When movements are very small – that is, they are five generations or smaller in size – they can be fairly easy to count. You can even track the generations on a big piece of paper or a computer spreadsheet.
A simplistic diagram might look like:
Now, in reality, if I saw a movement that diagrammed out like this, I’d be suspicious – it’s “too perfect.” Movements are messy, and are very rarely (and only randomly) exactly like this. However, it illustrates the point: a set of churches can be diagrammed on a page. Globally, the average is about 15 to 18 people per group; so we could round to 20 and say this diagram represents between 250 and 300 people.
We can know a lot about this group: the names of the leaders of the groups, the locations of the groups, when they meet, and so on. It’s not likely we’d know all the people in the group–once you get past 150, it’s not easy to hold that kind of information in one’s head–but it is possible to track this on a regular basis.
This kind of graph can also be the ‘nucleus’ of a larger movement: that is, movements are made up of smaller “4 generation” collections. We can track these “families” within larger extended families; any single individual within the “family” can easily describe his family using five relationships:
These are “spiritual” relationships (which is why I only identify one parent and grandparent–although obviously your “spiritual parents” might be a couple etc). The point here is that you can articulate who mentors you, and who mentors them – and you can articulate who you mentor and who they mentor. Doing so places you in a “five” generation stream, and brings all of the generations into view. (Some of these relationships will obviously parallel “demographic” or “birth” relationships; some will be purely spiritual.)
This is one easy way to begin “counting” within a movement. It also brings in an element of “self-assessment”: Anyone who looks “up” and “down” in a demographic family would be able to know where the spiritually mature and spiritually immature are. The same can be said in a spiritual family. And, it begins to introduce the idea of leaving a legacy and generations that are outside your view: great-grandparents won’t always know all of the great-grandchildren; we have to leave the future to God.
For most movements, this form of “counting” would be enough – many movements are within the scope of this size. In the next post, I’ll look at how we can begin to count tomato plants, bushes and Redwood forests.