One quality that marks each and every person who has ever started a movement is what I call “Expectant Faith.” Every effective catalyst who has participated in my studies tells me that they exhibit this quality “frequently if not always.” Wherever you see a movement, you will find a catalyst characterized by Expectant Faith. No exceptions. This means you will only be able to start a movement if you continue to cultivate Expectant Faith in your heart and ministry. The late Steve Smith said to me that if he were to boil down the qualities of effective movement catalysts to only three, Expectant Faith would be one of the top three.
In this blog I will show you what Expectant Faith looks like in practice, and tell you my own journey in developing it. I will also let you in on some of the Best Practices gleaned from the lives of other catalysts, and offer practical growth steps that you can take to cultivate Expectant Faith in your life.
What is Expectant Faith?
Here is what we mean with the term: Effective movement catalysts are expectant that God will grow a movement among their people group and save many soon, and they have great faith that God will show his power through their lives.
Several essential elements need to be highlighted:
The quality of this kind of faith is an expectation that God will grow a movement. It is not a hope, not a wish, not a desire. It is a certainty that a movement will happen. In a moment we will describe what catalysts build their certainty on.
The object of the expectation is that God will show his power. The way he does this may differ – through dramatically transformed lives, through signs and wonders, or through tangible love – but divine power will be manifest in the life of the catalyst and their partners and team.
God’s intervention will happen soon. Catalysts live with the tension of expecting movement breakthrough imminently, yet being ready to persevere.
Catalysts live with the tension of expecting movement breakthrough imminently, yet being ready to persevere.
I will let the raw statements of what several catalysts say about themselves and their partners speak to you:
“Faith that God can and will save many, in this place, at this time, among these people – they believe the harvest is prepared around them … They believe God is going to do it here and now!”
“I began to expect that God would save people whenever we went out with the intention of sharing the gospel. Sometimes this meant that I didn’t return home until someone believed.”
These teammates “take action and expect God to show up – and He does. They share the gospel and expect people to respond – and they do. They put themselves in positions where God has to show up and He always does.”
The Cycle Of Expectant Faith
After listening to the stories of numerous catalysts and analyzing the surveys where they self-assessed their traits and competencies, a distinct picture emerged. I will first depict it in the form of a cycle, then unpack it a bit.
The roots of Expectant Faith are found in the catalysts’ deep Hunger for God. As a catalyst yearns to know and love God more deeply and seeks him, God gives revelation. Catalysts report that God spoke to them about his plans with them and their ministry and/or his plans for what he desires to accomplish among the people they serve. Many receive such revelation through a dream or vision or prophetic word, others through a Scripture that God gives them. Expectant Faith is based on that revelation. This is the nature of faith; it is not some lofty dream based on human hopes. Faith is always based on what God has said and promised. This explains the certainty, the expectancy. Expectant Faith births boldness in a catalyst – bold action and bold prayer. Out of that, a catalyst is emboldened to take Steps of Faith. As they take them, God intervenes and undertakes to show his power; which leads to deeper Hunger for God, and so the cycle continues. The revelation is the divine element in this cycle. We cannot manufacture it. We can only pray for it, seek it, and receive it. All the other elements are very much in the hands of us catalysts, and therefore it depends on us how we cultivate an Expectant Faith, and persevere until what God has revealed comes to fruition.
Expectant Faith it is not some lofty dream based on human hopes. Faith is always based on what God has said and promised.
This is the pattern I have seen in the lives of many catalysts; not mechanically of course, as God deals with each of us in unique ways, but a pretty consistent pattern appears in story after story.
My Journey Growing in Expectant Faith
After I committed to Christ, I turned into a young radical. I was in my early twenties and in theological seminary to be equipped to pursue my calling. A deep Hunger for God and his glory drew me into God and propelled me forward to pursue my calling. I offered myself to him: “I have no idea how I will ever be any good for you. But please, please use my life to bring your fame to a people that has zero disciples.” In my seeking God, one evening I asked him to not only show me who the unengaged people group were, but also prayed: “Father, you showed Paul in Corinth in a dream that you had a big people in the city, before there was a breakthrough. If you gave the Apostle such a guarantee that there would be much fruit, please give me revelation too about what you will do in my people group.” That very night God gave me a dream. In that dream he showed me the part of Sudan that I felt called to, a region with 35 unengaged people groups, and showed me that he was going to write church history there and build his church in mighty ways. At that time, this entire region had only three or four known Christ-followers among all 35 peoples.
From that night I was filled with the expectation that God would start a movement among my people group. From the next day I started praying with Expectant Faith that God would start moving among them, so that one day there would be a movement. They were known as the fiercest jihadists in the war against the Christian South Sudan. A national OM team preaching in the market of the largest town was driven out with stones thrown at them. However, I started preparing to minister among them – with confidence that one day there would be a Christward movement among these radicals.
This preparation journey took a total of eight years. I graduated from seminary, did pastoral work in my home church, got married, four years after the dream moved to Sudan, wrestled with learning Arabic, and reached out to Muslims in the capital – all in steady preparation to move to that part of the country that God had shown me in the dream. All the while, my team and I were praying with Expectant Faith that God would start a movement there, and that he would use us to start it. And that he would even open the door in the first place. We were told no white family had ever taken residence in that part of the country. Then a civil war broke out in “my” part of the country, and suddenly the door was open. Making a move there would require big steps of faith.
Massive Challenges That Required Steps of Faith
Moving into a civil war with young kids: My sons were three and one years old at the time, but we made a decision to move into the area that was torn by the civil war. A massive risk. And we took a step of faith, with consequences: our town under siege by the rebel army, street fighting literally a couple of blocks away from our home, a cholera outbreak, and evacuation due to fighting, just to name a few…
Getting one million dollars overnight: The only way to gain credible access to the region was to register a humanitarian NGO. And the government would only grant such registration if the NGO could demonstrate that they had a million dollars in their budget. The biggest amount I had ever believed God for was the roughly $3,000 of our monthly support. From $3,000 to $1,000,000 was a massive gap! But we took a step of faith. Long story short, a Christian leader called me from Europe, out of the blue, and said: “I heard about your ministry in Sudan. If you are interested in partnering with our NGO, we have access to institutional funding...”
Joining the Marines: Starting a humanitarian organization with zero experience in humanitarian work felt to me like joining the Marines. I had been a chief maybe of the boy scouts, but now suddenly I was in the Marines. Actually with the “Green Berets.” There I sat in UN meetings with other NGO heads, who knew each other from Afghanistan or Banda Aceh, switching swiftly from their VHF radios to their satellite phones and back to chatting with me. I was absolutely clueless, and wondered when I would ask a question that would reveal me as an absolute novice. Along came Stephen, medical coordinator with a large Christian NGO, who said to me one day: “I love how you combine humanitarian work with evangelism. I am not allowed to do that in my org, but I would love to offer you any guidance you might need.” And guidance did I need! He became my regular mentor and helped me learn the ropes.
Crossing the frontline weekly: We prayed about where to start our work among the unengaged people group we felt called to, and the Father drew our attention to a particular rural mountain region. The problem was that the region was in rebel army-held territories, while our NGO office was in the government-controlled town. If we were to start working there, we would have to cross the conflict line for every single field trip. Once again, a step of faith. We took it. God provided “friends” in the region who I could call before every field trip for a security report on recent fighting, and their recommendation on whether to come into the area or not. My intel was so good that the UN Security Department, whose job it was to assess the security in the region, began to call me for situation reports. Still, there was a price to be paid. Our team was ambushed several times. Our clinics were looted twice, to the last soap bar. Our Land Cruisers were carjacked at gunpoint a few times. And twice one of my team members was shot at.
Sharing Jesus boldly, with the threat of being kicked out all the time: Big Brother was watching – always! At that time, the country was an Islamic fundamentalist police state. And they hated Christian “proselytization.” We were keenly aware that they were watching our every step. The wrong person watching us share Jesus could mean that the government would close down our NGO and kick us out of the country. That threat lingered constantly in the background. We knew that their strategy was to smuggle at least one national security member into the staff of every international NGO. So who among our staff was the one reporting on us? In a private meeting with a high-ranking national security officer, he leaned over to me with a mocking grin: “We have got Chinese technology – are you afraid now?” Another time he asked outright: “What is your hidden agenda? Are you dangerous?” Every time we gathered people under a tree in the villages to share Jesus stories, a couple of soldiers with their Kalashnikovs were just 50 meters away, listening in with one ear. Yet we shared Jesus boldly, wherever we went. Jesus was the answer to every question Muslims asked. And Jesus was what we turned every conversation to. After all, we knew that God was going to start a movement here! And that assurance bolstered our faith and made us bold. Our job was to take Jesus wherever we went. Only a couple of years later did we find out that the rebel army commander had discussed with his small circle of top commanders our sharing of the Christian faith among his people. He gave us the thumbs up – for reasons we will never understand.
Many other effective catalysts tell similar stories. God gives revelation, which is what the catalyst then puts his faith on as they pray, act boldly and take steps of faith. God then responds and intervenes.
Best Practices from the Lives of Effective Catalysts
These are practices gleaned from surveys of effective catalysts which they report to have incorporated in their lives and assess to contribute to their movement catalyzing:
BEST PRACTICE 1: Expectant Faith is usually based on direct revelation in which God reveals his purposes, and effective catalysts seek God for such revelation.
BEST PRACTICE 2: Expectant Faith is strengthened through meditation on Scripture, especially the Gospels and the book of Acts.
BEST PRACTICE 3: Taking steps of faith creates space for God to intervene and cultivates Expectant Faith further.
BEST PRACTICE 4: Giving opportunities to share testimonies of steps of faith and God’s intervention. This makes real what God is already doing, which in turn further strengthens and emboldens one’s faith.
BEST PRACTICE 5: The catalyst’s example of Expectant Faith stirs up Expectant Faith in his co-workers.
How You Can Cultivate Expectant Faith – A Growth Path
These are some practical steps that you can take to develop your own faith that I have gleaned from my own journey, and from the journeys of many other catalysts I have surveyed on how they cultivated Expectant Faith..
Seek God in prayer for revelation of his purposes among your people group and with your ministry, praying individually and with your team.
Record the most significant words, promises, or revelations that you receive.
Remind yourself and your team frequently of the revelations you have received.
Pray often into these words, that God’s purposes be fulfilled in His way with His words.
Dare to take steps of faith, even small ones initially.
Review progress regularly, discerning where God is already at work, in order for your faith to be bolstered.
Meditate regularly on the Gospels and Acts, a practice that many effective catalysts report to have bolstered their Expectant Faith.
Steve Addison interviewed me recently for his podcast. If you want to hear more about how my story unfolded and Expectant Faith contributed to a movement, you can find the podcast here.
Learn more about the other Catalytic Qualities next to Expectant Faith in my new book Movement Catalysts. Order your copy here!
What are YOUR thoughts? What is your experience with Expectant Faith? I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!