I’m halfway through yet another book.
Sometimes I think that reference of Ortberg’s to half-read books everywhere (see my hurrysickness post) was written to describe my house! I don’t even know how my husband can bear the fact that in virtually every room there is a book propped open. I claim to be reading them all. But I really am, I promise!
So the latest book is Hirsch’s ‘The Forgotten Ways’. And like any good academic or pseudo-academic book, it has a subtitle. (OK, slight digression but have you ever noticed that? I’ve learnt one thing from postgrad study: if you’re going to write a book, have a subtitle…!)
So, where were we?! Hirsch…his subtitle is ‘reactivating the missional church’. And that is, in many ways, the basic premise of this book. It concerns missional ecclesiology (a category the name of which, as Hirsch admits, robs itself of all hope of being interesting! Except to sad people like me 🙂 ). But it is about more than just that – it’s specifically about reactivation of something already there!
Hirsch suggests that
the primal missional potencies of the gospel and of God’s people…lie…dormant in you, me and every local church that seeks to follow Jesus faithfully in any time.
What he’s saying – and what I think is so exciting – is not that we need a transfusion of life when it comes to mission but that we need to re-activate what we already carry within us. He calls this mDNA (missional DNA). And, if he’s right, both you and I carry it. What the early church and the Chinese church have seen in terms of missional growth is there for the taking.
That means that I don’t have to join the church growth guys, who have their formulae for filling the pews. And all respect to those guys – they did ok when the mission field was made up of the de-churched. But we have nearly exhausted that mission field and now we’re on to the genuinely unchurched. Not the people who have some experience of church but those who really don’t know God and can’t see any reason to bother anyway!
Church growth principles now really only get us as far as transfer growth rather than salvation growth. And for some people that is a deeply disturbing reality. So what is the next method for guaranteed growth?
You know, there’s a hope stirring in me that it’s not about a method anymore. Hirsch says that it’s about the reactivation of something innate to the people of God and about ‘reseeding…the established church with the new, and more missonal, one’; I’m inclined to believe him.
But I wish I could put my finger on that. I want to explain the insight in words and pass it on. But, as yet, I can’t. And, like many things, I wonder if it is something more caught than taught…
Finally, because I’m serious when I say that the best theology is conversational, I’m reading this book with a friend – one of the people I do church with. So, if we say anything worth eavesdropping on (hmm, preposition at the end of a clause?!!)…anyway I’ll post about it!