Book Reviews & Summaries – Movements That Change The World, by Steve Addison


Addison, Steve, Movements That Change The World: Five Keys To Spread The Gospel, IVP, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-8308-3619-2, 126pp + study guide, $16.

Reviewed by Peter Cheyne

Steve Addison defines movements as “‘Informal groupings of people and organisations pursuing a common cause”. But what he describes is the dynamism of many movements that spread rapidly by recruiting people who become “sold out” for the cause and so recruit others.

Jesus started a multiplying missionary movement which grew dramatically in the first three centuries, and which has seen other periods of spectacular growth in its history. It is clearly meant to be a multitude of groupings of people committed to Jesus and His cause and recruiting others. However, any observer (in the western world, at least) would have to conclude that it rarely qualifies as a movement today. Something of the original dynamism is lacking.

Addison, an Australian, identifies five characteristics of missionary movements. In doing so, he profiles a number of movements including the Celtic missionary movement under Patrick, the early church, the Moravians and the first Protestant missionary movement, Azusa Street and Pentecostalism, Methodism in both Great Britain and the USA,.

The characteristics he identifies are:

  • White-hot faith – those who start, and those who continue, movements experience God, often in some crisis moment and through on-going spiritual disciplines.
  • Commitment to a cause – movements centre around big issues that people care about and are willing to sacrifice for.
  • Contagious relationships – movements are social phenomena. They spread from person to person via the grassroots members and their networks.
  • Rapid mobilisation – ordinary members are equipped and encouraged to play and active part in the movement and its spread
  • Adaptive methods – structure is required but it must be structure that can adapt quickly to changed circumstances or to engage new settings.

As well as the case studies mentioned above, Addison illustrates each characteristic using Jesus’ example.

This is a relatively small book and an easy read yet it raises issues that deserve far more thought. While he is fully aware of the need for some structure if movements are to survive and thrive, he also raises the issue of institutionalisation when movements tend to ossify and lose their original vibrancy, passion and appeal. When we run the risk of being part of an institution rather than a movement, and we don’t like that prospect, Addison’s analysis gives food for thought and pointers for restoring what has been lost. Anyone keen to see the Jesus movement moving again will benefit from this book.

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