Why I’ve stopped calling Power to Change – Students a movement

Nov 23, 2016 | Sean Cullen

My heart beat faster, my palms began to sweat and my mind was racing with the possibilities.

Across from me sat someone I had grown to love and respect, and he was inviting me, as a young university student, to participate in something that would change the world. He was casting a vision for what the world could look like if a generation of young people stood up for Jesus, lived out and shared his message of love and hope.

He was inviting me to be part of a movement.

The hope that my life could be spent on accomplishing something so much bigger than myself captured my heart and continues to be one of my greatest passions. Even now, my heart is filled with joy as I look back on the last sixteen years of ministry. Faces flash across my memory. I consider how many students I have had the chance to sit with and invite to be part of a Jesus movement that is changing the world.

I believe we all long to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

We are most alive when giving ourselves to something that brings hope-filled change to the world. We all long to be part of a movement that renews the world and brings hope for the future.

But I’m changing how I use the word “movement”.

After much thought and reading and prayer, I’m convinced that how we are in the habit of using the word “movement” when referring to Power to Change – Students actually robs it of what makes it truly captivating.

Now I’m not saying I don’t want to be part of a movement. And I’m not saying that we should make movement a swear word and never use it. The word “movement” is most helpful when describing a picture of the future. It’s compelling. It’s a coming together of many people from many organizations and places who have a shared vision of the future. More than anything I want to be part of a movement of young people who give their lives to Jesus and commit to being involved in his mission.

Give the word “movement” its rightful place

The word “movement” belongs on the same word shelf as “kingdom” and “revival”.

We intuitively understand “movement” to mean a groundswell of people who work together to bring about change. But in Canada, within P2C-Students, we have developed a culture of referring to our ministry as “the movement.” This creates confusion among us, with potential partners, and with people who aren’t directly involved with our ministry. It’s confusing when our internal use of the word differs from its common meaning. This requires re-education and a lot of work.

It would be easier for us to build on the common understanding of the word, easier to invite young people to be part of a movement of God in this generation, if we could align ourselves with the understanding of “movement” that they already have. No re-education required, just a vision for a hope-filled future.

Value the work of ministry that creates the movement

“I observe that we have developed an attitude that ministry is lesser than movement, rather than its foundation.” – Sean Cullen

We value movement. We long for movement, in fact. But in longing for movement we can overlook the value of its building blocks: the ministry of evangelism and discipleship. It’s through ministry that Jesus changes lives. And it’s through ministry that God’s Spirit creates movement.

In the early 2000’s, it became popular within P2C-Students to use the language “from ministry to movement”. A helpful model was introduced that gave us the ability to keep a vision for movement in constant view. However, the unintentional consequence was this: I observe that we have developed an attitude that ministry is lesser than movement, rather than its foundation.

We need to recapture the value of ministry at all stages of growth instead of simply valuing the end goal. Jesus created movement through the work of ministry. The work of ministry is of great value.

Take a posture of humility

When we refer to “the movement”, we can unintentionally breed a sense of institutional arrogance. I have talked to enough people who are not part of P2C to know that we are often perceived as a little bit arrogant. This troubles me greatly, because it doesn’t line up with the humility I so often experience in the individuals on our staff team. So where does it come from?

One of the contributors to this organizational arrogance is our practice of referring to ourselves as a movement. We aren’t a movement by ourselves, but we are certainly part of one. We’re involved in something much bigger than ourselves – both as individuals and as an organization.

Any movement recorded in the annals of history involves multiple organizations and much partnership. Perceived arrogance makes organizational partnership hard, even impossible. This in turn makes building a movement with others very difficult. Therefore, in a very ironic way, overusing the word movement becomes counterproductive.

Cast a bigger vision

“The movement we long to be a part of is a movement of God’s Spirit amongst young people that reverberates across every segment of society and in every nation of the world. We won’t do that alone. And we won’t do that without sending equipped young people beyond us.” – Sean Cullen

When we’re in the habit of calling P2C-Students a movement, we risk setting students up to become stalled in their ministry when they graduate. (There’s that confusion again.) As students, they were part of “the movement”, but now they are not? So can they still change the world as alumni? Of course! In fact, that is when our vision gets extra exciting.

Our intentional use of the word “movement” enables us to cast a bigger vision for the graduating student. We long for the day when no student graduates without engaging with the life-changing message of Jesus. As students encounter Jesus, they are changed by him. And as they are equipped to live out and share his message of love, they will bring change that honours him in every segment of society.

The movement we long to be a part of is a movement of God’s Spirit amongst young people that reverberates across every segment of society and in every nation of the world. We won’t do that alone. And we won’t do that without sending equipped young people beyond us.

My heart still beats faster, my mind still races with the possibilities as I think about and give myself to that grand dream. How about you?

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About the Author

Sean Cullen

Sean serves as the National Director of Power to Change – Students, leading P2C on its mission to help students discover Jesus and mobilizing the organization to focus and increase capacity for the task at hand: to be able to see the day when not one of the 2.5 millions students in Canada graduates without engaging in the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

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