Movements, Social Change, and the Evangel Gathering

I wrote my dissertation on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the great preacher-orator-civil rights leader who changed the face of America's social landscape through his victorious civil rights movement aimed to foster freedom and equality in our society.  As a young seminarian, recently married and about to take over his father's congregation in Atlanta, Dr. King was recruited to lead a movement of poor people in Montgomery, Alabama who sought redress against discrimination in that city's public transportation system.  Spawned through the courage of Rosa Parks who one day decided that she was too tired to move to the back of the bus, a spontaneous movement of Montgomery citizens determined to oppose that city's unjust and unconstitutional segregation of Blacks to the back of public transportation. 

Through his constant pressure upon the city's municipal government, his inspiration and leadership of the many African-American churches and community, and through his wise generalship of the poor laborers in that community, he was able over nine months to bring considerable financial pressure upon the city until it recognized the equal rights of all Montgomery citizens, of whatever race, to use public accommodations as equal members under the law.  His ability to garner and rally the poor made all the difference for Montgomery, and would set a tone for the remainder of his public civil rights movement that would climax in the march on Washington, and the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act under President Lyndon Johnson. 

Today, God almighty is raising up movements of the Kingdom committed to reaching their people groups, cities, regions, and nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These movements are occurring in all parts of the world, in numerous people groups and cultures, all united with the single intent on advancing the name of Christ in their locales.  They are rapidly reproducing churches, are deeply committed to Christ and the Gospel, and are planting churches at an exponential rate.  In my view, these church planting movements share much with the work of Dr. King and the other civil rights leaders who began their journey under the blistering sun of Montgomery's summer neighborhoods.  Through God's providential and sovereign choice, he is raising up a generation of men and women, many among the poorest of the poor, to take charge of the outreach of the Gospel in their own communities.  In Asia, Africa, South America, and across the world, God is anointing specific leaders to represent his interests, to declare without shame or guile the faith of our Lord Jesus, and collaborating together to join forces to penetrate marginalized communities with the Gospel.  This phenomenon of the Holy Spirit raising up "Dr. King's" for the Gospel is occurring throughout the world, and offers those of us who love the Lord and the church to consider how we might identify, empower, and release such leaders and their movements to accomplish what God would have them do in their own countries through their own churches and people.

The Evangel Gathering is hopefully our modest beginning of this kind of collaboration for those committed to empowering leaders and partnering with local churches for the sake of the Gospel among the urban poor, those serving those who are incarcerated, committed to reaching those in the global south, and those living at the margins of society and life around the world.  We believe that God desires to, can, and will identify a cadre of men and women bold enough to take God at his Word, and committed enough to risk everything they possess in order to freshly proclaim and boldly demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus among the poor in cities here in America and around the world.  We will take "baby steps" in this, our first dialogue and discussion of what this means among America's underserved, and are anxious to learn from one another as we consider the great issues of what this will mean among the world's marginalized. Suffice it to say, the same Spirit that spawned a fledgling group of apostles and friends to launch the initial Jesus movement in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost can do the same thing today in the darkest and poorest communities on earth.  Our faith in the Spirit is the inspiration for the conference.  God knows that only he can bring about the change necessary to transform this sick and exhausted world today.

God is still in the business of raising up Dr. Kings around the world today, both men and women, touched with his unction and called to his mission.  May God use the Evangel Gathering to set into motion our meager efforts to see leaders raised up and movements birthed that will engage the toughest places on earth with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We need such leaders and movements today, now, more than ever.  

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Rev. Dr. Don Davis is a Senior Vice President of World Impact, and the Executive Director of The Urban Ministry Institute.

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