The picture to the right is a depiction of Jesus and the twelve on an outer wall of the Montserrat cathedral. While quite striking I did notice that all 13 figures are portrayed as very old and pretty stoic–I wonder if that is how they really lived and led in this new venture called Christianity in the 1st century.
Today, I want to complete the description of what Alan Hirsch posed as six critical components of church DNA for the 21st century. In the last post I attempted to describe Jesus as Lord, Missional Incarnational Impulse, and Apostolic Leadership. Now for the other three:
4. Disciple Making
Hirsch argues that we are not really that good at this in Western Christianity–but we are comfortable with the notion because the concept is familiar. Hirsch sees this as the core task of the church–and it is vitally connected to the center, “Jesus as Lord.” The scriptures tell us that we are to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ–to become true representatives of Jesus out in the world–this takes real discipleship. Hirsch also advocates that we disciple both believers and unbelievers–and know that some will be evangelized along the way. This makes sense in Hirsch’s paradigm in light of an incarnational gospel–because this is a life on life approach to both evangelism and discipleship. One of the key phrases you will hear from Hirsch is that “we must lower the bar on church and raise the bar on discipleship.” He feels we have weakened discipleship in our current settings–even in the midst of an emphasis on small groups. Discipleship should result in a person embodying the message of Christ–and embodiment of the message is essential to transmission of the message. Hirsch goes one step further in stating that the quality of our leadership will be completely in line with the quality of our discipleship. The bottom line of discipleship is a deep involvement in a person’s life. Discipleship is face to face and it is primarily experiential. It is not just about educating a person’s mind–but engaging them in experiences that cause them to trust God in new and fresh ways.
5. Organic Systems
This is how we organize movements. Hirsch argues for organizing according to natural life systems. It has the “feel” of a movement–very spontaneous, flat in its organizational structure, and self reproducing. At the core, people absolutely believe in the message of the movement. Power and authority are distributed out–not centralized. There really is a sense of chaos and organization working together. The centralizing piece is the DNA–the core concepts or principles of the movement–but there is great freedom in the function of living our that core DNA. These core values combined with freedom of function is what can propel the movement and keep it organic.
Notice Hirsch does not list number six as “community.” He is not advocating that just mutual fellowship will get the job done. He is aiming at something else–he is aiming at community built around shared faith experiences. This creates a different quality of community and bonding. Two critical aspects of this communitas are liminality (being thrown into something that is over your head) and ordeal (the actual challenge or goal to be reached). Hirsch points out that we see this both in Scripture and in our culture. In recent times, events such as September 11th and the Tsunami tragedy served to greatly rally people together in community to minister to the victims. In the Bible we see Jesus taking the 12 out and exposing them to many faith challenging situations–resulting in a greater learning and bonding. A part of this is to help a disciple really learn to live out their faith in the world. This also provides the sense of adventure in life and in the movement.
There you have it–six core components that Hirsch would say are essential if the 21st century church is to survive and have significant impact. I have been thinking at two levels as I consider this–both for my church here in Austin and for Campus Crusade as whole. I am still thinking–join me. I look forward to your musings on this topic.