Have you ever set off a metal detector in an airport? Maybe you forgot the change in your pocket or had a watch that caused the alarm to sound. If you have set it off, you know the drill: the personal screener gets a little more than intrusive to make sure you are safe to travel. I am grateful for the new imaging technology that allows me to stand still, put my hands over my head, and get through security without being frisked. Why have I set off metal detectors all over the world?
In 1998 I had the joy of receiving an artificial hip (insert sarcasm here). I was 38 years old, still fairly active athletically, and more than a little bummed that my wrestling days with our growing children were over. I now have the joy of a piece of titanium jammed in my femur, a joy that slows me down every time I fly, which is more often than I like.
Because of that fake hip I have now set off metal detectors on four continents.
I got my metal hip in 1998. But I started setting off metal detectors in 2001, in late September in fact, while en route to South Africa. You see, several years before that September a man in the Middle East had become pretty ticked off at the West, and in particular the US. Osama Bin Laden convinced less than two dozen men to come to the states, to go to flight training schools to learn to fly domestic air carriers. These men boarded flights on September 11, 2001, and armed with nothing more than box cutters, unleashed an attack unprecedented in American history, leaving almost 3,000 dead.
Immediately after the attacks, the metal detectors were turned to a more sensitive frequency. For the first time in three years of having a metal hip, I set off a metal detector less than two weeks after 9/11.
Bin Laden started a movement. He led a handful of men to conduct a most sinister act, one that has led to the recognition of a global movement of terrorism just when we thought the Cold War’s end would lead to a much more peaceful world.
While many have been involved, one man started the movement.
He was not a dictator.
Nor was he the leader of a massive, organized army.
But using an idea and modern communication tools, Osama bin Laden has to some degree changed the whole world. But, not for the better.
The world, your world, has been shaped more by movements than anything else.
Whether you realize it or not, the things you buy, the clothes you wear, the job you choose, the college you attend, the shows you enjoy on television, all are shaped by movements around you: fashion movements, cultural movements. Momentum in one area or another is the unseen influence in your daily decision-making.
But these are trivial matters. What about the larger decisions in your life? You have to this point in life already made decisions about what you value, about why you are hear, purpose for life, and why you live the way you do.
Why do we even make such choices? Why do we care about the problem of evil around us, or why one thing is “good” and another is “bad”?
God created in you and me an insatiable appetite to be part of something bigger than our personal agendas. And that starts with God Himself.
Theologian and philosopher Augustine said it this way: “Thou has made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”
The story of the history of the church tells of a glorious journey of the good news, the gospel, of Jesus Christ as it spread globally. At her best, the church has been led by gospel-centered leaders, advancing the movement of God among peoples in ever-spreading impact. From Patrick in Ireland and Columba in Iona to the Great Awakenings in more recent history and the missionary movements they birthed, much of the story of Christianity is the record of courageous believers whose lives centered on Christ alone.
At her worst, the church has become mired in institutionalism and formalism, and have at times caused as much harm as good for the gospel. You see this in the Old Testament. You can see Jesus confronting it in the New Testament. History has recorded far too many instances of this reality. Institutional Christianity focuses on maintaining the status quo, while movement-focused Christianity focuses on the unfinished task.
At her best Christianity is a movement, being spread by passionate Christ followers who live for an audience of One, whose message is not their own, but the good news of salvation found in Christ alone. In the following pages, I hope to help you to see how you can be a part of this great, gospel movement, and lead others as well.
Alvin L. Reid is husband to Michelle and father to Josh and Hannah. He is a professor of evangelism and student ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as a popular speaker and author. He has written numerous books on student ministry, evangelism, missional Christianity, and spiritual awakenings. Follow him on Twitter: @AlvinReid.