Friday, June 15, 2007

the forgotten ways

In our Tuesday morning book club (which is currently meeting on Thursday mornings, but that is another story), we are working our way through the book The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch.

Mark has mentioned it on his blog.

I just wanted to post what I thought was a pretty thought-provoking excerpt from it. Hirsch quotes Gerard Kelly:

"Experimental groups seeking to engage the Christian faith in a postmodern context will often lack the resources, profile or success record of the Boomer congregations. By definition, they are new, untried, relatively disorganized and fearful of self-promotion. They reject the corporate model of their Boomer forebears, and thus do not appear, according to existing paradigms, to be significant. But don't be fooled. Somewhere in the genesis and genius of these diverse groups is hidden the future of Western Christianity. To dismiss them is to throw away the seeds of our survival."

Hirsch then goes on to add:

"I have often had to field criticism of the Emerging Missional Church in the guise of pragmatic questions like, "Where is it working?" or dismissed in phrases like "When I see some success, I might consider it." But it IS working. The answer is right there under our noses, but we can't seem to see it because we are looking for the wrong things. If we look for certain features obvious in the Christendom paradigm (like buildings, programs, overt leaders, church growth, organization, etc.), we will miss what is really happening."

I find these thoughts interesting because I am often on both sides of the fence; sometimes inspired and excited by the Emerging Missional movement, and sometimes critical of it and asking the same questions Hirsch mentions.

I offer no real wisdom here (not that I usually do), other than a couple quotes from two very wise men for you to chew on.


The Anonymous Human said...

I'm with you bill. I love dreaming and speaking and thinking and anything else that ends in -ing about Christ's church. I like the two quotes, but often (like yourself) I have to ask myself, "But what is the missional emergant church doing?" Obviously I don't see buildings and leadership summits and curriculum output as the end, but what means are we doing to get to whatever end we desire? Or is that the new post-modern idea? There is no end it's all about the means, the journey. Maybe. I know I'm a part of a new missional church plant. When I really break it down, I'm not so sure it's all that different from the boomers. Are we doing something wrong? I don't know.
I'm going to pick up that book in the next week or so. I'm excited to read it.

matt said...

Not that different - Jake I'm hurt

Actually, you have a phenomenal point. I believe that we are doing the exact same thing Hybels and Warren did when their culture was primarily baby-boomers: being missional. We love to think we are doing something new when in reality we are being more true to them (being missional) than many churches are today (being a best practices church).

However, there is validity to Hirsch's point. I had a pastor tell me I had to be at least 35 to plant a church becuase I would draw people primarily from a 10 year radius of my age (25-45). Well, what if I see a missional need for the 18-38 year old market? Even within this pastors paradigm, the church can never reach 18-24 year olds. And in Vegas, that age group is given the least ammount of resources, effort, and prayer.

To follow on Hirsch's point. Until we view the U.S. as a mission field, we will continue to leave entire "people groups" unreached. If we were going to Papa New Guinea then we would identify all the people groups that need the gospel, and contextualize it to each. Learn each language, examine ways to share the gospel, give time and resources. Hirsch's plea to be truly missional means we give resources to pioneering work, like reaching the next generation.

Off soapbox

The Anonymous Human said...

Sorry Matt.

What I simply mean is that our music might sound funny, the preacher might look a little cooler, but a service is a service is a service. Isn't the church (and especially the 'missional' church) supposed to be more? Isn't there something else?

matt said...

I will post something I have recently written in the next few days (I'm still editing it), called "The Three Expressions of the Local Church". Hopefully that will make a distinction.