Motus Dei: Movements Research Symposium

Motus Dei 
Network for the Missiological Study of Global Movements to Christ
An Emerging Collaboration Between Mission Agencies, Movement Practitioners, and Academic Research Centers

Movements Research Symposium
September 1, 2020 | Virtual Launch Event
October 1-3, 2020 | Virtual Symposium

OVERVIEW

The Movements Research Symposium aims to gather researchers, theologians, and mission leaders - men and women, from the West and Majority world - in order to build harmonious relationships and to facilitate a strategic discussion around the current discipleship movement phenomenon. This is not intended to be a training event or a prayer meeting, but a gathering to present and discuss strategic research on global movements to Christ. This is also a launch event of the Motus Dei (Latin for ‘movement of God’) which aims to create a network for the missiological study of discipleship movements.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

  • David Garrison, PhD, author of Church Planting Movements and executive director of Global Gates
  • David Lim, PhD, president of Asian School for Development and Cross-cultural Studies
  • Craig Ott, PhD, professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, author of The Church on Mission: A Biblical Vision for Transformation among All People

PURPOSE

The purpose of the Motus Dei Network is to build authentic relationships and coordinate scholarly research on global discipleship movements in order to promote quality missiology and effective missional praxis for the Church among all nations.

GOALS

  1. To foster quality research on movements, both qualitative and quantitative in nature 
  2. To edify and empower apostolic-type ministers working “on the ground” in frontier contexts
  3. To constructively critique and mature the evangelical missiological discourse on discipleship movements
  4. To investigate how biblical discipleship movements lead to human flourishing and the holistic transformation of lives and communities 
  5. To form groups for the publication of training materials and tools that edify the Church and the global missions community

RATIONALE

The population of the world quadrupled in the 20th century. Overall, the Church kept pace with this growth, staying steady at around 30% of the global population. It is well known that Christianity has declined in the Global North and risen sharply in the Global South. Yet while tens of thousands of Muslims come to faith in Christ each year, another 32 million Muslims are born annually. Tens of thousands compared to millions. The situation is similar among Hindus and even more problematic among Buddhists. The harsh reality is that the world continues to become increasingly unreached each year.
For these reasons, the "movement" paradigm has become a current hot topic in the evangelical missions community. Traditional approaches to disciple making are often criticized for their hierarchical, individualistic nature which tends to grow slowly as people are isolated from their sociocultural contexts. In contrast to traditional methods, movement approaches are more group-oriented and tend to facilitate discipleship of others within their contexts. This yields greater potential for growth, both quantitative (more disciples of Jesus) and qualitative (more mature churches).
Some of these movements with which we relate are reporting to be very fruitful. Researchers have documented the existence of more than 1,000 discipleship movements to Christ, the vast majority happening among places where there was no traditional church. Many articles, books, and training events are taking place in various mission circles. Evangelicals are dreaming big- an initiative was launched in 2018 to get people to pray that 10 percent of the Muslim world would become "reached" in the next 10 years. We are in the midst of a “movement” movement.
And yet, while many evangelical missions are energetically racing ahead with movement ideas, the deeper work of missiology, i.e. understanding these movements from a theological, sociological, and practical perspective, could still profoundly benefit from additional research and development. We would like to see more in-depth descriptions of such movements that would bear sustained examination from robust academic critique. We want to better understand how movements are happening and how they could be fostered more effectively.
In light of this need, and especially in our rapidly changing world, we propose the formation of a research network for the scholarly, missiological study of global movements to Christ. Both the complexity of the issues involved and sheer numbers of movements being reported demand that multiple researchers, institutions, and agencies partner together to meet this task. Theology, social sciences, and mission practice offer invaluable tools and perspectives to help us understand God’s work in birthing church-planting movements today which transform lives and communities.
Our aim is not to satisfy academic curiosity, but rather to provoke inquiry related to worship. Within the limits of our understanding, what is really happening? We desire to steward this knowledge responsibly before the Lord, both in what we teach and how we edify those seeking to foster discipleship movements.

POTENTIAL FOCUS AREAS

The following describes three potential strategic areas of interdisciplinary research needed in this initiative to engage the deeper study of discipleship movements. As this is primarily a missiological venture, the Motus Dei Network to keep these various disciplines in sustained dialogue with one other:

  1. Theology: What are the possibilities and limitations of a theological framing of biblical ecclesiology around movements? A. Ekklesia as Movement, B. Literature Review of Movement Philosophy, C. Three (Seven) Selfs, Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, D. Responding Biblically to Objections of CPM/DMM/T4T, etc.
  2. Social Science: How do the academic disciplines of sociocultural anthropology, history, and religious studies help explain how and why these movements are happening? A. Transcultural Diffusion, B. Social Capital Theory, C. Network Science, D. Learning from other Social Movements that Change Cultures, E. Etc. 
  3. Mission Praxis: What are the best mission practices for movement practitioners, and what is the most effective way to train the church? A. Biblical Spirituality, B. Principles, C. Strategies, D. Leadership and Change Dynamics
Similarly, a single theme could be traced through each of these three areas. For example, the “person of peace” concept looms large in some conceptualizations of movement missiology. This theme could be looked at 1. Theology- exegetically, what is the purpose in context, and was it prescriptive or descriptive? 2. Social  Science- in social network analysis, a person of peace seems to be a bridge that fills a structural hole between groups, does this correspond? And 3. Praxis, what are the experiences of people encountering “people of peace,” or, what do people of peace actually actually believe about their leadership role? This is just one example out of dozens. We might also try to pair writers from different contexts (Majority world and Western) to work on these research projects together.
Additionally, narrative case studies of movements are needed, including comparisons of different case studies which highlight lessons learned and the importance of context. Issues of “ethnodoxology” and examples of various types of media and technology being used in the movement phenomena is also encouraged. Approaches to research specifically within a postcolonial perspective or highlighting research agendas that have been dominated by Western voices are also enthusiastically welcomed.

APPLY TO JOIN THE NETWORK

Click here to apply to join Motus Dei.  (Ignore the part about room and board. This link uses a google form, if you have security concerns, please contact us movements2020 at gmail dot com and we’ll reply from a secure email.)