Monday, July 11, 2011
The Apostolic Future of the Church
Hirsch and Ferguson assert that if an apostolic movement is not recovered and the church continues on the trajectory path that it is on now, particularly in the Western context, then it will lose its influence and fade into non-existence. This is perhaps observed the most in my current context of the Southeastern part of the US where you have a place that is saturated with institutional churches that are on the decline, many even closing its doors for good.
Although this decline of churches is happening, the authors point out that it does not have to continue as there is a paradigm shift of missional churches taking place that they refer to as Verge Churches. The problem that is brought up with the current, institutional model of church is that it is only being influential to a certain point. Though there is no hard evidence for the numbers, the majority of these can only reach about 40% of the population, which creates two problems. One, churches start to compete with each other for those 40% and second, churches tend to leave out their missionary role and ignore the other 60% of the people.
Hirsch and Ferguson point out that what makes Verge churches different is that they see the church more as a movement than an institution. In order to see Verge churches planted and developed it will require the institutional paradigm to be dislodged. Some take a statement like this and Verge churches to being a new way to doing church, which is not it at all. Rather it is returning to what Jesus designed the church to be, a movement not an institution like we see of the early church in Acts 2.
Hirsch refers to this new paradigm as "Apostolic Genius", which encompasses six elements of mDNA:
1. Jesus is Lord
3. Apostolic environment
4. Missional-incarnational impulse
5. Organic systems
I appreciate that as early as the first chapter the authors take the time to answer one of the most obvious questions being, "How do I begin an apostolic movement in my church?" Their answer is referred to as movementum and encompasses four parts that are elaborated on throughout the entire book. These four parts are made up of the following: imagine, shift, innovate, and move. A shorter way this is described in the book is, "Multiplication Church planting + the Mission of all people everywhere = Apostolic Movement."
These four parts make up the major sections of the book. Hirsch wrote chapters 2-6 dealing with the imagine and shift sections as his background is a missiologist and apostolic theologian. Ferguson wrote chapters 7-10 dealing with innovate and move coming from his background as a church planter and starter of missional movements.
I believe that most people in the church will find this book to be a challenging one, but hopefully a necessary one. It is time for the church to get a way from an institutional model of doing things and quit making it about the "professional clergy" and equip everyday people to be engaged and on mission, where all people are ordained for the work of ministry.
After reading this book, I highly recommend it as Hirsch and Ferguson leave me with a hope for the church in the West. On the Verge is a game changer within the life of the church and it will help shift your paradigm to where it needs to be to assist your church as it transitions into the future.