The Forgotten Ways, Part 1
I have a direction for this blog which is exciting. This summer I am interning at my local church. Currently our church is going through a transition from a “come and see” model to a “go and tell” model. Our pastor and has been encouraging our elders to consider deeply what it means to be the Church. In the midst of this transition I am coming alongside Doug (my pastor) and seeking to learn what it means to be a pastor and in so doing I am learning what it means to be missional.
Therefore, I am reading the text, Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch. What I am going to do is take a few posts and summarize each chapter and then write a bit about what is running through my head as a result.
The introduction and first chapter Hirsch sets the stage for what he desires to talk about in the text. I need to go out of order in my summary because of what I want to focus this post on.
The first chapter lays out Hirsch’s own story of leading and doing church. He began as a young pastor in Melbourne and saw God do some amazing things as he participated in the revitalization of a church there.
This church quickly became filled with people from the margins. In ministering to these people Hirsch learned about organic, authentic ministry. He developed a sensitivity to what was going on in the world and culture around him. The church tried all sorts of different things to plant in the various sub-cultures in the city. Some went well, others not so well.
The kicker was when they attempted a cafe that ultimately failed because two thirds of the church did not embrace the vision. This led them to think through what it means to be missional and what exactly are the principles. They broke the key DNA to five things (Hirsch, 47):
- Together we follow (community or togetherness)
- Engagement with Scripture (Integrating Scripture into our lives)
- Mission (The central discipline that bind the others and integrates them)
- Passion for Jesus (Worship and prayer)
- Transformation (Character development and accountability)
This DNA points back to their definition of an ekklesia (Hirsch 40–41):
- A covenanted community — people bound together in a distinctive bond.
- Centered on Jesus — he is the epicenter of the Christian faith, this community is not a God-community it is a community centered on the second person of the Trinity.
- Worship — the offering of lives back to God through Jesus.
- Discipleship — following Jesus and increasingly becoming like him.
- Mission — extension of redemptive purposes through the activities of his people.
I think that summarizes chapter one pretty well. The key question that I want to interact with is from the introduction. How did the early church grow from 25,000 in AD 100 to 20,000,000 in AD 310?
Think about this — the faith was illegal, there was no technology, there was no buildings, there was no “Bible”, and there was no church institution. How could they grow without these things? How is it possible that they grew that much?
Hirsch argues that in this episode of church history we should be able to find the authentic heart of what it means to be the church. He also argues from the perspective of China and yet the persecuted church growth concept does not hold serve in places like the Soviet Union or Albania.
Now, the key thing that I am thinking about is the necessity for the faith to push down to our everyday lives. What do I mean? I mean that in the early church and in China there was no place for the faith to “be”. There was no collection place the way we think about it today. The believers had to live their faith out loud in a sense.
The first century believers lived out their faith in every conceivable way. They were forced to walk outside their doors and follow Jesus in the fields and marketplaces. There was no place to hide.
How often do we hide? “Personal faith” is the disease that most of face. We can no longer have personal faith. We must live our faith at the coffee shop, bar, front yard, and ball fields. How else will anyone hear and see the gospel lived out? We must be about the redemption of all aspects of our lives and creation.
Everything and everyone longs to be redeemed.