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I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of the new book from Alan Hirsch “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church” for several reasons including his incredible writing skills, (see “The Shaping of Things to Come”), his incredible story, the praxis of his preaching, and the fact that he comes from the Church of Christ tradition. Here is a link to the introduction and Chapter 1. I find it especially invigorating that someone from the Church of Christ is pushing the envelope for doing ministry and recapturing the essence of the first century church. Supposedly the restoration movement is all about this idea, so I’m excited to see someone actually trying it, instead of focused on getting all the methods correct. Here is a quote on this subject from the Introduction…

“I have to confess that I do not think that the inherited formulas will
work anymore. And what is more, I know I am not alone in this view.
There is a massive roaming of the mind going on in our day as the search
for alternatives heats up. However, most of the new thinking as it relates
to the future of Christianity in the West only highlights our dilemma and
generally proposes solutions that are little more than revisions of past ap-
proaches and techniques. Even much of the thinking about the so-called
emerging church leaves the prevailing assumptions of church and mis-
sion intact and simply focuses on the issue of theology and spirituality
in a postmodern setting. This amounts to a reworking of the theological
“software” while ignoring the “hardware” as well as “operating system”
of the church. In my opinion, this will not be enough to get us through.

As we anxiously gaze into the future and delve back into our history and
traditions to retrieve missiological tools from the Christendom toolbox,
many of us are left with the sinking feeling that this is simply not going to
work. The tools and techniques that fitted previous eras of Western history
simply don’t seem to work any longer. What we need now is a new set of
tools. A new “paradigm”—a new vision of reality: a fundamental change
in our thoughts, perceptions, and values, especially as they relate to our
view of the church and mission.

And it’s not that reaching into our past is not part of the solution. It is. The
issue is simply that we generally don’t go back far enough; or rather, that
we don’t delve deep enough for our answers. Every now and again we do
get glimpses of an answer, but because of the radical and disturbing nature
of the remedy we retreat to the safety of the familiar and the controllable.
The real answers, if we have the courage to search for and apply them, are
usually more radical than we are normally given to think, and because of
this they undermine our sense of place in the world, with its status quo—not
something that the Western church has generally been too comfortable with.
But we are now living in a time when only a solution that goes to the very
roots of what it means to be Jesus’s people will do.”

Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church,
Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2006.

I’m also actively engaged in the current series Rob Bell is doing at Mars Hill on “Peacemakers”. I think the two authors/preachers have much in common in their attempts to revive the church as a body of people committed to Jesus as the focus for all we do and believe. In the building of ourselves as disciples, we are enabled as the people of God to join in the process of kingdom work.

“The truth is that the twenty-first century is turning out to be a highly
complex phenomenon where terrorism, paradigmatic technological innova-
tion, an unsustainable environment, rampant consumerism, discontinuous
change, and perilous ideologies confront us at every point.” —-Hirsch, “The Forgotten Ways”

The board that strikes me across the forehead is made up of perceptions. The way we look at ourselves and the way the rest of world looks at us is important. We who claim to be the church must change our views of who we are and what we are about, so that the perceptions of others are not so out of line with the reality of what a disciple of Christ is. In other words, we must fundamentally accept the redemptive processes of Christ on the Cross and focus every decisision, every thought, every action around that reality. This means we change our very core existence…even in America. This means we radically alter our consumption habits for example. We begin to live in smaller houses, we don’t use so many trash bags, we redesign our cities to use less oil, etc. A few examples…

1 billion people are without
safe drinking water
Americans consume 26
billion liters of BOTTLED
water annually

every 16 seconds somewhere in
the world someone dies of
2 out of 3 Americans are
considered overweight

Americans spend more
annually on trash bags than
nearly half the world does
ALL goods

80% of the world lives in
substandard housing
New home size in sq. ft.:

Look at the stats link for more examples here

The point that Bell makes so well is that when someone who has nothing hears the word democracy, they look at America and think GREED. Or, maybe when they hear freedom, they look at America and think IMPERIALISM. As disciples, we should, we must lead the way to change these perceptions. He tells a story of a friend in northern Africa who witnessed people dancing in the streets for joy when 9/11 happened, but were stunned a few years later after a devastating earthquake hit the village when a group of American disciples came to rebuild and love on them. The gospel was shared in those days because the Holy Spirit moved amongst and through those people seeking to restore and redeem the world for the sake of the kingdom.

“…the church (the ecclesia), when true to its real calling, when it is on
about what God is on about, is by far and away the most potent force for
transformational change the world has ever seen. It has been that before, is
that now, and will be that again. This book is written in the hope that the
church in the West can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, arouse and reengage
that amazing power that lies within us.” —-Hirsch “The Forgotten Ways”

My next post will look at what Hirsch and Bell believe are the praxis, the applications of our faith to make the church viable, not for its own sake, but for the sake of the world…




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