This past weekend two friends and I drove to New Orleans to attend a one day seminar with Alan Hirsch. In addition to the seminar Alan spent the majority of the previous day meeting with the staff of Journey Christian Church. Rick Grover the pastor of the church invited us to come down early and join in the discussion. It was a very profitable time and well worth the 15 + hour drive.
In addition to discussing key ideas from both “The Shaping of Things to Come” and “The Forgotten Ways” we spent a significant amount of time talking about how to cultivate a missional mindset within existing communities that are heavily influenced by church growth principles and preoccupied with church activities.
This discussion dealt with the importance of the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and how every follower of Christ must see themselves as missionaries sent into their local context. The dialogue was especially helpful for the work I am currently doing on a dmin project which focuses on assisting churches in the reallocation of resources in a missional direction.
Another very helpful discussion dealt with fostering new missional communities in a post-Christendom context. One example that Alan shared that I believe illustrates good missional practices for church planting uses the acronym INCH, which I believe Alan said was utilized by Christian Associates International. The basics of the acronym were explained like this:
Initiatives — This is the very lowest level of missional-incarnational practices. These are simple steps taken by individual people of God who carry the word, life and deed of Jesus into the lives of others.
Networks — These are formed when groups of 10-15 people get together to share what is taking place and to participate in missional-incarnational practices as a community.
Clusters — These are basically networks of networks. There is a bit more structure/organization at this level. There may be certain types of training/resources provided within clusters that might not be available in smaller groups.
Hubs — This represents some type of larger gathering for corporate worship, training and larger missionary engagement. Hirsch argues that hubs are probably necessary in certain American contexts.
What do you think about INCH? What applications do you see for it in your ministry? In church planting?
Lastly, a topic surrounding most of the conversation over the two days was recognizing that the lowest common denominator in all of the missional-incarnational practices is discipleship and the difficulty of discipling people in the midst of a consumerist culture. The story of the middle class in America is one of safety, security, comfort and convenience. In other words, American Christians have overwhelmingly chosen the story of the American way rather than the way of Jesus. Hirsch refers to this as living the story of the Kingdom as opposed to the story of the Empire.
How do you model and/or speak of living the principles of the Kingdom vs. Empire?