From the inception of ACT 3 as a mission, back in 1991, I have believed in the church. I have three great loves: (1) Jesus Christ; (2) The Holy Scripture and (3) The Church. The church encompasses the whole body of Christ (catholic/universal). It also encompasses the congregation where you gather in worship and fellowship with others. But, as I show in Your Church Is Too Small, the church also includes the whole collection of Christians and congregations (Barth: communities) in a geographical area, thus the church in Rome or the church in Carol Stream, which is the town where I live and worship. All three of these uses are important if we are to have a robust biblical doctrine and practice of the Christian life.
But two words have come to dominate the purpose of ACT 3 from its inception in 1991. We are not the church. We are not even a para-church as some use the term. We are a missional order, a teaching fellowship, a decentralized band of Christians committed to deep and transformative church renewal. The first word that has come to dominate our mission is movement. I believe that we are a teaching mission for the church that seeks to call all of God’s people into a great movement of the Holy Spirit. What do I mean by this word “movement?” Here is a definition that works well for me:
A movement is a group of people who are organized for, ideologically motivated by and committed to a purpose which implements some form of personal and social change; who are actively engaged in the recruitment of others; and whose influence is spreading in opposition to the established order within which it originated (People, Power and Change: Movements of Social Transformation, Gerlach and Hine, Minnesota University Press).
A good friend gave me this quotation and it summarizes what I am trying to do very well. I believe we need a great movement of transformed people who are engaged in seeking to change the church and recruit others for this change. I believe it is the Holy Spirit’s normative work to transform the church from one generation to the next. The pattern of things seems to be that people and churches grow weary and weak. Movements of the Spirit refresh people who then are used to create a great movement of renewal that refreshes others and leads to outward change. I want to help leaders envision and nurture a movement that brings the church back to the central purpose of Christ in serving as an outpost of the ever-growing kingdom of God.
The second big word that describes the passion I have as president of ACT 3 is the word “vision.” All my life I have asked “Why not?” I recall my young peers being satisfied with asking “Why?” I looked at the racism of my Southern community in the 1950s and asked, “Why not?” I was inspired when President Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country?” I wanted to run for public office as a young boy. But when God called me to mission he gave me the same passion for Christ and his kingdom. I think that was one of the compelling reasons for my transfer to Wheaton College, where the motto is: “For Christ and His Kingdom.” I wanted to be a kingdom visionary. I kept asking, “Why not?” In 1985 a brokerage firm ran an ad in the Wall Street Journal that attempted to recruit people to invest their assets with these stirring words:
"VISION: The ability to see the possible. VISION: The ability to see what others do not yet see. And when people of vision get together something extraordinary happens."
That says it well for me and ACT 3. I want to help create a movement, support similar movements, and foster every aspect of a bigger and church transforming movement that will renew the whole church in the power of the Spirit for the mission of Christ. I believe John 17, and the unity Jesus prayed for, is central to this movement. I “see” this happening in the 21st century. Not too many see it yet but there is a growing number of strategic thinkers who do. Some of these are pastors (though not nearly enough). Some are intercessors and ordinary folks. Some are gate keepers in the world of business and professionals who wield immense influence. I have a dream of a great movement arising from all these sources. I see a new ecumenism growing that began late in the last century. I believe when historians write about the 21st century they will write about it as the century in which the church re-discovered its ancient roots and renewed itself in the love of Christ that led people and churches to pursue unity in the mission of Christ. I see these various people coming together in a way that causes something extraordinary to happen as a result. This awakening will not be like those we’ve known before. It will not divide people as much as it will unite them in completing the mission that Christ gave to his church before his ascension.
Are you a part of this movement? Do you share this vision? Will you do your part? Would you help me build such a movement through the vision that God has given to me and thousands of others like me that you may not know yet?