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What Happened? – Gospel for Asia

August 31st, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Someone once said that within the timeline of any movement, the original life, passion and vision would be sustained about 25 years. The excitement, freshness and newness are on a basic uphill incline up to that point. After that, things will begin to change. There will be more of a plateau effect on the distinctive of the movement.

During the early days of my ministry with Operation Mobilization, I heard its founder, George Verwer, speak about the problem of losing vision and passion. He said, “God raises up a man with a vision and heart for God, and that becomes a movement. Then it turns into a machine. Then it ends up becoming a monument, and it is history. It is dead.”

This is exactly what happened to the YMCA, the Salvation Army and most mainline denominations, such as Methodist, Lutheran and Moravian. What glorious beginnings they had under godly leaders! But now look at some of the mission organization of the past and see—where are they today? The vision, the burden and passion are gone.

Unfortunately, I have found this to be true in organizations I have known. But the greater question to ask is when will we ever learn from others failure? Let us take a look at what changes.

Radical Becomes Conventional

In the secular world, a business’s generation is also said to last about 25 years, after which freshness and vision—and thus success—decline. Japanese organizations, however, have manipulated this time frame through education and structure changes. They begin to implement changes after only about 10 years, before people become set in their ways and find difficulty adapting to change. In this way, businesses are perpetually moving on, without losing their edge and success in the industry.

After a certain point in the life of a movement, things somehow shift into “maintenance” mode. The life that was once radical is now a part of the past, a part of history; now the goal is simply to “do it the way we’ve always done it.” What was once a fresh, flexible way of doing things now becomes a hard, stiff structure of rules, regulations and bylaws that we build around ourselves to feel some sort of protection.

Individuals now have positions on a variety of levels—some you can approach directly and others you cannot. By the time you attempt to go where you want within the organization, the structure is so complex you almost need a road map to navigate the maze!

A movement that has gone from radical to conventional is no longer regulated by vision and faith; instead, the decisions that come out of it are based on careful calculations of the lowest risk possible. Prayer meetings become planning meetings. Simple, childlike faith is replaced with smart, business-oriented brains. Change becomes nearly impossible because the ball and chain of bureaucracy is too strong.

This shift has happened to some of the finest movements in the history of the Church. Even right now there are some that are going through a terrible crisis. And we should not think that, regardless of the organization with which we serve, we are immune to this change. It can happen to us!

Keep in mind—I am not saying that structure is wrong. With the growth of any movement, structure is vital, for you cannot function without discipline. The last verse of the book of Judges says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). The next verse in the Bible is Ruth 1:1, which says, “. . . there was a famine in the land.” No army can survive without discipline. No nation can survive without discipline. And no organization can survive without discipline.

But what I am talking about is the heart. The danger we must avoid is not discipline and structure, but replacing love, enthusiasm, freedom and empowerment with laws, regulations and power-based structures. When that happens, do you know who pays for it? The lost world . . . and our children who are growing up within the context of our ministries.

This entry was written by K.P Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia, with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.

 

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