I’ve been getting into Alan Hirsch’s weighty book ‘The Forgotten Ways.’ Fantastic book, but meaty. There he is talking about the similarity between the missional environment that the early church grew up in (before Constantine came along and invented Christendom) and the current day world which many are calling post-Christendom. Hirsch is maintaining (and I believe him) that in order for the church to re-engage and adapt for this coming century, we must recognise the conditions we’re in, re-establish what he calls the Apostolic Genius and once again take a missionary stance.
Its not to dissimilar to what McClung is saying in his book, which for me is encouraging because over these last 8 or so months, I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of mindset the Army needs to be in in these days. McClung and Hirsch are just helping me to put into words all that I’ve been wondering about all this time.
The other thing that has really struck me is if we follow this thinking, we can’t just be borrowing mindset and structure. Although missionary mindset and maybe even early church structure (house movements etc) are helpful new ‘old’ wineskines for today’s society, I feel it has to be much more than that.
You cannot read the New Testament and remove the miraculous work of the Spirit. From the time of John the Baptist coming to preach repentance, the Kingdom, salvation for the world and giving the world its first fresh revelation for 400 years all the way up to the end of Acts, we see Spirit-driven ministry in action. I firmly believe that as well as redigging the forgotten ways of missional church, we need to be re-discovering afresh the power of the Holy Spirit.
Last Saturday I did a funeral. Young girl in her 30s. When I was speaking with her family they were talking about their spiritual beliefs, the girls spiritual beliefs and simply how, although they like the idea of God, church didn’t cut it. My heart ached as I wished I had something here to offer that was different to what they had experienced elsewhere. Its definitely not that people aren’t searching, its just that they don’t see in our expression of Christianity what they’re looking for.
This is why I’m convinced that we can’t just be looking for new wine-skins (structural and ideological patterns)…we need the new wine of the Spirit to be poured into it too. The gospel for post-Christendom has to be one that displays the power of God.
I heard someone say recently that when John the Baptist came on the scene, he also began the move away from the institutionalism of religious culture of Judaism. The fact he was preparing the way ‘in the desert’ and doing his stuff away from the religious institutions was perhaps indicative of a similar time to we are in.
The challenge for the Army too(which is well into museum/monument stage)is to begin establishing new wine-skins all over the place and begin filling them with new wine (non-alcoholic of course) and hope and pray that the ‘institution’ won’t stamp out what they can’t control.
I’m glad to have been a ‘Preparer of the Way’ at training college for our nine months there…got the flag and the t-shirt and everything!