Sometimes when you have a problem it is good to have someone else look at the issue with new eyes as they can sometime see things you can not.
Alan Hirsch does this every thing with his book The Forgotten Ways. Instead of focusing on the negative side of the decline of Christianity, Hirsch began with asking what would be left if all the Christian seminaries, school, books, NGOs, buildings and 501-C3s were removed. Then, drawing insight from the first 200 years of the Christian church and the modern underground church in China, he developed a model doing ‘church.’
This model (displayed below) is centered around one crucial element: Jesus is Lord.
While this statement may sound trivia or Sunday shcoolish – it is in fact the center of the entire Bible. Jesus is Lord, King, Ruler of everything. It was this understanding that drove the early church onward in the face of persecutions and death. As such, it should be the center piece of everything a Believer does.
Spreading out from this center are five different intertwined elements that help fill out the model:
- Disciple Making – This does not mean simply gaining salvation numbers; it means teaching people who have been delivered out of darkness to live in the Kingdom of Light. It means mentoring and caring for them in a personal fashion instead of bulk, mass-media type training.
- Communitas, not Community – Believers are more then just a community. They are a communitas; a group of people with a purpose and a vision: To follow Jesus as Lord.
- Organic Systems – The church the West has become highly institutionalized with buildings, doctrines, salaries, hierarchies, etc. Sadly enough it wasn’t always like that – nor does it have to be like that. Instead, the church could be more organic in its structure, allowing more room for God to move and direct things instead of human minds.
- Missional-Incarnational Impulse – For years the church in the West as had the privilege of ministering to a culture build upon Judeo Christian values. This is no longer the case. As such, the church must recapture the value of going to the people as one of the people in an effort to show them Christ in their culture.
- Apostolic Environment – Even though different groups through out church history have embraced the five-fold ministry, the bulk of the church has disproportionately focused on the teacher/pastor. Hirsch is calling out for a embracing and a redefining of the five-fold ministry (you can read more about that here).
As I read The Forgotten Way, I couldn’t help but think about how right on Hirsch was. He has developed a theological model that could help guide the way forward while staying true to the core of the Gospel message. This is extremely important as there are many different voices in the marketplaces today promoting models that disregard certain aspects of the Good News of Jesus (most notably among evangelical fundamentalism and the emerging church movement).
Let me put it this way: three days after I finished reading a borrowed copy of the book, I went out and bought myself a copy – and then promptly loaned it out. It is that important.