Movements That Change the World: Five Keys to Spreading the Gospel by Steve Addison (A Book Review)

While this book has been around awhile (orig. publication 2009, revised 2011), it should remain “timely” for quite some time to come for anyone interested in the church as a “missionary movement”. Steve Addison has packed this very quick read with a lot of descriptive history of movements that were successful in spreading the gospel. [It’s a good thing this book does read quickly—I found it very hard to put it down.] He aptly distinguishes the movements that succeeded beyond merely spreading the gospel and bore fruit for successive generations by “making disciples”.

Why is the church growing exponentially in the southern hemisphere while declining as an institution in the north? Addison answers this question with intuitive understanding of the design Jesus demonstrated in discipling His own followers—and expects the church to follow. Addison supports his argument that “movements matter” by offering five key characteristics of successful church-planting movements to support his claim:

  1. White-hot faith
  2. Commitment to a cause
  3. Contagious relationships
  4. Rabid mobilization
  5. Adaptive methods

Not surprisingly, Addison’s analysis of the contagious effectiveness of early Methodist mobilization (fueled by white-hot faith and sustained by adaptability) adds to the case that elevation of a specialized clergy class in lieu of a committed “priesthood of all believers” that relies upon calling and equipping “non-ordained leadership” from among the harvest can stop a “movement” in its tracks.

The church of the 21st Century must face the question: Do we just want to hold ground, or can we discern where the Lord is working and join Him by adapting the proven ‘methods’ (modeled by Jesus himself) that work in every generation? “If you’re a follower of Jesus, you don’t have to start a missionary movement.  You’re already in one,” states Addison in the introduction to the (bonus) Study Guide.  The study guide, intended for small-group study, is interactive and connects the principles discussed in the book with the ministry of Jesus and the early church.

Two appendices offer several concise and effective “gospel presentations” to be used evangelistically in an encounter with any “person of peace” the Lord puts in your path, along with a brief outline for Discovery Bible Study upon which to base studies in discipleship that can help establish a “reproducible” group (church plant). While the average Christian reader might not be keenly interested in the minute workings of the Spirit in church-planting, or the activities of Spirit-reliant church planters, the historical background should inspire every reader with appreciation of those who have labored for the Master and handed down a heritage of faithfulness. I would highly recommend this book specifically for church-planting teams and suggest time spent working through the Study Guide would be time well -spent.

One might hold a sense of reservation at the almost certain prematurity with which Addison names the controversial Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and his Acts 29 network alongside Francis Asbury and Neil Cole as an example of a successful church-planting movement.  Given recent testimonies that have surfaced regarding hyper-authoritarianism and exclusion of women from ministry in the Mars Hill network, I fear this may be the case. Success cannot be measured by numbers alone, and the Latter Day Saints point to similar success in “reproducing” all over the world. However, we must submit that to the Lord. Time will tell. The Lord has a way of bringing much good out of human mistakes. I haven’t contacted Addison to ask whether he would include mention of Mars Hill if he were to revise this work today. An apparent endorsement of a controversial, possibly flawed, movement is not sufficient reason to reject the remainder of Addison’s worthy contribution to the “missional” conversation. The very generous ratings given for this book by readers on are unquestionably well-deserved.  I commend Steve Addison for sharing a career full of experience and insight in such a concise and powerful format.

I paid the full purchase price (including state and local sales tax) for this book. I did not receive compensation, in any form, for writing this book review. I was not influenced, by any means, to write a “positive” review.


  1. Thanks for your helpful review. Sounds like a good read.

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