This past week I was sitting with the other Westheights staff and other BIC Leaders in a seminar with Alan Hirsch at the Meeting House in Oakville. Alan is a world leading writer and speaker on the missional church and the changes and challenges facing the church in the twenty-first century. These are just a series of random thoughts from his life lecture. Feel free to ask some questions about the comments below or your own thoughts on the challenges facing the changing church.
Just a couple of thoughts about Alan Hirsch. He struck me in every regard as completely orthodox in theology. If anything, he seemed to have a greater commitment to the church obtaining a proper Christology (theology of Christ) and missiology (theology of mission) but is passionate in the idea that those former two must inform our ecclesiology (theology of the church). He proposes that we have not let our ecclesiology be driven by our Christology and missiology.
Random notes below:
The answer to the challenges of the church are in the new Testament ecclesiology. The church we are part of today is based on a Constantinian model as opposed to the new Testament model. We need new models that think outside of our inherited thinking.
Organizational insanity is to keep doing the same things in slightly different ways but expect dramatically better results.
We are perfectly designed to achieve what we are achieving.
Our problem is first and foremost an imaginative problem … how we see ourselves as Christians in an increasingly secular world.
For the first time ever the church is in a post christendom world. The world had a pre christendom period and then seventeen centuries of christendom but now we have in the 21st century, for the first time, a post christendom period.
Consatanian model of church characteristics:
1) Thinking of the church as building
2) Importance of clergy in the life of the xhuexh.
3) Denominational templates for the local churches.
Example of the decoded church (striped of its rules and traditions) is the church in China. It was decentralized 80 years ago due to the government law. Buildings and seminaries were shut down and church offices were disassembled and the people were scattered but the church grew from 2 million to 120 million in 80 years without the institution of the church. His point is this: the Chinese church during those 80 years had more similarity to the New Testament church than the constantinian church.
How does a new apostolic movement happen:
1) Multiplied church planting.
2) Everyone has to be involved, deployment of the laity.
Paradigms are strongholds because we held captive to them. That is why the Pharisees, the people who lost likley should have recognized Jesus, did not recognize Jesus . Their paradigm of Jesus was different and they could lot see outside of it.
Movements that are explosive are a focus of Alan”s discussion.
He proposes that a key to the explosive church is the right coding, or DNA, and to understand the right coding we can look at Ephesians 4. In other words, missional church requires missional ministry, and Ephesians 4 has a lot of direction for the church in how to be missional.
Ephesians 4 thoughts:
It is a general letter not written to a specific problem unlike some of the other letters (ie 1 Corinthians) . Therefore this is Paul’s best thinking on the church because he is writing a letter to pass around the church. Marcus Bart, the commenty writer, says it is the constitutional document for the church.
1-6 Unity of the church in one God
7-11 Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds/pastors, teachers.
12-16 Maturity and health are the results
He reads that passage to mean that we cannot expect the results described in verses 12-16 (maturity and life) if we forfeit the offices given to the church in verses 7-11 (all offices including apostles, prophets and evangelists). The word “given” is an aorist indicative, very strong verb, to describe the gifts of the church that are given to the church.
Definitions of these roles:
Apostle – a sent one, Paul is planting churches as he travels around the Mediterranean as an apostle. The apostles plant the DNA of the church and they maintain it so they are architectural by nature.
Prophets – are the people who keep others God focused. Their agenda is keep things focused on God.
Evangelists – provide the energy to recruiting.
Shepherds/Pastor – brings people into community.
Teacher – explain and illustate the teaching of the church.
He adds that leadership is a calling within a calling. So some apostles are leaders and some are not. Some prophets are leaders and some are not. Same for evangelists and shepherds and teachers.
“Dream up the world that you want to live in. Dream out loud.” — Bono
The missional conversation has captured many people’s attention in the last fifty years. But rather than not be a ecclesiology discussion it should be a theology proper discussing. God is a missionary. He sent Jesus out, the missio dei of God. Therefore christology sets missiology and this sets ecclesiology. The church does not have a mission but the mission has a church.
The mission is the grand purpose of God.
The problem comes when our forms dictate rather than serve. Then christology becomes slave to the ecclesiology. To southern Baptists Jesus is a teetotaling kind of person, Jesus becomes whatever we picture him to be.
When we lead with our ecclesiology then we put our forms on indigenous peoples. Paul tells the Galatians that the Gentile people did not have to take on the Jewish forms but could take on the forms of following Jesus that connected with their own culture.
It is a hangover from christendom that we expect people to come to us. In a world when the church was central that would work but it no longer works. We are a sent organization if our christology and missiology is correct. We can be attractional as we go but we need to go because this is the movement of God.
Two questions to ask when you go into the community:
1) What is good news for this people group? Study the idolatry of our culture to understand them.
2) What is church for this people group? What is the social glue that holds them together and build from there.