During the next two network gathering times we will be examining Alan Hirsch’s “The Forgotten Ways.” We plan to discuss the first two chapters in March and finish the book in April. I hope everyone has secured a copy of the book, if not remember you can still download the introduction and chapter one of the book from “The Forgotten Ways” website

I hope other friends who are unable to join one of the network gatherings and readers of this blog from other areas will join our discussion via this blog as we work our way through the book each week. There has been a good bit of discussion of the book taking place the past month over at Jesus Creed. Additionally, there is a helpful interview with Hirsch at Rodney Olsen’s site.

To begin our discussion I want to share a bit from the introduction. Under a section entitled “A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Question”:

Using studies by Rodney Stark, Hirsch calculates that the early church grew from 25,000 in AD 100 to about 20,000,000 in AD 310. How did this happen? What was going on in early Christianity to experience this type of growth? To illustrate that this phenomena was not just an early church experience Hirsch shares the example of the church in China. When Mao Tse-tung took control of China there were approximately 2 million Christians. However, when the Bamboo Curtain was lifted some estimated the Christian population in China to be near 60 million. Moreover, the number of Christians in China today are around 80 million. Once again, how did this kind of growth happen?

Before you respond, Hirsch states some qualifications that must be factored into your answer:

1. They were an illegal religion throughout this period.
2. They didn’t have church buildings as we know them.
3. They didn’t have scriptures as we know them.
4. They didn’t have an institution or professional forms of leadership.
5. They didn’t have seeker-sensitive services, youth groups, worship bands, seminaries, etc.
6. They actually made it hard to join the church.

How do you respond to these two examples? What was happening in the life of the church to experience this kind of growth?