I spent the last week in Vancouver where I had the opportunity to listen to some of the brightest minds in Missional Church thinking including Alan Roxburgh and Alan Hirsch. It was all apart of a conference being held at the University of British Columbia called the Allelon Conference. Dispite the physical challenges I faced while being there it was a great time to make new friends and connections as well as engage in a dialogue about what it means to be a missional church and a Christ follower. There was so many things that were discussed over the three days that it is difficult to know what to write about now. However, a great deal of my time was spent listening to the values and points Alan Hirsch brought to the table. For that reason I thought I would share six of his values behind the Missional Movement; a design which consists of six points around a centralized identity.
Centralized Identity and Core Value: "Jesus is Lord!"
At the core and center of any Christian lifestyle and value must be its realization within the persona of Jesus. Alan spends a great deal of time rediscribing the simpleness of Jesus' followers testifying that "Jesus is my Lord and Savior and I cling to him." A value that in stating seems so simple and without theological baggage and "deep wosdom" to the traditonal catechism yet its perscribers are willing to die for it.
Igniting someones faith and leading them to a discipleship of Christ needs to be easily transfored. It is easy to put this value into words however, we always seem to bring our own judgments into any real relationship rather then the grace which Jesus would bring. Effectively though, if we put our own judgments to the criteria of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus we are in esseance removing Jesus from our core value and replacing him with the image of ourselves. That would be idolatry at the worst.
In all contexts, situations, and conditions Jesus must always be central to anything we do, say, or bear witness too.
It was discussed that the church as a whole needs to raise the bar on discipleship and lower it on churched activities. Discipleship taking shape in both a pre-conversion and post-conversion.
Most interestingly, Alan sees discipleship as being our walking along side others while attempting to help them make there own God given dreams and visions come to be a reality. These dreams and visions are of course apart of all of us whether we recognize Christ's calling in our life or not.
What I question is how we can develop each others visions to see outside of our own objectives. It seems risky to develop our own or even others dreams and visions when they are based on self interested goals or benifits. How can we encourage others (especially those who do not acknowledge Jesus as there Lord and Savior) to see those dreams and visions outside of their own objective goals and benefits?
Incarnational Missional Impulse
The church is Missional in that it sees itself as a sending of people. Being a sent people seems to take two shapes in my view. First, we are sent in the sense that we need to move out into our communities and be seen as part of the social environment which is not restricted to the centralization of a church building. Secondly, we are sent in the sense that we acknowledge the cultural and social environment we find ourselves in, to be the society in which God has called us too.
Alan utilizes his missional values through the exercising of communitas and luminality within a community. In short translation; when a small group is placed in a challenging, externalized, social environment and given a mandate of being a coopertive missional and transformational element within it (luminality), it then can forge and develop its own cultural and social identity which develops greater communal ties between each other and Christ (Communitas). This same idea of communitas and luminality reminded me of Erwin McManus' Velocity principle in his book 'The Unstoppable Force'.
Ultimately, it is hoped that the gospel would not be brought to a specific culture but, that a specific culture would shape the gospel. When we think of the image of Christ given in Phil. 2:1-11 it seems that Jesus would rather do the same as he took on the image of humanity in order to bring salvation.
APEST is an acronym which Alan uses to describe the spiritual gifts which seem prevalent in any movement. It stands for Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherding, and Teacher. It is not meant to be gifts which are solely found in one member but gifts seen amoung many members of a movement. At the same time, all these gifts must be present if a movement is going to be successful.
This is a view of simplifying the church. Discipleship as well as the equiping or empoering of Christian followers takes on the image of a multiplicational value. As Alan Hirsch states it, "It must act like a virus." So that as one follower empowers two-three others it grows like a wild fire within its community.
Small Group or Communal Life Style Covenants is a way in which this organic value can be expressed through the communities culture. Alan gave two examples:
T - Together we Follow
E - Encountering the Bible
M - Mission
P - Passion for Jesus
T - Transformation to Discipleship
The other example was from Micheal Frost's book 'Exiles':
B - Bless X3
E - Eat X3
L - Listening (1 Hour/Week)
L - Learn
S - Sent
Covenants can be simply designed however it seems difficult to convince others to agree to sign in agreance with them. I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps, because of the influence of North Americans value towards independence and the "right to do what I want to do."
As it was described earlier, the value of Communitas and Luminality becomes a driving force behind a churches missional movement. In greater detail, as each smaller group develops a sense of communitas they begin to articulate their own stories and narritives which can then be shared with others in the community reminding them of their own walk of faith.
This sense of personal narritive seems to give me a new impression of what it means to share your testimony. Traditionally, testimonies were about how you came to be in relationship with Jesus. As though after telling it you had completed a methodological practice. This new sense of sharing a communal narritive though makes testimony a sharing of life experiences; one which has yet to be completed in the bigger picture.
Communitas also seems to really narrow the focus of the church to pursue geniune community transformation. It gives each member of the church body a greater sense of purpose and belonging as well as a feeling of fulfillment in both who God is and who they are themselves.
Culminates into Apostolic Genius
This was one area where we did not have time to really articulate. I would be interested in just what Alan Hirsch means by this principle and I am hoping to find more about it as I read his book 'The Shaping of Things to Come'.
The Allelon Conference was a lot to take in over the past week and given me many ideas to which I would like to share with my group in September. Of course, time and space do not permit me the ability to write about all of it here in this article. To close I will leave a few links bellow to which I have just become aware of.