Moving from Ministry to Movement

It All Starts with Surrender

March 18, 2024

Have you ever had a time when you chose to say “yes” to something that would stretch you beyond your comfort zone?

I remember the time I grabbed a pregnancy test and sneaked into the bathroom to take it. I was in shock and amazement, equal parts excited and scared. I knew that something had begun that would alter my life forever and, barring tragedy, would alter my body and my family’s life forever. 

My life has been characterized by many of these moments. There was the time I decided to leave my job in corporate America with no back-up plan. Then there was the time I said “yes” to a start-up, non-profit marketing agency serving international Christian missions organizations. I was unsure if I had enough resources or skills to help the founder build what would end up lasting over a decade and in some ways was a precursor to what I’m doing now.

As women, we navigate these threshold moments where we can’t see what’s on the other side of our “Yes.” And these moments and corresponding decisions become the stories of our lives . . . and the catalytic moments in the lives of others. 

How do we, as women, play our part in God’s larger story and become more intentional about where to invest what God has placed in us? What does it look like to invest today to see a Kingdom return in the future? Jesus started a movement and refers to his Kingdom in paradoxical terms that are both small and simple while also being large and significant. Together, let’s explore three ways we can move from ministry to movement.

Ministry to Movement Shift 1: Accept the call to birth a movement  

Having received the word of the Lord from the angel who proclaimed that God’s Spirit would overshadow her, causing her to conceive a son, Mary’s response was, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Her age and social location would have limited Mary’s imagination about what she could be from a ministry standpoint. There weren’t a lot of female rabbis hanging around. The Jewish leaders and teachers in that day were men.

Even so, she was visited by the Lord and eventually birthed a movement.

As women, some will be mothers naturally through birth, functionally through unofficial or official adoption, or even by influence. And some may not. But all have the opportunity to be mothers spiritually. We can all birth a movement. 

Say it with me, “I can birth a movement.” 

Thankfully, birthing a movement is not limited to physical capability, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, or even marketplace title. It’s also not limited by the lack of ordination or title within an existing church structure.

According to Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV), we all have received the charge to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

Birthing a movement is a matter of responding to the calling that God has placed on our lives. To make disciples who make disciples is the seed of movement and we all have a role to play.

As my friend and Movement Leaders Collective colleague, Alan Hirsch says, “In every seed is the potential for a tree, and in every tree is the potential for a forest, but all is contained in the initial seed.” 

By God’s design, a baby with ovaries already possesses millions of eggs even in utero. So a pregnant mother of a daughter is literally carrying the potential for generations. Similarly and even more significantly, we have the ability to gestate, birth, and raise a movement. 

When I think of women who faithfully responded to a call, I think of:

  • Three single, white American young women who moved from the Virginia suburbs to China to serve in education, and eventually moved to Cambodia where they joined the local leaders in their work in anti-trafficking. Rather than pursuing the American dream of comfort, predictability, and security, they chose to embed themselves in a foreign culture to learn how they could use their gifting to serve under, with, and alongside indigenous leaders. 
  • Della Wilson, an African American First Lady (pastor’s wife) and stay-at-home mom with no formal theological training and two sons, who would walk through the streets of one of Richmond, Virginia’s largest public housing complex visiting families in their homes, assisting with practical needs, and seeking to help single moms be reconciled to God. She faithfully did this and brought others with her – including me. 
  • A multi-degreed African American woman who chose to never marry, and has lived her entire life as a missionary and disciple in the United States and South Africa pouring her life into the forgotten children of Nellmapius, developing leaders who love and live like Jesus.

What do you have and what are you doing with it? 

Ministry to Movement Shift 2: Invest what you have where you are

I grew up in a community church where the saying, “Every member a minister,” was frequently proclaimed. The expectation was that each person, regardless of their title, educational background, or socio-economic status, would pass along something they had received to another. 

This was significant because the church was made up of two churches that merged: One with 80 percent of children from single-parent homes who lived in public housing or nearby and another whose congregants had college education, young professionals, families with two parents, and who did not live nearby.

The underlying belief of this church was that Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28 was given to all Christ followers. However, because of church building layouts and the service structure – rows of people watching a few lead in vibrant worship and preaching – there was a need to remind the congregation that serving God wasn’t a spectator sport. Unlike watching a sporting event, the encouragement was to get in the game. 

But what does it look like to “get in the game” if we don’t have a seminary degree or don’t have a position in church that has us occupying the pulpit or stage? 

We must surrender to God’s work in us, using the gifts he has given us in the sphere he has placed us, so e can work in and through us – whether that’s serving in a community-based organization, preaching in a pulpit the front of church, visiting families in our neighborhood, or sharing Jesus in the workplace. 

In the Parable of the Talents, the three servants were given a talent (resource/money) according to their abilities. One was given five, another two, and the last was given one. When the master returned, the servants who had received five and two were commended and rewarded because they accepted the task, took what they had, invested it, and doubled the resource. 

The servant with one talent allowed fear and his harsh view of the master to guide his decisions and, in the end, he only had excuses and the single talent he was given. This servant was called a wicked and lazy servant and what he had was taken away.

To surrender means to yield to the possession or power of another. In a world where women have been particularly vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment at the hands of people, we must remember that God is benevolent, trustworthy, and worthy of our surrender.

Surrendering to God’s work in us includes: 

  • Yielding to the lordship of Jesus Christ in our decisions, relationships, and resources.
  • Being aware of how God has uniquely designed us and cultivating and using our gifts, talents, and skills.
  • Spending time with God in prayer, devotion, fellowship, and rest. 
  • Understanding the spaces and places where God has given us influence and being a faithful witness and discipler in these places.

Without understanding our unique design, we risk spending our lives comparing ourselves to other people with a completely different story, identity, and calling. In a world of social media, it’s easier than ever to compare ourselves to others. This is both self-defeating and risky as it diminishes God’s gifts within us, or causes us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. God gifted us and simply wants us to steward the gift.  

In remembering Timothy’s gift of faith invested in him by his mother and grandmother, Paul’s encouragement to him was to “stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). Key words being “which is in you.” We are to steward what we have, and we can only do that to the extent that we are self aware and realize how God has uniquely designed us. It helps us know what we have to give to others. 

We can increase our self awareness through tools such as APEST from Ephesians 4, Strengths Finder, Enneagram, Myers Briggs, and conversation to gain insight from those who know and love us.

With greater self-awareness of our unique design, we are more equipped to manage or steward what has been entrusted to us. It is good to take inventory of our personal capital, and this isn’t solely money. Each of us has the following types of capital: Spiritual, relational, intellectual, physical, and financial. 

Relational capital pertains to our social networks that facilitate the exchange of ideas, interactions, and activities. Intellectual capital speaks to the knowledge and wisdom that each of us have to share with others. It becomes an asset that not only helps us navigate life, but is also an investable currency that can enhance the life of others. Physical capital relates to our health management and how we invest our time and energy in others. Financial capital speaks to how we steward and share our money with others.

The parable of the talents reminds us that each of us has been entrusted with something to steward. If and when fear causes us to shrink back and not cultivate what we have, multiplication does not occur. Instead we experience loss – loss of potential fruitfulness, loss of opportunity and time. As we cultivate our gifts, talents, and skills and invest them, there will be a Kingdom return.

Ministry to Movement Shift 3: Let’s move

As I’ve navigated new frontiers and opportunities in my life to invest my skills, gifts, and resources into others, I have found encouragement. 

As I invest what I have, God takes it, multiplies it, and brings help, healing, and freedom to others. 

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus explains how God takes small, invested things and grows them into something beyond itself that serves others. 

Consider Mark 4:30-32 where Jesus asks, “To what can we compare the Kingdom of God? With what parable shall we present it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds sown upon the earth. But after it is planted, it grows to be the largest of all garden plants and puts forth great branches, so that the birds of the air nest in its shade.” 

This parable highlights the remarkable journey of a tiny, seemingly insignificant mustard seed growing to provide shade for other aspects of creation. 

The journey of the seed is hidden, much like our relationship with Jesus and, in most cases, our narrowly known story. Many of the aspects of our relationship with Jesus happen privately and it’s what happens there that ends up having an external/public witness. Time with God alone and with others in an active engagement transforms us. God speaks to us and guides us as we seek him. He also works on our character and wounds as we sit in stillness allowing God to address the hidden aspects of our heart. Our doing for God comes from a healthy being with God.

Jesus, the perfect movement-maker, demonstrates that time with God transforms us. Having studied the scriptures and developed a regular practice of solitude and stillness, Jesus had what he needed to know the Father’s heart toward him and the people around him. 

Like Jesus, we should discern the people and places God has sent us to and put down roots. As we commit to the spaces he reveals, we are to commit to be a faithful presence, a living witness, and one who can give an answer for the hope that is within us. Intentionally making disciples through our abiding relationships and presence and showing others how to do the same marks us as faithful disciples and initiators of movement. We don’t have far to look to witness creation’s groaning, longing for resolution that seems so distant, but that is actually near – hidden within the wholeness of God’s Kingdom, as he works to restore all things to himself. 

Where Do We Go From Here: Moving from ministry to movement

I’ll set aside the debates on the validity of women in ministry to theologians or other passionate people and focus instead on service. Let’s be honest, women are no stranger to leading, ahem – I mean serving. 

Robert K Greenleaf, who coined the phrase “servant leadership,” was inspired by a book titled Journey to the East. The story is about a servant who disappeared unexpectedly and when things fell apart, the community came to the realization that he wasn’t “just a servant,” but that he was actually the leader.

A biblical word for ministry is “diakonos,” signifies service. Throughout scripture, we see the impact and power of service. There’s the slave girl who advised Naamon about where he could go to receive healing. Or Lydia, a well-resourced woman, who financially served the apostolic movement by funding Paul and planting a house church around her own table. 

So if we see ministry as service to individuals or specific places, perhaps we can see movement as service multiplied. Movement involves service to multiple generations, multiple people, and multiple places/contexts. 

Alan Hirsch identifies six essential elements of every Jesus Movement in his work, The Forgotten Ways. When Christ-followers intuitively or intentionally cultivate these six elements, movement occurs. As women we can internalize and embody these elements, and see how God births a movement through us. 

  • Jesus is Lord:Jesus is Lord” is foundational, beyond a mere theological statement. Movement birthers orient everything towards Jesus and his ways.
  • Discipleship-Disciplemaking: Discipleship entails more than information transfer. It involves cultivating practices and models that guide others in imitating Jesus.
  • Incarnational Missional Impulse: The incarnational mission calls us to go deeply into communities, embodying the gospel rather than attracting crowds to an event.
  • APEST: In the APEST framework, leadership is shared, recognizing and deploying the diverse gifts among us towards maturity as described in Ephesians 4.
  • Liminality and Communitas: Risking Together: Embracing adventures and taking risks as a community
  • Organic Systems: Rather than creating structures that don’t value diversity in leadership and guarantee leadership control, Jesus Movement birthers empower grassroots leaders, favoring simple reproduction, within structures that balance high accountability with low control.

The heart of movement lies not in titles but in our willingness to respond affirmatively to God’s call, echoing, “Yes, be it unto me according to Thy will.” 

If teenage Mary could be entrusted to birth and raise the Son of God, and if “Aunt” Clara Brown – a formerly enslaved black woman from Virginia – could plant the first protestant church in Colorado, become a business woman, philanthropist, and discipler of freed slaves, what is possible for you in collaboration with other women who love Jesus?

Reflection Questions

  • Have you recognized and answered God’s call to join his mission? How?
  • What do you have as gifting, talent, skills to invest in God’s Kingdom, and how could you invest that where you are? 
  • What’s the Kingdom vision that is bigger than you could imagine or achieve? And where can you take the small, but hugely important first step?

Unlock your movement potential and learn more about mDNA at

Lori M. Ruffin

Lori M. Ruffin

Lori M. Ruffin is an upbeat strategic thinker, speaker, and Executive Director of Movement Leaders Collective, a community for movement leaders and a catalyst for movement leadership. She’s the founder of The COO Team, an operations agency that helps visionary leaders get the strategy and systems they need to scale. Drawing from her experience at a Fortune 500 company, years serving national and international nonprofits, and an MBA program from Regent University, she has worked with and consulted ministries such as Kumveka, Women Doing Well, Generous Giving, The V3 Movement, Created Leaders, The Voices Project, Uptick, and Arrabon. She serves on a handful of nonprofit boards. Living in Richmond, Virginia, she serves as a lay leader in a local urban ministry context with her husband, Marques, and three daughters.
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