Book Review: Leading Kingdom Movements by Mike Breen

My latest read is a book by Mike Breen. He's a church strategy consultant, experienced missionary and the guy who insightfully shared: "If you build a church you might get disciples. If you build disciples you will always get a church."

A few summers ago, I picked up Building a Discipling Culture and was challenged by the simplicity of Breen's system for mentoring people. Over the years, I've struggled to help students disciple other students. So much of my discipling technique is craft, honed over years and difficult to imitate. Breen's material feels simplistic and arbitrary at times, but the choices he makes show a great deal of wisdom.

More recently, I read Multiplying Missional Leaders. You can read my review here: Multiplying Missional Leaders. In it, he gives a helpful framework, but left me wanting more specifics.

In Leading Kingdom Movements, Breen zooms out to 10,000 feet and shows how missional communities fit into a broad kingdom movement. This was the most helpful aspect of the book for me.

Structure-wise, Breen starts the book with his own story, drawing principles from his learning process as a pastor in England. From there, he traces the ministry and methods of the Apostle Paul before moving on to a framework for Missional Communities.

Two ideas worth taking careful note of in Leading Kingdom Movements:

1) Orbits: Breen talks about developing leaders by expanding their orbits. Imagine two objects in space: one a mature object and the other a younger object. The younger object orbits around the more mature object, learning along the way. Over time, the younger object begins to broaden it's orbit, moving farther and farther from the mature object, but still circling back for input and guidance. This is an image of discipleship.

When I think about my discipling ministry, I realize that I stumbled onto this concept on campus. Meeting with students every week kept them in close orbit to me. I was able to provide regular and frequent input. They would meet with me, then go out and try something, then we'd come back and debrief it. I saw them grow tremendously.

But I always struggled to expand the orbit. Student rhythms are tuned to a week-to-week. I never managed to have a student go from weekly meetings with me to monthly meetings with me and expand their impact on campus. And I never really threw myself into continuing the orbital idea after they graduated. I felt that keeping them in my orbit, even a loose orbit, would hinder their growth. Breen's book has convinced me (and I was already beginning to wonder) that this false humility led to missed opportunities.

On a side note, I think this orbits idea also has a significant application to parenting. I'm going to have to think more about this.

2) Oikos: Breen introduced this concept in the last book of his I read, but I didn't connect as much with it there as I should have. The oikos is an extended family, the network of 20-50 people who made up a Greek household. In Breen's ministry model, the oikos is a significant place of ministry and vehicle for mission. He calls it the "social space." This is a space that is mostly missing from the ministry models I've experienced.

Think about the environments you see in ministries. "Public space" shows up on Sunday morning services or Large Group meetings. "Personal space" shows up in Small Groups, 6-12 people. "Intimate space" shows up in Discipling as we meet with one or two people for accountability and coaching. Think of these as family reunions, nuclear families and (to put it awkwardly) marriages. What's missing is the extended family, something that's often missing in the Western culture from which we often derive our ministry models (note: this is one of the reasons LaFe is so important ... Latino students understand extended family).

It would take a radical culture shift for most churches to be willing to focus on the oikos, but I think it would pay off. For one, everyone has an oikos: extended family, workplace, neighborhood, network of friends, teammates. This means that if we're on a mission to reach our oikos, we can each participate in God's mission. Secondly, for most of us, we can think of an oikos we're connected to that has yet to commit itself fully to Jesus. Lastly, since every oikos is different, this creates a need for high innovation (which can lead to high ownership).

In InterVarsity, we're already thinking along these lines. "Who is God calling you to reach?" we ask students. "Which corner of campus is God calling you to go to?" I'm excited to apply some of Breen's ideas and see if they bear fruit with out students.

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