What Is A Movement?

Here’s the best definition I’ve seen recently:

“A movement is a group of people who consciously, and at their own cost, connect to change the status quo.”

This simple definition applies to any type of movement that is focused on change. We’re interested in spiritual movements – movements that seek lasting transformation of hearts and lives while honoring the one true God.

Most historical movements go through a fairly predictable life-cycle. The birth usually centers around a charismatic personality who champions a compelling cause. During this phase, most outsiders view the movement as odd, fringe, or something to be ignored. Following some early successes or positive comes a recruitment phase. Wikipedia comments:

After the social movement is created, there are two likely phases of recruitment. The first phase will gather the people deeply interested in the primary goal and ideal of the movement. The second phase, which will usually come after the given movement had some successes and is trendy; it would look good on a résumé. People who join in this second phase will likely be the first to leave when the movement suffers any setbacks and failures.

Eventually most movements dwindle or die. This may be due to fulfillment of the stated objective (i.e. women granted the right to vote) or loss of momentum due to poor leadership, lack of ownership among the masses, or a cause that is less-than-compelling.

Any honest student of history must acknowledge that the movement begun by a carpenter’s son 2,000 years ago in Israel which continues to grow today meets all the qualifications of a successful spiritual movement. In fact, we could easily argue that Jesus Christ was and is the most successful movement leader of all time. Why?

  • This movement is centered around a Person, not just a charismatic personality.
  • It is empowered by humble dependence upon the Holy Spirit, not fads and trends.
  • Its driving force is the most compelling cause in the universe: the glory and fame of the One true, loving God among all peoples and all nations.
  • Millions of true followers have endured harassment, persecution, torture, death, defamation and hardship with love, joy, peace and self-control.
  • The movement (aka the church) continues to rapidly grow with amazing fruitfulness after 20 centuries.
  • It is completely inclusive: no one is excluded due to gender, race, financial status, ethnicity, social caste, intelligence or religious background.
  • Its visionary end possesses the broadest possible scope. In other words, it is worthy of giving one’s entire life to help fulfill.

Next topics:

  1. Four marks of a movement that changed the world in half a generation.
  2. Common mistakes that we all make in building movements.

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded Indigitous.org, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at www.onleadingwell.com.

1 comment

  1. hi.

    i was looking for a definition of the word movement and stumbled upon your blog.

    i would like to know your opinion on movements centered around a particular political candidate. would such groups be considered real movements.

    i am of the opinion that they are not; that they are nothing more than campaign machinery.

    thanks and more power.

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