t implementing these simple and effective principles in North America. Perhaps it’s because we’re so accustomed to defining the Christian life as attending a service on Sunday morning. Maybe our lives are so full of sports and leisure activities that we think we don’t have time to live out these simple, reproducible principles. Whatever the reason, we need to find a way to mobilize hundreds and thousands of prayer advocates and implementers if we intend to catch up with what God is doing in many other parts of the world.

My journey toward movement thinking was slow. But it was a huge transition. I’m thankful to the advocate who helped me along the way. And I’m most thankful to God for his patience and grace in my life. I look forward to stories like this from other leaders and organizations.

(1)  For answers to questions such as these, see, for example, “The Story of Movements and the Spread of the Gospel,” “A Still Thriving Middle-aged Movement” and “How Movements Count.”

One reply on “My Journey Toward Movement Thinking”

Doug, PARALLEL LIVES: it was Dana McCain who introduced me to movement thinking in 2013 while I was teaching in India. Now we are using Zume Training to plant online churches in the US. Our first church has three menbers – from South Florida, North Florida and Houston. Second Church has 4 members – Ohio and Kentucky. Steve Heintz Tell Dana hello. I need to call him.

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