Forgotten Church?

When we moved to Harrogate, we felt it was the right time (a ‘Kairos moment’) to step out from our previous Church experience. We’d all benefited so much from St George’s in Leeds – indeed Liz and I met there! But, having taken the decision to move a few miles up the road, we also chose to take a new step in our journey of faith. Which lead us to St Mary’s.

We arrived at a time of transition; having lost its traditional buildings and with a new leader, we were challenged to look for new ways of doing church. To re-focus on where we believe God is leading us.

As I’ve been thinking around Church, one of the books that has really helped has been ‘The Forgotten Ways’ by Alan Hirsch. In it Hirsch considers whether the western church as we know it, in various forms, will suffice, or if we should learn from other examples.

Hirsch does not dismiss the traditional ‘attractional’ model of church, but clearly believes it has its limitations, in particular in reaching beyond a relatively narrow cultural range of people. He suggests that we should learn from dramatic examples of growth, in particular churches in the New Testament and, more recently, in China.

This is not the place for a detailed resume of Hirsch’s arguments, but in the next few posts, I will consider some key themes and ideas, which he suggests together form the DNA of a successful mission focused church.

The Heart of it All – JESUS IS LORD

Before moving on to consider 5 attributes of this missional DNA, Hirsch focuses on the Shema: ” Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” and suggests that this should mean that God is Lord over every aspect of life, dethroning all other Gods.

There is a danger that, as individuals and as churches, our engagements with God and with the world are quite separate. Hirsch suggests that such dualistic expressions of faith result in polytheism – different gods ruling different spheres of our lives. Genuinely and effectively following Jesus must have a practical impact in all parts of our lives…including how we ‘do’ church!

I will jot down one or two more thoughts from ‘The Forgotten Ways’ over the next few days.

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