Thinking About Mission

Building a Movement


by Dr. Grant Richison

I remember my time in the pastorate when most evangelicals thought the best way to reach the world in the fastest and most effective way was to multiply missionaries from North America. When Dr. David Robbins sent me to Bangladesh a few years ago my eyes were opened to an entirely different model.

For years I have believed that the best way to reach the world was through a movement for Christ. A movement functions like spontaneous generation. People begin to share Christ in great numbers without being organized to do so. A movement then is when great numbers of people share Christ without a structure.

This is what I saw on my visit to Bangladesh. Indigenous people were doing a work of God without foreign missionary supervision and often without direction from their colleagues. Swapon Bose and his wife Rachael is an example of those took initiative on their own. They set their own movement in missions.

This couple started their own mission without any financial support from western mission organizations yet there are many churches across northern Bangladesh because they took the risk. Other ministries sprang off the ministry they started. That is movement. This is what happened in the New Testament church as well. The Thessalonian church spread the gospel around the Roman Empire without the direction of Paul and his colleagues.

Many believers in Bangladesh share Christ without any financial or very little support. Money is not their obstacle. However, their desire to share Christ transcends financial or logistical problems. When this happens without motivation from others, this is a movement for Christ.

Paul singled out no other local church as a standard for other churches to follow as he did for the Thessalonican church (1:7). That church is the standard against which other churches can measure themselves. What was so unique about their ministry? They shared the gospel in “every place” (1:8).

“To all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe”–The Thessalonian church became the outstanding church which built momentum of ministry. They influenced Macedonia, northern Greece, and Achaia, southern Greece. The cities of Athens and Corinth were in southern Greece. In other words, this one church reached all of Greece with the gospel. Not only did they reach Greece with the gospel but they extended the gospel to all the Roman Empire–“in every place” (v.8). And they did this within one year!
“For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8)

Verse eight develops the reason the Thessalonian church became an example to all the churches in Greece (v.7)—it was a church of “faith.”

The words “sounded forth” come from two words out and to hold meaning to cause to ring out or resound. “Sounded forth” then has the implication of to sound out a trumpet or thunder, to reverberate like an echo. The idea of resounding gives the impression that the gospel went out and then reverberated repeatedly throughout the Roman Empire. The gospel reverberated everywhere throughout the Roman Empire like rolling thunder. The message rang out to the entire then known world. When a ministry gets into a momentum phase then its impact multiplies expansively.

Thessalonica was a great seaport. Christians from this city went preaching the gospel throughout the world. As Paul writes First Thessalonians one year after he left the city, he hears reports from all over the world about their faith.

Momentum will increase the impact of the gospel throughout our world. We need to thunder out or trumpet out the gospel so that it reverberates throughout Christians with conviction all over our community and world.