loren Eric Swanson: The Nature of Movements Part 3

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Nature of Movements Part 3

I pulled this article off of Marc van der Woude's blog http://marcsmessages.typepad.com. Marc really has his fingers on the pulse of what God is doing in Europe

by: Martin Robinson

5. Achieving much without the many

The Tipping Point. The key to producing movement lies with the principle of multiplication. It is astonishing what can be produced from a very small initial base once multiplication is embedded in a movement. It is an observable reality that the world is constantly changed by committed minorities and not by apathetic majorities. The process by which small groups of people become mainstream influencers is well described in a book that describes the formation of secular movements, called The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, by Malcolm Gladwell.

The title of the book has begun to enter the vocabulary of politicians and social campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic. Although using very different words, the author describes the operation of key influencers that in Christian terms would be thought of as apostles and evangelists – those who cast the vision, build networks and offer convincing advocacy. At a certain point, a new idea, ideology or even product reaches a tipping point such that it becomes the new orthodoxy. The many enter the scene at a fairly late stage in the process. It is the few that lay the groundwork to allow the many to enter later. The process of multiplication or the production of a tipping point has actually been given a mathematical formulation which Gladwell refers to in his book. He offers an astonishing illustration in relation to the developments of movements by sighting a flu epidemic:

“Tipping Points are moments of great sensitivity. Changes made right at the Tipping Point can have enormous consequences. Our Canadian flu became an epidemic when the number of New Yorkers running into a flu carrier jumped from 50 to 55 a day. But had that same small change happened in the opposite direction, if the number had dropped from 50 to 45, that change would have pushed the number of flu victims down to 478 within a week. And within a few weeks more at that rate, the Canadian flu would have vanished from Manhattan entirely.” (1)

Transportable Movements. Those kinds of statistics indicate precisely why movements need to become transportable in order to achieve significance. Multiple contacts are vital elements in producing tipping points. The church planting teams that operate in the Ukraine are instructed to make 350 contacts each. They recognise that in terms of impact, large numbers of people must be contacted to produce initial momentum. It is for precisely that reason that church planting as an activity often becomes the point of leverage for the development of movement.

6. Time of opportunity

We are living between ages. Living as we do between the close of modernity and the rise of something new we need to remember that the future is still open. In particular it is open to spiritual nourishing.

The consumer narrative is weaker than it seems. The following quotation is taken from one of the leading books on marketing. It is widely regarded by the marketing industry as something of a handbook on understanding marketing and advertising.

“For the first time in human history, a shared mythos has broken down, and commercial messages are now taking the place of shared sacred stories. We know in our hearts that a profession designed to sell products cannot fill this gap. If we take the time to think of how many people are finding the only meaning they have in their lives from consumption of various sorts, we do not feel proud; we feel sad, or even outraged” (2)
Unanswered longing. There are many pointers in our culture to the existence of just a longing for the place of valid sacred reality. The challenge for the contemporary church is whether it can meet that unanswered longing.

Stop the Audio/ Visual Resource

What might it take to produce a Christian movement amongst young people in the Western world?

Reading: Starke and Finke, How the Upstart Sects Won America. This article is found in your reader.


Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference, Abacus, 2000, p. 261.
Mark and Pearson, The Hero and the Outlaw, McGraw-Hill, 2001, p. 359


Post a Comment

<< Home