December 15, 2007

Decentralization in Christian Missions

The Decentralized Church
Reclaiming the Spirit of the Heterarchy for Mission

By Chris Logan

In 2006, a remarkable book was released called The Starfish and the Spider. Its authors posit that there are movements in which large groups of people behave less like organizations with a clear chain of command and more like organisms. While these organizations might have clear spokesmen, distributed power and leadership (even no discernable leader), making them hard to kill, but even more so, giving them the ability to do far more than most hierarchies, to survive harsher environments, and to proliferate at astonishing rates. They called these movements “decentralized,” and there is a remarkable correlation between this concept and the many churches through history that have succeeded where others failed.

Decentralization and the Heterarchy

The Starfish and the Spider: A Metaphor
The authors of The Starfish and the Spider use the metaphor of two animals to illustrate the nature of centralized and decentralized organizations: spiders and starfish. The spider represents a concept called “hierarchy.” It is an animal with clear structure; it has a head, a body, glands for web-spinning, legs, etc. If you were to remove, for example, a leg, the spider would be clearly wounded and have a very hard time surviving at the level it had previously enjoyed. However, remove its head, and the spider would die instantly, as the head gives life to the entire organism, directing every activity in the body. Without the head, there is no spider.

The starfish, on the other hand, represents a concept called “heterarchy,” or “decentralization,” and it is much harder to locate than a hierarchy. While the starfish and spider hold similarities in their basic shape, this is where any common thread ends. The starfish has no head. It has a varying number of arms, in which organs exist in multiple redundancies. In fact, to find the most distinct commonalities of one part of a starfish to another, you have to zoom-in to the cellular level. Instead of a brain, the starfish has a neural network spread across the entire starfish

If an arm is removed, rather than damaging the organism, something remarkable happens: the starfish grows another arm to replace it. And the severed arm grows another starfish. Since there is no distinct head (and thus no distinct brain), this works to the starfish’s advantage – the organism cannot be killed in a conventional fashion. Beyond this, the starfish defies our most basic assumptions; it is a simple organism, but time and time again proves it can survive much more readily than a spider can. Cut a starfish apart and you have as many new starfish as you had pieces.

Yet often, we try to find hierarchies where there is actually heterarchy
[2]. This is not to say that a heterarchy has no organization, only to say that the organization is at a different level and of a different sort than the hierarchy. In a heterarchy, units are organized at a “cellular” level, in basic units rather than in a dominating structure that requires uniformity. Each cell is unique in some way, but all are connected in a way that turns an otherwise random conglomeration into a functioning whole.

Qualities of the Decentralized Organism
Autonomy and Adaptability of Individual Units
The decentralized organism allows its individual units (called “cells”) autonomy. It is this autonomy that makes the decentralized organism so mysterious; instead of what we usually expect, the units, despite no central organization, continue to work together. For the spider-hierarchy, there is a clear structure, a clear procedure by which all things are done, a clear pathway of information. The head dictates and the body moves. In contrast, a starfish has no such pathway, rather, has multiple smaller pathways that form a network. Every part of the network has a say; in order for the starfish to move, one leg must move and convince all the others to move as well. Yet it happens at a speed that defies conventional wisdom

Because cells operate with their own autonomy, the decentralized organism can be much more flexible than a hierarchy. Units at the cellular level can respond to crises on their own (re-growing a severed limb, for example), rather than spending valuable time to seek authority from a central command. In other words, they have permission to act on their own, granted by the nature of the organization.

In a hierarchy, the head requires a standard set of operating procedures for the whole organism; in a heterarchy, each cell customizes the basic operating procedures for its unique circumstances; this is called “contextualization,” the indigenization of the concepts that are common to the whole. As a result, the decentralized organism is much harder to detect than the hierarchy because it blends into the culture much more readily. In effect, a heterarchy is the result of many individual units functioning in the harmony of an organic whole. The cells become less visible, and instead of cells, we see an organism
[4]. Thus, each network can be readily identified as if it were a whole greater than the sum of its parts, yet the parts themselves are just as important.

Proliferation and Contextualization
The hierarchy grows by addition, because that is the speed at which growth is possible. Because of the greater size of the “canon” that must be replicated into individual units, with greater accuracy, replication becomes slow, and time- and resource-intensive. In addition, all the additional flaws of the hierarchy are replicated into new units, and if, for some reason, new flaws occur in the replication process, these flaws are replicated into every subsequent addition to the organism. Once the cell has been “indoctrinated,” it becomes another part of the chain of command in the hierarchy. It is then encouraged to grow as big as its surrounding environment will allow. Reproduction only happens when the head of the organization allows it; thus, cells are added one at a time, rather than many at once. When decentralized organisms centralize, for example, they are effectively castrated.

Small family farmers throughout Asia have for many centuries joined together to build and manage their own irrigation systems, some of which are marvels of engineering ingenuity and operating efficiency. Yet when government programs inventoried irrigation capacity, they counted only irrigation systems built by the government. They then proceeded to replace village-built and village-managed systems with more costly, less-efficient centrally managed systems. Commonly the new systems were financed by multimillion-dollar loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which the children of farmers would one day be taxed to pay.

Heterarchy, on the other hand, relies on multiplication of much smaller units. Instead of requiring a lengthy indoctrination process, each cell is encouraged to divide and grow, divide and grow. The size of each cell is limited in size, and the amount of indoctrination required is minimal; only the basics of the core traits of the larger organism are communicated, allowing the organism to shape itself, customize itself to its environment
[6]. As a result, the cells of a heterarchy tend to be much more outwardly-focused than the hierarchy, which spends much more time focused on indoctrination and internal growth than it does on expansion. In essence, the hierarchy makes new units “like us” while the heterarchy allows new units the freedom to allow the new path they’ve chosen to inform (but not dictate) their expression of the organization within their culture. Since each individual unit is focused on expansion, the organism grows by multiplication (sometimes, exponentially), rather than addition. And because each (new) cell is distinct from other cells, we call this “proliferation.”

The Rallying Point
The trouble with autonomous individual units is that they can easily go in whatever direction they desire. What forms them into a unique whole is the shared bond of the rallying-point, the collective thread between them. In our starfish example, the cells have coalesced into a whole because they share a common “DNA” that allows them to do so
[8]. In some organizations, this common element might be a mutual enemy, in others, a philosophy or morality[9]. In many, it is combinations of these. Regardless, decentralized organisms require something common throughout all cells in order to be an organism.

Power, Rank, and Decentralization
The distinction between hierarchy and heterarchy is one of power and its uses. The hierarchy centralizes power into a chain of command; power is concentrated in one place, while the majority is simply expected to do as they’re told. The individual (or small group of individuals) at the “top” of the organization dictate what the organism is to do, and an order of rank decides who has what power and in what degree. Each level of subordinates participates in a “trickle-down” process that eventually communicates goals and procedures to the entire organization. The proverbial turning-radius of a centralized hierarchy, then, is equivalent to that of the Titanic with its three large propellers and single hull; it cannot change its direction very quickly when it sees an iceberg, and once it hits, there is no saving it.

The heterarchy is the equivalent of a fleet of speedboats. Not only does each boat have a very tight turning-radius, but as a group, they can swarm around the iceberg and meet at the other side. The mass of the organization is distributed into small units with many motors, and even if one or two were to hit the iceberg (and die), the group as a whole would be largely unaffected; their boats wouldn’t sink because one or two others did. In a heterarchy, power is distributed throughout the group. While this means that each cell must take individual responsibility for its own continuation (which involves a certain element of risk), it also means that the organization can respond much more quickly to icebergs and other maritime threats.

However, this is not to say that there is no rank among decentralized organizations. Some of our speedboats might be closer to the front of the pack than others, some might be able to hold more people, some might have bigger or better motors, but all are still at liberty to point out threats and help the entire group to move to avoid them. While hierarchies are breeding grounds for rank-based abuse of power,[10] heterarchies are about the beneficial use of the power used by each cell. Each unit is responsible for its unique territory or specialty. It is its own expert in that area, which predisposes other units to defer judgment about that particular area to that cell. This is a form of rank, but because power has been delegated away from any one particular center, it is decentralized and thus accountable to its peers (rather than its superiors).

The Church as a Decentralized Organism
Ideally, this is the way that the church functions. Through history, it has been when the church decentralized that the most beneficial expressions of church have happened. This happens on several levels: individual churches have a better grasp of their local culture than do the bishops or executives or reigning body supposedly “in charge,” and at the local church level, the “laity” has a better chance of impacting its culture if the local church government allows them freedom in communicating the gospel to their peers, and instead of acting as a direction agency (telling the peon-like laity what to do, which often translates into nothing), acts as an empowering agency for resourcing its laity for their mission. Perhaps some examples will clarify.

Models of Decentralization in the History of the Church

From Old Testament to New Testament: The Apostolic Church
It is interesting to note that the chosen people of God were not always decentralized. The Kingdom of Israel began in its lowliest origins as the nomadic extended family of Abraham, wandering from place to place. Throughout the Old Testament, what we see is a kingdom, a centralized entity. While there are certain elements of decentralization present (accountability between the King and the Prophet, the practice of the Jubilee), the people of Israel have long been ruled
[11]. Along came Jesus and changed all that.

By this point in history, the Kingdom of Israel had a puppet king who was directed by the Roman Emperor; the ultimate abuse of rank. Jesus made a connection between Israel, the Gentiles, and a New Covenant; the Kingdom of God was at hand, and it included the whole world! No longer would the newly re-birthed Israel be ruled by puppet kings or powerful rulers. The Kingdom of God would belong to the meek, the humble, the poor, the servants. Jesus, in effect, distributed power across the kingdom in these very simple statements
[12]. No longer were the few powerful in God’s kingdom; earthly power of kings and rulers held no sway. If you wanted to lead, you were to become a servant to others: “In humility consider others better than yourself[13].” It is in the theology of servant leadership that we find the primary decentralizing tendencies of the church. To serve one another in humility distributes power amongst everyone. If everyone plays their part, the needs of everyone are met. But it only works so long as it is intrinsically motivated within each person, so long as it is chosen. If it is forced, if it is externally-motivated, the power begins to centralize to that which is external, and the organism becomes a hierarchy (and thus loses any identity with the Kingdom of God).

Nowhere is this more evident for the first-century church than in the writings of Paul. Paul understood the church as a leveled playing field where power has been redistributed. “Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
[14].” Paul took a common focus – Christ Jesus – and marked it as a rallying point for what is otherwise a random assortment of people and peoples with little in common. Likewise in Ephesians 4, Paul writes that the many are to be one, united in their common goals though different in their expressions.

However, the first church did not always follow this model. Its mandate was given by Jesus in Matthew 28: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit
[15] …” And yet the first thing the disciples (now apostles) did upon receiving the Holy Spirit was to remain in Jerusalem and centralize. In chapter 6 of Acts, the apostles begin appointing position of authority, a sure sign of centralization. It took a “great persecution” to scatter the church away from their comfort in Jerusalem[16].

At this point things start to get interesting. Philip went to Samaria, and while there, encountered an Ethiopian. The Ethiopian, upon conversion, went back to his people (presumably the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia)
[17]. Peter also began preaching as he traveled, making it as far as Joppa. Others also traveled to Antioch, Cyprus, and Phoenicia[18]. However, once again, we see the church attempt to centralize. The council at Jerusalem in Acts 15 sparks a debate about the Gentiles that have converted; are they to become Jewish before they are allowed to become Christian? This debate shows that the Jerusalem church was trying to take power itself; instead of allowing contextualized expression of the truth learned by many Gentiles, the Jewish Christians wanted to mandate their way of doing things as the universal norm. Fortunately, the prevailing opinion was that of Peter and Paul, who were in favor of the indigenous church[19]. It is after this period that the greatest growth happens, as Paul has converted and embarked on his missionary journeys, planting churches all over the Roman world. Thomas even made it to India[20]. Various persecutions rocked the Christian world yet the church was not diminished; in fact, it grew[21].

It is unfortunate, then, that in the early fourth century Constantine centralized the church by making it the official religion of the Roman Empire. He appointed positions to priests and bishops, but most importantly, funded the church and began building structures (both physical and social) in which it could settle down. It is after this period that Christianity turned from persecuted to persecutor, decentralized mass-movement to centralized conquerors. With centralization – and thus power – the church did not forget its original mandate, but instead embarked upon it with revised methods. Instead of proclaiming the truth and allowing it to transform people(s) from within (including the benevolent humanitarian work so despised by the Emperor Julian
[22] and others), the newly centralized Christendom began preoccupying themselves with conquest (mission by force, as it were) and theology (the council of Nicaea and others) rather than contextualized mission for the propagation of the church.[23]

The Celtic Church
The Celtic Christian movement, begun by St. Patrick in the fifth century, is another example of decentralized Christianity at its best. From the start, the movement was promising, as there were several native factors working in Patrick’s favor: the tribal nature of the Irish, well known for their rivalry, predisposed them to a decentralized model (tribes are akin to cell-groups). Patrick himself had been a slave in Ireland for several years, learning the native language and customs and building credibility with the Irish through both
[24]. Combined with Patrick’s exceptionally creative skill as an orator and singer/storyteller (in Ireland, called a Bard), the Celtic movement became a movement of the people, rather than that of the ruling classes forcing their will. The British Bishops were upset with Patrick for the very reason that he spent so much time “’pagans,’ ‘sinners,’ and ‘barbarians.’”[25]

Most importantly, the Celtic Church did not allow power to centralize in one place. Rather, power was distributed across many different tribes, each to their own, and the movement took hold as each tribe sent out missionaries to the next; it proliferated, multiplied. Patrick took special precautions not to be the person in charge; rather, he sent evangelists out who could not report to him (for example, Hilda and Brigid
[26]), who he could not control. Furthermore, these evangelists worked in teams. As George Hunter writes, “Celtic Christians usually evangelized as a team – by relating to the people of a settlement; identifying with the people; engaging in friendship, conversation, ministry, and witness – with the goal of raising up a church in measurable time[27].”

Patrick, thus, was simply a catalyst, a figurehead that bore out Celtic Christianity in its natural form, not the charismatic leader of a centralized structure. And it was this movement that was responsible for reaching an entire people! The Romans had sent missionaries, but it was Patrick (and others, not the least of whom were the Celts themselves) who led the charge in an entirely new (yet ancient) method of mission that succeeded. By decentralizing their approach, by trusting the teams to their tasks, by spreading power around through networks rather than centralizing in one place, the Celtic movement reached Ireland for Christ.

The China Inland Mission
Until the opening of China to the west in the early 19th century, the Chinese interior had not met Christian missionaries since the early days of Christian expansion. The Chinese, notoriously xenophobic, had isolated themselves, claiming a certain cultural superiority over the rest of the world, and decided to remain “pure” from outside influence. That is, until the second European war with China ended in 1858 and, among other things, granted safe passage for Christians beyond the trading ports on the coastline
[28]. An onslaught of mission followed, the most notorious of which was led by one Hudson Taylor.

The Chinese Inland Mission (CIM) has long been regarded as different from every other missionary movement in China, and with good reason. Taylor founded the movement on revolutionary principles, the most unique of which was that the CIM society’s headquarters were to be located in China (a first for the 19th-century mission societies). However, central to our interest is the makeup of the CIM missionary body: anybody could join; the proverbial door was opened for those with little or no formal education. All that Taylor asked was that the missionaries adopt Chinese dress and the local dialect as their own, and that the society be ever-focused on the evangelization of the Chinese

Here we see many decentralized tendencies. Though he did have a headquarters, Taylor could not control the expansion of the CIM into China; it spread like wildfire. The constituents were of every class, and while few mass-movements were ever recorded, the mission truly targeted the largest groups of people. Power was thus spread across a wide group. Those that did convert were not removed from their villages and placed in mission compounds (as had been the practice in so many places), but instead became missionaries themselves. About a patient healed from a cystic tumor, Jennie Logan, a CIM medical missionary in Changteh (now Changde, in Hunan Province), wrote, “In three weeks she went back to her country home and told what had been done for her, and that it was at the “Jesus Hospital” where she had been healed. She was preaching and telling about the Gospel all day long.
[30] …” In other words, the movement proliferated.

The last telling sign comes at the advent of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. When the call came from Peking (from the central government) to kill all foreigners within China, the nation rose up and obeyed. Many of the converted Chinese Christians did their best to protect their missionary comrades, but in the end, the only thing that stopped the rebellion was a military force of several different nations making its way to Peking to quell the violence
[31]. Most telling, though, is that many Christians survived the uprising (though many also perished)[32] and the movement continued until the Communists took over beginning in 1927. Even today, a strong movement has resurfaced in China among the house churches, which are proliferating at an astonishing rate[33]. In any case, the Chinese indigenous church has withstood the test of time, despite many persecutions, because of its decentralized nature.

The Masai and Vincent Donovan
The last movement I’d like to explore is that of the Masai in Kenya and Tanzania in the late 1960s. Vincent Donovan, a Spiritan priest of the Catholic Church, moved there in 1965 as a young man ready to do the work of the church. But scarcely had he been there a year when he realized that nothing of much significance was happening at the mission compound. Standard practice was to help the Masai with their material needs, but little else. While the priests of the Catholic mission visited the Masai villages often (called Kraals), they did not see fit to mention the gospel. Only in the safety of the mission compound and missions schools was the gospel ever mentioned, and at that, very few Masai graduates ever retained the new religion
[34]. The centralized nature of the mission compound was affecting its primary calling: to evangelize the Masai.

Instead of work through the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to enact change, Donovan decided to take it upon himself to take the gospel to the Masai personally. He packed up a Ute and drove across the plains to meet the Masai face to face in their own context. He spoke their language, and he used local culture and illustrations to teach. His basic strategy was to spend one day a week with a particular tribe, teaching them what he knew of the Gospel in whatever form was required for their understanding, and then move along a circuit to another tribe (to repeat the process). At the end of a year, he would ask the tribe as a whole (Masai culture is community-oriented, not individual-oriented) whether they would accept Jesus as Lord. If they did not, then he would move on to the next Kraal. If the tribe did accept (which ended up being far more frequent than Donovan expected), first was baptism of everyone in the kraal, then an announcement: the kraal would be responsible for teaching itself, and for evangelizing the tribes around it
[35]. Donovan told them he would no longer come back to teach, but would move on to another group of kraals (though he would return occasionally to check on their progress)[36].

Once again, Donovan had several advantages going into his mission that seem to appear so rarely throughout Church history (though it is possible, however grievously, that the church simply hasn’t noticed them). The Masai are a decentralized people already; spiritual, nomadic, and used to communal life, they are ideal candidates for a decentralized church. Donovan also had the trouble of distance to cover between kraals, meaning he could not simply plant himself in one place and invite the Masai to him. In addition, because Donovan was alone, he could not rely on his own inexhaustible supply of teaching energy, knowledge, and wisdom to evangelize the Masai, but instead was nearly forced to rely on the locals to begin teaching themselves. The power, then, was in the hands of each kraal, not in some central location. Donovan’s decentralized method, though it did not convince every tribe he visited (some said “no,” as was their right
[37]), it was remarkably successful in its aims.

Why the Church Resists Decentralization

While I wish I had more space to talk about the Wesley Networks (mid/late 18th century), John Williams and the South Pacific (early 19th century), the CMA Organic Church movement in California (present day), and others, the real issue is why this seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. Despite the many advantages of a decentralized heterarchy, the Church still, to this day, resists the change. Decentralization is about power, and those with power are rarely persuaded to abandon it, even those in positions of authority within a church, the place where servant-hearted leadership should be the norm, not the exception.

It is when one person’s work becomes more important than another’s that a church begins centralizing and eliminating the dignity of its constituents. Sadly, this has been the pattern throughout history. The very existence of two groups (the clergy and the laity) proves this point: we still do not see our laity as missionaries, and we see our clergy as more holy, more spiritual than the unenlightened masses that go about their daily jobs blissfully unaware of the structure that has been taught them since birth. That movements of a decentralized nature have been revived through history is a note of hope, that the church can still recover its ancient mandate, but the process is slow and painful. In some respects, the reclaiming of their apostolic authority by the people is of utmost importance.

The people are stronger than their leaders, by sheer numbers, and if they change their minds as one, there is no stopping the cascade that follows. However, people can be tricked into submitting to authority by empty promises or the sheer charisma of the occasional leader, or by our human nature as “sheep,” which prefer to be led rather than to lead
[38]. The few that do stand up to lead often become drunk with the power they’ve been given, and abuse their rank.

To decentralize the church, then, requires a miracle of God. It requires us to lean on the Holy Spirit like never before; it is not by our own power that heterarchy can work. Yet it has happened, when those with power and charisma have led those in their influence to greener pastures and then given away that power to the people. Decentralization is dangerous, it is messy, and it is uncontrollable, but when the rare leader sees its potential and hears the whisper of God in his ear, a movement is unleashed that will once again change the world.

Works Consulted

Church and Mission History

Bevans, Stephen B, and Schroeder, Roger P. Constants in Context: A Theology for Mission Today, Third Edition. Orbis Books: MaryKnoll NY, 2006.
Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions, Second Edition. Penguin Books: London England, 1986.
Tucker, Ruth A. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions, Second Edition. Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2004.
Walls, Andrew F. The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith, Tenth Edition. Orbis Books: MaryKnoll NY, 2005.

Decentralized/Missional/Organic Church

Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2006.
Cole, Neil. Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco CA, 2005.
Donovan, Vincent J. Christianity Rediscovered. Orbis Books: MaryKnoll NY, 1978.
Frost, Michael. Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture. Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody MA, 2006.
Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. Brazos Press: Grand Rapids MI, 2006.
Hirsch, Alan and Frost, Michael. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church. Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody MA, 2003.
Hunter, George G. The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West … Again. Abingdon Press: Nashville TN, 2000.
Hunter, George G. Radical Outreach: The Recovery of Apostolic Ministry & Evangelism. Abingdon Press: Nashville TN, 2003.
Logan, Jennie Manget. Little Stories of China. Self-Published, No Publishing Date Available.
McLaren, Brian. A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a Missional + Evangelical + Post/Protestant + Liberal/Conservative + Mystical/Poetic + Biblical + Charismatic/Contemplative + Fundamentalist/Calvinist + Anabaptist/Anglican + Methodist + Catholic + Green + Incarnational + Depressed-Yet-Hopeful+ Emergent + Unfinished Christian. Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2004.
Seamands, Stephen. Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2005.

Group Dynamics

Brafman, Ori and Beckstrom, Rod A. The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. Penguin Group: New York NY, 2006.
Fuller, Robert W. All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: San Francisco CA, 2006.
Korten, David C. The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. Berrett-Koehler Publishers: San Francisco CA, 2006.
Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco CA, 2002.
Walker, Danielle; Walker, Thomas; and Schmitz, Joerg. Doing Business Internationally: The Guide to Cross-Cultural Success. McGraw Hill: New York NY, 2003.

Human Psychology

The Arbinger Institute. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc: San Francisco CA, 2002.
Deci, Edward L. and Ryan, Richard M. Intrinsic Motivation and Self Determination in Human Behavior. Plenum Press: New York NY, 1985.
Langer, Ellen J. Mindfulness. Da Capo Press: Cambridge MA, 1989.


Bible Gateway:


[1] Brafman, 35.
[2] Ibid., 36.
[3] Ibid., 35. It is remarkable the similarities that can be drawn to a flock of birds, or a school of fish, or, closer to home, a riotous mob of people.
[4] For example, instead of a set of individual birds flying around, we see a flock changing direction as one.
[5] Korten, 10.
[6] Cole, 124.
[7] Brafman, 54-55.
[8] Cole,113-121.
[9] If what appears to be a decentralized group coalesces around an individual, he is usually a figurehead only; his power is like that of others, but his gift is the ability to disseminate a message. In other words, he is not in charge. The best way to tell if such an organization is truly decentralized is if it continues in like fashion after he dies or leaves, or if it disintegrates. If the organization continues, the individual was a figurehead, if the organization dies, then the individual relied on his charisma only to centralize the organization.
[10] Fuller, 7.
[11] At some level, this was self-inflicted. Recall the request of the Israelites for a king to rule them in 1 Samuel 8.
[12] Matthew 5-6, Luke 6.
[13] Philippians 2:3-4.
[14] Galatians 3:26-29 (TNIV).
[15] Matthew 28:19 (TNIV).
[16] Acts 8:1-3.
[17] Acts 8:26ff.
[18] Acts 11:19-20.
[19] Acts 15:
[20] Neill, 45.
[21] Ibid., 35.
[22] Ibid., 37.
[23] Ibid., 41, 43; and Radical Outreach, 60.
[24] The Celtic Way of Evangelism, 91.
[25] Ibid., 24.
[26] Radical Outreach, 103.
[27] The Celtic Way of Evangelism, 47.
[28] Neill, 274.
[29] Ibid., 283.
[30] Logan, 36. I am fortunate enough to have come by this manuscript because it is a family heirloom. Jennie Logan was my Great-Great-Grandmother, and in addition to this testimony, her work is the only I have read so far describing any sort of mass-movement in China during the period between 1850 and 1950.
[31] Neill, 287-288.
[32] Logan, 29.
[33] The Forgotten Ways, 19.
[34] Donovan, 12-13.
[35] In some instances, this had already begun taking place. As he instructed them, certain individuals began standing out from the group who picked up on the message more quickly than others. Donovan began using these to help teach their brethren. See pg. 84.
[36] Ibid., 72.
[37] Ibid., 81.
[38] My friend Troy once gave a sermon about this. He was confounded that there are so many illustrations of the church as a flock of sheep, given that sheep, in his eyes, are so dumb; they stand where they shouldn’t, they move away from the shepherd where there is danger, and they’ll lag behind the flock to much on one more tidbit of grass. It takes a strong shepherd to keep a flock moving in the right direction. Then he realized how much like sheep people can really be, and he made it a sermon illustration.

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