In Part 1, we described religious movements which spring out of their preceding movements. Further to discussion elsewhere, in this installment, I will describe the mechanics of the progression, which harkens back to The Cluetrain and the Evolution of a Movement, which outlines a movement’s progression as follows:
Movement… Monument… Mausoleum
With a hat tip to Len Hjalmarson, we would like to modify this somewhat, as follows:
[Moment...] Movement… Machine… Monument… Mausoleum [...Museum]
I elaborate, but before doing so I would clarify that I’m not speaking about an emerging church movement — which I’ll come back to later on.
Update: another “M” pre-movement is Moment… before a movement is born, a moment occurs. It can be a single defining event from which the movement springs… such as an outpouring of the Spirit, or a collection of moments, as in “eureka moments” which occur to people as realizations, which in turn feed the groundswell of change which may eventually become a movement. In this type of grassroots-birthed movement, much comparison of “moments” takes place en route from this stage to full-fledged movement, but in either case the moement is revelatory. The moment visits the people.
A movement is born when a a grassroots swell starts moving in a common direction. Sometimes this is geographically-based, but not always. Usually there is a single leader or small group of leaders at the helm, giving direction and oversight. This may be a fairly loosely-held “position,” sometimes simply falling to the person who picks it up and begins to speak for the group. A key point about the movement is that something new is happening, and it’s beginning to draw followers from outside the nexus of the original grassroots members. As the movement grows, it must put into place the necessary structures to deal with its own growth, managing its success. This makes the daily operation of the movement much more manageable for those charged with providing the direction and oversight it requires. This enables things to take place and expand with relative ease where the “norms” apply, allowing the leaders to deal only with exceptions and special cases. The movement is the people.
A movement becomes a machine when the structures and processes become very automated, such that even the exceptions and special cases now have standard means to deal with them. This enables the leaders to now have “time off” since the ship will pretty much pilot itself, running smoothly in the generally intended direction. For all intents and purposes, at this stage things will run like clockwork, with little to none of the crisis moments or crisis management that was required when it was just a grassroots movement. This is the well-organized stage. The machine serves the people.
A machine becomes a monument when the autmated rules and processes become inflexible. At this stage, the process becomes of near-utmost import, as the leaders do not wish to work outside of the prescribed structures and processes which have been set in place. These structures have helped build the movement up to what it now is, and are seen as very functional and helpful. The machine itself, however, becomes inflexible, rigid, and more attention must be paid to maintaining the structure… which has less and less “movement” to it. The people serve the monument.
A monument becomes a mausoleum when people lose interest, grow weary, give up, or head off to the next budding movement. Those who remain have become rigid, not wanting to change, being content for the walls of the structure to contain them and be an entry-way — or barrier — to those who would still join at this late stage. Days of glory are relived through stories, and old ideas are maintained. The mausoleum contains the people.
Update: I’ve got one more “M” — museum. A monument becomes a museum when it appears so anachronistic that other people consider it a spectacle, a display where they can learn from history, but hardly culturally relevant to the times. The museum displays the people.
Now, why am I not talking about the emerging church movement? Firstly, because it hasn’t formally been determined that it is a movement, though I think it could be fairly called one. More importantly, the pattern just described outlines religious movements we’ve seen to date — all modern movements. The emerging church, if it be dubbed a movement, will be the first postmodern religious movement, and is at the outset attempting to be decentralized and destructured, with no single leader, rather taking delight in diversity. The emerging church movement, when we get around to calling it that, will be a movement of a different type.
Or will it? What kind of movement will it be?