We continue our discussion of “The Forgotten Ways” by Alan Hirsch by looking at chapter one. Remember chapter one can be downloaded from Hirsch’s website, however after that you will have to purchase a copy, but I think you will discovery that it is clearly worth the buy.

In chapter one, titled “Setting the Scene” and subtitled “Confessions of a Frustrated Missionary” Hirsch tells a bit of his own story as leader of South Melbourne Restoration Community. Hirsch shares how he and his wife were brought to the church as a kind of last ditch effort to revive a church that had experienced birth, growth and decline in its 140 year history. Through the process the Hirschs came to the conclusion that they wanted to be involved in a church that was highly participatory (much more than the 20:80 rule) and missional.

Hirsch provides a good contrast between the typical church growth principles that are used today to grow a contemporary church and the essential components that best describes the nature of the church. Hirsch states “if you wish to grow a contemporary church following good church growth principles, there are several things you must do and constantly improve upon:

1. Expand the building for growth.
2. Ensure excellent preaching that relates to the life of the hearers.
3. Develop an inspiring worship service with an excellent band.
4. Make certain you have excellent parking facilities.
5. Ensure excellent programs for children and youth.
6. Develop a program of cell groups rooted in a Christian ed model.
7. Make sure that next week is better than last week.

In contrast to the above, Hirsch discusses the nature of, or innate purpose of the church according to scriptures:

1. A covenanted community
2. Centered on Jesus Christ (“Jesus is Lord”).
3. Worship, defined as offering our lives back to God through Jesus.
4. Discipleship, defined as following Jesus & becoming like him.
5. Mission, defined as extending the mission of God through the activities of the covenanted community.

In the last section of the chapter, and my favorite, Hirsch discribes the practices that their faith community “came up with” as:

1. The basic ecclesial (church) unit was to become much smaller so as to transform from the active:passive ratio from 20:80 to 80:20.

2. They would not devleop a philosophy of ministry per se, but rather a covenant and core practices.

3. Each group had to be engaged in a healthy diet of spiritual disciplines, following the TEMPT model:

T: Together we follow — community focused.
E: Engage Scripture — integrating Bible into life.
M: Mission — missional activities bring cohesion.
P: Passion for Jesus — worship and prayer.
T: Transformation — character development & accountability.

4. They would organize the movement in three basic rhythms: a weekly cycle of TEMPT groups, a monthly regional meeting of TEMPT groups, and a biannual gathering of all the groups in a movement-wide network.

5. Each TEMPT group would covenant to multiply itself as soon as it is organically feasible and possible.

What aspect of Hirsch’s assessment speaks to you? How does your current faith community fit with Hirsch’s perspective? How might our current networks/gatherings in KC and Newton “take on” such practices?