Becoming a movement: what's all that about?

Arab Spring Tahrir Square

Over the summer one of the students - Pip - was camping with my family, while he and they served together in the 7-11s kids work at our UK summer camp. Amidst gunge-tanks, sore muscles and tiredness, Pip and I had a conversation about being a student movement. What on earth do we mean? And how does it differ from a network, denomination or simply the whole global church?

Google tells me that movement means "a group of people working together to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas." There is something bigger, broader and messier about a movement. Think about the Arab Spring (2010 onwards), or for those with longer memories the fall of communism in Europe (1989-1992). These were political movements that were not organised by a single organising group, and that crossed borders, becoming unstoppable forces for political liberalisation.

That's how I see the early church. There was some leadership and some organisation, but their development was bigger, broader and messier as the Holy Spirit directed people to service, mission and breakthrough. They were an apostolic (sent) movement, planting and building families of churches wherever they found themselves.

We're part of what people term the charismatic or New Church movement ( From its origin in the 1960s, the movement has seen the restoration of Holy Spirit empowered community, worship and leadership - changes that have now affected whole UK church. God has used the movement to restore something to much of his church. And beyond, as it has connected with similar Holy Spirit inspired movements in other nations. It has been something bigger, broader and messier than any single denomination, network or nation.

We're also part of the missional movement, another global thing God is doing, seeing the freshly empowered church reaching out to lost people and prioritising the ninety-nine over the one. That missional movement again is bigger, broader and slight messy, not bounded by any one church or denomination.

Author Alan Hirsch says: "We cannot simply limit ecclesia to a local church with a distinctive-shaped building and a certain denominational preference and style. It is much more wide-ranging than that. The church in the Bible is a people-movement right across the Empire! Thinking like a movement has massive implications for missional church. I believe that this helps us unlock the meaning and potential of church in our day."

In common with others (Fusion, for example) we have a vision, a call and a mandate to disciple and send students into God's world. The privilege of being a church in Oxford is just that - a privilege and a responsibility to be generous in our investment and generous in our sending. We want to mobilise a generation to serve in God's kingdom, wherever they find themselves. To be missional; innovative and courageous, as they collaborate with the Holy Spirit in God's movement.

Andy O'Connell