Defining a Movement
A movement can be defined as a passionate group of people whose convictions necessitate an identity which propagates a message that turns into action resulting in social or religious change. In the New Testament, that movement stemmed from maturing saints whose leaders empowered them to action resulting in planted churches. These empowered saints turned the world upside down as they multiplied and spread a message that connected Jesus’s story to the stories of the peoples they engaged. The movement birthed in the book of Acts exemplified the following marks:
- Exponential growth (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 8:4, 25, 40; 9:31, 42; 12:24; 13:49)
- Indigeneity (missiological theology, eg. Logos, John)
- Social (religious, intellectual & political) and economic impact on a community (Acts 17:6; 19)
- Sound teaching (Acts 2:42; 4:32; 6:4; 15:35; 19:10; 20:20; 1 Tim 1:10-11, 6:3)
- Produced maturing disciples (Ephesians), movement leaders (1 & 2 Timothy), and missiologically theocentric churches (Rev 2 & 3)
Saints (according to Paul)
In the NT, a saint is more than someone who grows in their knowledge of God. A saint fellowships with other believers, worships in a community, and prays like those assembled in a house in Acts 4. Then, empowered by the Holy Spirit, a saint boldly declares the word of God and more and more people become followers of Jesus. This understanding of a saint is highlighted throughout the New Testament and, through a study of the early movement in Ephesus, we see at least ten characteristics common to them all.
- Saints surrender to God’s will and maintain the work of their first love in a theocentrically focused missiological theology (Eph 1; Eph 5:18-19; Rev 2:4).
- Saints declare the mystery of Christ to the nations (Eph 3:4-10, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
- Saints are equipped by movement leaders for ministry (Eph 4:12; 1 Timothy).
- Saints exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Eph 4-5).
- Saints are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses (Eph 5:18-19, 2 Tim 1:7).
- Saints are godly husbands and wives, mothers and fathers (Eph 5:22-6:4).
- Saints pray for opportunities to share the gospel because they know God is most glorified when more people are worshipping him (Eph 6:18-20, 1 Tim 2:1-4).
- Saints are respectful of people and culture when they do evangelism (Acts 19:7, 37).
- Saints learn sound teaching from movement leaders who are able to teach (1 Tim 4:7).
- Saints are willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel (2 Tim 1:8).
- Saints are committed to multiplying more disciples (2 Tim 2:2).
Movement Leaders (according to Paul)
New Testament leaders understood that there was only one head of the church, Christ Jesus (Eph 1:22). Such an understanding flattened the leadership of the movement to such a point that disciples clearly understood their responsibility of making more disciples as they were empowered to use their gifts for God’s glory. These leaders understood that they worked together with others as equals in God’s mission as God had called them all to be co-laborers (1 Cor 3). When Paul wrote about these leaders, their responsibility was clear – they were to equip the saints for works of ministry (Eph 4:11-12). Since these leaders were held to a high standard of character, their relationship with disciples were marked by the following gifts, functions, and character:
Gifts of a Leader
- Apostle (Acts 19:22, Eph 3:7)
- Prophet (2 Cor 3:6)
- Evangelist (1 Cor 3:5-6, 2 Tim 4:5)
- Shepherd-Teacher (Eph 6:21-22, Col 4:7-8, 1 Tim 4:6)
Functions of a Leader
- Empowering Christ-followers to use their gifts (2 Tim 1:6-7)
- Inspiring Christ-followers to join in hardships and suffering (2 Tim 1:8)
- Entrusting Christ-followers to teach others who will teach even more (2 Tim 2:2)
- Reminding Christ-followers to preach the word (2 Tim 4:2)
Character of a Leader
|1 Timothy 3:1-7||1 Timothy 3:8-13||1 Tim 4:14; 5:17-20|
|Aspires to office of overseer||Dignified||Council of leaders|
|Above reproach||Not double-tongued||Worthy of wages|
|Husband of one wife||Not addicted to much wine||Titus 1:5-9|
|Sober minded||Not greedy||Above reproach|
|Self-controlled||Hold to the mystery of the faith||Husband of one wife|
|Respectable||Tested||Children are believers|
|Able to teach||Not slanderous||Not quick-tempered|
|Not a drunkard||Sober-minded||Not a drunkard|
|Not violent||Faithful in all things||Not violent|
|Gentle||Husband of one wife||Not greedy|
|Not quarrelsome||Managing children and household well||Hospitable|
|Not a lover of money||Acts 20:28-30||Lover of good|
|Manage household well||Pays careful attention to themselves||Self-controlled|
|Not a recent convert||Pays careful attention to the flock||Upright|
|Well thought of by outsiders||Be alert to false teaching||Holy|
|Hold firm to the word as taught|
Leadership of a movement takes many forms as we see in the NT. From the Jewish synagogue model led by elders to the Greek oikos model led by an overseer, the NT allows for freedom in leadership structures. The challenge is for us to determine how God might use the leaders we disciple to exponentially multiply disciples. What appears consistent in the NT movement are the character, gifting, and function of these leaders while the forms and structures adapted according to the cultural context.
Missiologically Theocentric Church (according to Jesus)
During Jesus’s earthly ministry, He spoke about the church only twice (Matt 16:18, 18:17). In Matthew 16, we have Jesus’s promise that the church is His and He will build it. In Matthew 18, we learn that the church has the means to address conflict. Jesus certainly expresses ideas that have been incorporated into the ministry of the church such as baptism, communion, evangelism, discipleship, giving, caring for the marginalized; however, these are generally responsibilities of all disciples. Outside of Matthew, the only other place where Jesus addresses the church is in the final book. To the angels of the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus wrote individual letters commending some, admonishing most, and warning about the future if they do not listen to the Holy Spirit. In Rev 2 and 3, we can discern the following distinctives of a healthy church:
- Listens to the Holy Spirit (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6, 13, 22)
- Confronts false teaching (Rev 2:2)
- Proclaims God’s glory (Rev 2:4-5)
- Stands up for the marginalized (Rev 2:6)
- Stands firm in the faith (Rev 2:13)
- Goes beyond the work of love, faith, service, endurance (Rev 2:19)
- Endures hardship (Rev 3:11)
- Keeps sound teaching (Rev 3:3, 8, 10)
Ephesiology Lab partners are committed to spurring each other on to a high standard of multiplying maturing disciples, developing movement leaders, and establishing missiologically theocentric churches. We regularly consult with each other and hold each other accountable to what we believe God has called us to do in His plan to unite all things in Christ. Partners are unashamedly missiologically theocentric as we join God on His mission of bringing more people to worship Him. If this is your heart, we would love to partner with you.
Connect with our current lab partners. They love talking about what a missiologically theocentric church is and how they are attempting to reach their communities with the good news.