Journey to Movement explores the New Testament church as an ongoing historical event of God’s relentless pursuit of relationships with every people group. The exploration of a movement will help participants discover a biblical plan of action to multiply disciples and connect God’s story to the story of their community. Focused on the church that began in Ephesus in 53 AD, participants will uncover the remarkable legacy of spreading the gospel all throughout Asia Minor as well as the rich understanding that all peoples were being built into a dwelling place for God. The journey will trace the life of the church through its launching in Acts 19 to Paul’s epistle to the church that grounded it biblically. Then, looking at instructions to the church’s leader, 1 and 2 Timothy will provide details of a leader’s responsibilities in movements God continues to orchestrate. Finally, Jesus’s powerful letter to the church in Revelation 2 will set the vision for the ongoing work of proclaiming the gospel to all ethnic groups in order that more people will worship God. By focusing on discovery learning, the journey will have a lasting impact on participants as they uncover biblical principles through the story of the church in Ephesus and apply them in their plan to mature disciples and multiply followers of Christ in their community and the world.
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Ephesiology[n.ih·fē·zē·äləʒē]: The Study of a Movement is the story of the church at Ephesus, the most documented of all the churches appearing in the New Testament.
The Study of a Movement
Beginning with Paul’s approximate three-year tenure in the city from 53 to 56 AD, we see a movement launched that reaches all of Asia Minor (Acts 19:10). Indeed, the work that started on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea spread in those years to Colossae, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Thyatira, Sardis, Laodicea, Pergamum, and no doubt beyond. These churches were catalysts for the advancement of the gospel as their hearts’ desire was to see every nation, tribe, people, and language worshipping before the throne of God (Rev 7:9).
Launching a Movement
It all begin in Acts 16. Paul and his missionary band were prohibited from entering Asia and were redirected to Macedonia only to meet a woman from the very place they could not enter. It is not for another three years or so that he finally arrives on the West coast of Asia Minor with his co-workers Prisca and Aquila. Paul takes several months leave and returns to Jerusalem until an opportune time to step back into the work of God in the great Roman city of goddess Diana (gr. Artemis). Once he returns, the gospel explodes unlike any other place in the Book of Acts. A movement is born; one that will leave a lasting impact on the early churches’ formation and eventually on the later theological developments of the first six church councils. This session will highlight the missiological principles that launched a movement characterized by the rapid multiplication of indigenous churches throughout Asia.
Grounding a Movement
This chapter will examine the letter entitled Ephesians as an expression of Paul’s missiological theology written to inspire the churches of Asia Minor to continue their responsibility in the mission of God. The fulfillment of the mission would not be easy. Brothers and sisters would not always get along. Many would fall away from the faith. The loss of mission would threaten the ongoing movement throughout the region. In the midst of these challenges, the churches are reminded that their adversary would take drastic measures to ensure the movement would slow to a crawl. However, the work that God had prepared for the church to walk in before the beginning of time could not be thwarted easily. This chapter examines the theological underpinnings of a movement that is focused on participating in God’s will of uniting all things in Christ.
Leading a Movement
Paul’s letter to Timothy, the eventual leader of the movement, provides timely instructions on how to keep the movement growing in a manner consonant with the culture of Ephesus. This chapter will examine characteristics of a movement leader by studying the life of Timothy. That life emphasized the faithful proclamation of the gospel, prayer, and the continued progress in a testimony of godliness. The chapter examines Paul’s instructions to Timothy to appoint leaders who progressed in their faith as well as his instructions for the church to be a model to society in how she handled the social issues of the day, including wealth, widows, and poverty, but not at the expense of gospel proclamation. The maturity of both the church and her leaders was manifested by an unwavering commitment to proclaim the one God who, through his mediator, desires all to be saved.
Multiplying a Movement
This chapter will examine how movements multiply by considering a number of factors outlined in 2 Timothy. The obvious text for multiplication to four generations (2 Tim 2:2) is set in a context where individuals have fallen away from the faith and where increased persecution and suffering challenged early believers. In spite of this, the movement continued to grow. Contemporary growth of movements indicates that strong convictions combined with a willingness to suffer for those convictions are key features of a growing movement. This is no different from what is observed in the New Testament. Those convictions Timothy learned from Paul were entrusted to others who would pass them further along. As Tertullian later remarked, “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed” (Apologeticus 50.13). The chapter will include a brief discussion of what it might mean to suffer in the West.
Sustaining a Movement
Between Paul’s decapitation around 67AD and Timothy’s imprisonment, the church continued its ministry, albeit not without struggles. Nearly thirty years later, Jesus intervenes with the church to not only encourage them for the work they were doing, but also to admonish them for forgetting their first love. This chapter will examine the good things the church in Asia Minor did, and how good things can distract from the main thing: proclamation of the good news that the nations are included in the plan of God. Throughout the rest of the book of Revelation, John communicates the vision that all people, nations, tribes, and languages will one day worship before the throne. In the meantime, John is told to continue to prophesy about the completion of God’s mission as it is the ultimate vision of God’s will as expressed by Paul in Ephesians chapter one.
The Completion of God's Mission
The Anatomy of a Movement
The pen-ultimate chapter will draw specific application of the church planting movement that began in Ephesus to church planting movements today. Particular focus will be placed on how a CPM can and should preserve proper doctrine, train mature leaders, and ensure evangelistic proclamation that connects the story of culture to the story of God. The chapter will examine sociological factors for a movement’s growth as well as the characteristics of the NT movements in comparison with contemporary CPMs. The chapter will conclude with a framework for a CPM model that is biblically faithful and theologically grounded in a missiological theology that is uncompromisingly theocentric.