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Steve Addison identifies adaptive methods as one of the characteristics of growing movements. In other words dynamic movements find new and more effective ways of fulfilling the Great Commission to “go and make disciples”. For the Primitive Methodists such methods included
1. Using a Printing Press. They used their own printing press to publish items such as the Primitive Methodist magazine, hymn books and in 1824 a children’s magazine. Initially it was based at Bemersley and run and operated by Hugh Bourne and his brother James. This was a crucial form of communication in the early years of the growing movement.
2. Music. One such adaptive method was that of putting popular and often bawdy (lewd and crude) songs to their own words – a method best expressed half a century later by General Booth of the Salvation Army as “why should the devil have all the best tunes?” People hearing the familiar tunes were intrigued to listen to the new words of gospel hymns.
3. Camp Meetings. Open air evangelistic tent meetings were held during the summer months. The famous Camp Meeting at Mow Cop in 1807 was one of the foundational events in the formation of the Primitive Methodist movement. Hugh Bourne and his followers were known as the “Camp Meetingers” and were subsequently expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists for organising Camp Meetings. They were highly effective for many years.
That was nearly two hundred years ago, but over time methods change. Here are some adaptive methods being used by movements of God today.
1. Giving away resources online. Open.LifeChurch.tv make sermon materials, including graphics and video clips freely available to other churches for them to use. Freely available means free. ($Zero). See Open.LifeChurch.tv for more details. This enables churches to run complete sermons series with resources customised to local requirements.
2. Facebook. One of the effective ways churches and growing movements communicate is through the use of Facebook pages and groups. Our church planting movement uses a Facebook group for internal discussion and communication. Simply set up a “secret group” and invite specific people to join.
3. Discovery Bible Study. This is a simple method of Bible study that is particularly helpful for use with those enquiring about the Christian faith. It is being used in rapidly growing church planting movements in Africa and North India.
Here is a brief overview
1. Choose a Scripture that is simple, not too long and to the point
2. Read the scripture
3. Retell the story
4. Then ask ‘so what?’
5. Keep it centred on scripture
Ultimately every movement of God is a movement of the Holy Spirit. Methods are just tools that the Spirit may choose to use. Methods may change, but principles do not.
One principle that never changes is that of impassioned prayer. Prayer is always at the heart of a growing movement of God. One of the key ways that movements grow is through passionate people who pray fervently. Prayer is always part of the package.
To think about:
1. What methods, tools and resources has God placed within our reach?
2. What methods used in the past can be adapted or modified for practical use today?
3. How can prayer be encouraged within the group of which I am a part?
In Luke chapter 8 we read of three individuals whose life circumstances were very different, but who all came to the same place.
The first was the demon-possessed madman whom Jesus set free and in his right mind. The evil spirits went into a herd of pigs and rushed down the hillside into the lake and were drowned. When the people of the town came to investigate “they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet". (Luke 8:35) His thankfulness led him to Jesus.
The second was a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. He came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. (Luke 8:41-42) His desperation drove him to Jesus.
The third person was a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Secretly she reached out to Jesus, to touch him and receive healing. Immediately Jesus knew that power had gone from him. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. (Luke 8:47) Her overwhelming need took her to Jesus.
All three came to sit or fall at the feet of Jesus. What life circumstances will it take for you and me to come to the feet of Jesus, that place of total dependence and thankfulness for all he is and has done?