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Movements That Move: Root Principles & Research Study from Asia

The full 35 page article has a host of information from the root principles of a movement through the specific details and findings of a movement study in two Asian nations. Here is the introduction, and at the bottom is a link to download the entire article.


The Christian faith spread to the early generations of believers through viral movements. There was limited organization and structure in the pre-Constantine church, although the church fathers did have bishops over cities and regions. By the best estimates, there were 20,000 disciples of Christ at 100AD. By 300AD this number had exploded to 20 million. The Christian faith had been embraced by about one third of the Roman Empire when Constantine stopped the Diocletianic persecution and placed Christians under the umbrella of the state protection (control). How could this phenomenal growth happen without the infrastructure of church buildings, seminaries, and denominations to ensure that doctrinal positions were secured and tithing Christians in place to fund missional initiatives?

Movements That Move

As in the early church, movements, by definition, can be chaotic and disorganized, as they are driven along relational networks and not by highly orchestrated efforts led by command and control organizations. Over a half century ago, Dr. Donald McGavran's research, articulated in "The Bridges of God: A Study in the Strategy of Missions" (1954) revealed that ‘people movements' could have a holistic impact on communities, cultures and nations. Furthermore, they were not driven by the Western individualistic worldview, but rather by a community worldview in which ‘men of peace' were key players. McGavran disrupted the dominant missionary strategy of the 19th and early 20th century, the ‘mission station approach', with his insights into cultural highways that the Gospel could race along, thereby producing mass conversions to the Christian faith. It is interesting to note that during the decades that McGavran wrote his books and established the Fuller School of World Missions, Mao took over China and proclaimed that ‘Christianity would eventually only be found in museums'.

However, the Holy Spirit had different plans for China. The church in China exploded from 3 million Christians in 1949 to current estimates of between 80-120 million disciples of Chris. It is well known that this historical event has occurred without the institutional structures of Christendom. One might conclude from a comparison between the Chinese church of today and the early church, that the institutional model of doing Christianity is a hindrance, rather than a support to the fulfillment of Christ's clear mandate to the generations. In fact, the institutional model of doing church formulated in the fourth century spawned over a millennium of politicized infighting over position and power, the values that Jesus Christ said he came to remove from the religious scene of his day.

Download/Print Article PDF (10 MB)

Today's generation is left watching the decline of institutionalized Christianity in the West, while Asia and the southern hemisphere enjoy a revival of spirituality and an unprecedented explosion of numerical and spiritual growth. The church has long struggled in Europe and America.

Perhaps a closer look at the driving forces that propel movements, instead of trying to oil the frozen machinery of consumer driven faith, would be instructive.

Root Principles of a Movement That Moves

Since 1998, Missions International has been exploring rapidly expanding movements in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Cuba, and China. Over 5,000 grass roots leaders have been surveyed and evaluated using quantitative statistical modeling and qualitative research. After more than ten years of research in church planting practices and theory and multiple iterations of the Church Planting Movement Survey, 7 Root Principles have been clarified as crucial to church growth. The process for discovering the 7 Root Principles involved a combination of statistical techniques and church planting theory...read more


Outline of the 7 Root Principles

1. Intentional Reproduction: New converts participate in new, small churches and in turn reach out to their social networks and start more new churches.

2. Continual Training: Training is given in small pieces in the homes of believers, at the village well, or in the rice field. They learn enough to implement and do, and then they go and do just that.

3. Simple Leadership: All believers are active participants in all levels of church life, including baptisms and Lord's Supper.

4. Relational Empowerment: Leaders work had to mentor all disciples interested in planting new churches. These relationships grow across generations of church planters, leading to large networks of experienced planters working to mentor the next group of leaders.

5. Strategic Networking: The focus of evangelism lies in communicating Christ to a network of people and not just to individuals.

6. Immediate Obedience: New concepts are taught at the moment of application and practice.

7. Passionate Prayer: Leaders who spend considerable time passionately asking for God's love and guidance as they spread the Christian message are rewarded for their devotion with growing churches and passionate disciples.


Read more about the Root Principles, a survey of two Asian movements and the statistical findings. For instance:

"Older Christians are less likely to plant new churches"
"The churches that allow all members to baptize new disciples are more likely to baptize more disciples."

Movements That Move- Roots & Fruits

Download/Print Entire Article PDF (10 MB)


©2010 Missions International & Dwight Marable

Posted by Permission of Missions International
Contact Dwight with questions/comments -  dwight@missions.com

See also the articles:
Planting Rapidly Reproducing Churches
Discipling Viral Disciples
The Secret to Church Multiplication Movements
The Secret Source to Unlimited Leaders

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