Why Motus Dei?
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. 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 challenging among Buddhists. Our world becomes increasingly unreached each year.
The “movement” paradigm has become a hot topic in the evangelical missions community. 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 report very significant fruit. Researchers have documented the existence of more than 1,000 discipleship movements to Christ, the vast majority happening among unreached peoples. 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 “movements” movement. Yet while many evangelical missions energetically race ahead with movement ideas, the deeper work of missiology (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 will 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, we have formed a research network for the scholarly, missiological study of movements to Christ. Both the complexity of the issues involved and sheer numbers of movements being reported call for multiple researchers, institutions, and agencies partnering 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.
We aim 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.