"A Call to Missional Revolution"
was once asked what is the most revolutionary way to change society.
Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform? He gave a careful
answer. Neither. If you want to change an alternative story, he concluded’
Tim Costello p.33
In their book The
Shaping of Things to Come, Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch begin to tell that
alternative story. They state up front that they will be ‘advocating a
wholesale change in the way Christians are doing and being church.’ That
is not an understatement as what follows is both an incisive critique
of much current missiology/ecclesiology as well as a challenge to boldly
re-imagine what it means to do mission and be the church in a post-christian
age. This is a call to revolution!
It is a book for those
who are genuinely willing to think and grapple with the serious questions
that confront the church in the 21st century. It will not appeal to those
who want simple answers and a few new tricks to fire the old girl into
life again. In fact I’d suggest that if we read this book and really grasp
what its saying it would be almost impossible not to pursue significant
change at a personal and corporate level. It is, in their own words ‘unnerving’
and ‘disturbing’ confronting the church with the reality that in its present
form it is simply not being true to its calling as a missionary people.
The broad premise
undergirding the book is that Christendom is over. The period where the
church occupied centre stage in society is long gone and because of this
we now need to adopt a missionary posture if we are to have any future
here in the west. What follows is a framework for imagining what a missional
church may look like.
The Christendom church
is summarised as being:
- Attractional -
expecting people to come to it and measuring effectiveness by attendance
at the Sunday service.
- Dualistic - seeing
the secular and the sacred as two separate spheres of life, and leading
to the assumption that God is only encountered in holy places.
- Hierarchical -
relying on a ‘top down’ corporate management system with a strong clergy
/ laity distinction.
By contrast the 3
core characteristics of the emerging missional church are seen to be:
- An incarnational
ecclesiology - a church that engages with the culture in every way and
that lives ‘in the world’ rather than hiving off into Christian enclaves
and seeking to draw others into them.
- Messianic spirituality
- seeing God in all of life and living with more of a Hebrew approach
- Apostolic leadership
- based on Ephesians 4 and seeing the church as led by people with a
mix of the 5 giftings mentioned in that chapter. (Called APEPT leadership)
It is stated that
the missional church by its very nature will be ‘an anti-clone of the
existing traditional model’… which is not dissimilar to saying, take all
you have known to be church and then do the opposite!
Mike & Alan are two
practitioners living the things they write about and giving you the distinct
sense that these are not just nice theories - they are concepts earthed
in biblical theology but also tried on the coalface of Australian life.
The final two chapters
entitled ‘Imagination and Leadership’ and ‘Organising the Revolution’
are absolutely brilliant, calling us to new thinking and a whole new way
of seeing church - as a missionary movement rather than a static institution.
The book pulls no
punches in speaking of the bankruptcy of the Christendom model and the
desperate need for radical change if the church is to be more than a footnote
in history. It is both provocative and inspiring. Some will see it as
‘fighting words’. It will draw criticism, especially from those who have
much invested in Christendom models, but the content of this book cannot
be ignored if the church is to have a future here in the West.
There is way too much
to summarise in a short book review but here are a few pearls that might
whet your appetite for more:
'In this book
expect to encounter revolutionary ideas that will sometimes unnerve
you. We hope to reawaken the latent apostolic imagination at the heart
of the biblical faith and to exhort God's people to courageous missional
engagement for our time - living out the gospel within its cultural
context rather than perpetuating an institutional commitment apart from
its cultural context. In writing this book we are advocating a wholesale
change in the way Christians are doing and being the church, and because
of this ours is not necessarily a popular message. We've become disturbingly
aware through personal experience and observation that those who advocate
such a thoroughgoing re-calibration of the church will not always be
met with open arms by the prevailing church leadership. And yet we feel
compelled to lovingly challenge the church to dismantle many of the
arcane institutional structures it is now beholden to and to bravely
face the future with imagination and courage.'
‘The fact that
the Christendom paradigm has presided over the last seventeen centuries
in the west provides us with a substantial basis with which to test
its success or failure. As we stand here at the dawn of a new millennium,
we believe that we must, at long last, give up trying to rejig the paradigm
to suit the massively changed missional contexts of the western church.
It simply has not worked. In fact it has created more problems.’
‘The church by
its very nature has an indissoluble link to the surrounding cultural
context. This relationship defines the practical nature of its mission.
But the reason for mission comes from somewhere else. To say it more
theologically, Christology determines missiology and missiology determines
The church bids
people come and hear the gospel in the holy confines of the church and
its community. This seems so natural to us after seventeen centuries
of Christendom, but at what price and to what avail have we allowed
it to continue? If our actions imply that God is only really present
in official church activities - worship, Bible studies, Christian youth
meetings, ladies fellowships - then it follows that mission and evangelism
simply involve inviting people to church related meetings’
‘If you are digging
a hole in one place and realise that you need to dig it elsewhere, you
don’t get there by digging in the same place only deeper. And yet churches
when they realise the old attractional mode isn’t working, seem to believe
that if they just do attractional church better, it will work’
‘The recovery of
a messianic spirituality that hallows the everyday is essential to the
missional church because it is in the everyday that the missional church
‘A much more
wholesome view of vision and visionary leadership is contained I the
idea of the management of meanig. Considered philosophically, all that
a great visionary leader does is awaken and harness the dreams and visions
of the members of a given community and give them deeper coherence by
means of a grand vision that ties together all the ‘little visions’
of the members of the group. The fact remains that no-one will be prepared
to die for my sense of purpose in life’’
As much as the book
brings great hope, the authors finish by saying that the situation is
precarious. If the emerging missional church is to really catch fire and
have a transformational effect then it will depend to some degree on the
response from the more established churches.
But more crucially,
it will rely on courageous, inventive men and women willing to have a
go at new ways, trying, failing, and trying again…
Hamilton is part of a group of 5 families moving into a costal suburb
of Perth with the intention of being 'Backyard Missionaries'.
November 03 edition featured a story
on their plans