I've just spent the last Friday and Saturday at a Forge Conference. Forge is like a bit of an 'out there' mission training organisation. Basically they think institutionalised church is dead and that we need to do things in a completely new way. The keynote speaker was Alan Hirsch.

Basically Alan was saying that there are these 6 key things that the church should do, or should have as part of who they are, and that we in the western church have forgotten these things. But if we look at the early church and the chinese church we see that they have grown massively and that we can rediscover these 'forgotten ways.'

So what are they?
1. Missional Incarnational Impulse - church is the result of God who is a missionary. Basically God is a missionary, that is he went out to reach us. And also God is incarnational. That is He came and dwelt amongst us. Therefore we should be like God, we should be missionary and we should go and be with the people in their world.

2. Apostolic Environment - church is an environment that allows for apostles to work. Apostles are people who are concerned with seeding and embeding the gospel in the world and they are custodians of the gospel. They have a desirse to see the kingdom grow! Then he talked about how when the church becomes institutionalised there is a tendency for it to go a bit wonky. He said that Ephesians 4 lays out the different types of ministries people can have. Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors (or Sheperds) and Teachers (APEST). He says that when the church gets institutionalised it gets rid of all the Apostles, Prohpets and Evangelists (APEs) and gets left with pastors and teachers and administrators. Which means the church goes into decline. I thought that to be a pretty true statement. Especially of the Anglican Church here in Tassie.

3. Disciple making - we should be more concerned with making disciples than church. He argued we tend to focus all our effort and energy on running church and that meant we had a church full of people who aren't disciples. How true is that? I really wish i'd been discipled properly by someone. Then i would know how to do it better for other people and i reckon they could have saved me a lot of my mistakes in life. (by God's grace they haven't been too disastorous! but still massive mistakes!)

4. Organic Systems - he talked about how church should be like a starfish not a spider. That is, cut of the leg of a starfish and another starfish grows. Cut off the leg of a spider and the spider goes a bit wonky. Cut off its head and it dies. The church should have the ethos of the vibe of a movement not an institution. And its structure should be of a network able to multiple quickly and easily! Our ideas and theology should also be able to spread like a virus.

5. Communitas not Community - we need communitas, which is a form of community which is formed in the context of a significant ordeal. There should be an experience of liminality in our church life. That is a dangerous, on the edge experience that we all go through together. He argued that this should be the normative way of life for God's people. But that church has currently gone a bit soft and is too comfortable, not experiencing this communitas way of living which means we are not revitalised and not fully trusting God. A quote from Martin Luther that i like that Alan Hirsch used was "We should live as though Jesus died yesterdya, rose today and is coming back tomorrow!"

6. Jesus is Lord (this is the big one that everything else hangs off) - we need to distill religion back to the bare essentials of Jesus. We have one Lord his name is Jesus and he is ruler of everything. God must be Lord over every aspect of our lives. He said this really interesting thing about how often we are confessing monotheists but practicsing polytheists. That is we say we believe in one God and that he is Lord of all! But then we say God and politics don't mix, or God and my money decisions don't mix, or God and my work don't mix. I found that very interesting. He also talked about how our message needs to be sneazable, that is easily caught. Like the phrase Jesus is Lord. Simple yet deep!

So what do I think?
Well I agree with some of what was said, but i'm sceptical of other bits too. I'm still thinking it all through.

Check out http://www.theforgottenways.org/ thats Alan Hirsch's website. You can get the first 2 chapters of his book off there so i'm told.