The drift from growth to plateau, from vitality to decline is a subtle but significant one.
At its heart is “the failure of success“—a desire to protect what we have achieved rather than to pursue mission.Here are the consequences for each of the characteristics of dynamic movements.
1. White hot faith - Members of plateaued movements prefer security, social acceptance and prosperity to radical dependence on God. They seek a tamer, more rationalized expression of their faith and begin to interpret the movement’s mission in this-worldly rather than other-worldly terms.
2. Commitment to a cause - Movements emerge because of high levels of dissatisfaction with the status quo. They plateau when members lose their sense of urgency about the need for radical change in the light of a kingdom vision. Plateaued movements increasingly see their mission as protecting what they have gained rather than transforming the world. Discipline becomes lax as members seek a lower level of tension with the surrounding culture.
3. Contagious relationships - There is an increasing reliance on paid professionals to spread the faith and a decreasing reliance on ordinary members and new believers who reach out to their networks of relationships.
4. Rapid mobilization - Religious professionals replace volunteers and the primary workforce. Their role becomes caring for a settled congregation within parish boundaries rather than pioneering new mission among unreached people. The predominant model of church is that of the settled congregation at the expense of the mobile missionary band.
5. Adaptive methods - The environment becomes more formal and complex. Once successful methods become institutionalized. Dissent and diversity are discouraged. Doing things right becomes more important than doing the right things.There may be some exceptions to the tendency to drift towards Plateau and Decline. I just haven’t come across any.
Posted in Movement Building, Marks of a Movement
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