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Movemental Ecclesiology: Recalibrating Church for the Next Frontier (part 1)

First in a series of leadership content curated by Uptick leader John Chandler

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This article is the first of a series on this site that will appear periodically as a leadership resource. The series will include articles and thoughts of interest for BGAV leaders, curated by John Chandler of Uptick (www.uptick.org).

Many of you know how influential Alan Hirsch has been for me, and for so many.  Here are wise words he and his colleague Warrick Farah, from Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, give us … John Chandler

Movemental Ecclesiology: Recalibrating Church for the Next Frontier (part 1 of 2)

Warrick Farah and Alan Hirsch

 

There is no doubt that God has been teaching us all kinds of key lessons over the last year. The COVID-19 pandemic has been probably the most disruptive event for the Church since WWII and has compelled Christian leaders across the globe to re-evaluate their mindsets and their practices.

The long-held belief that the Church exists almost exclusively in its Sunday/weekend expression has been called into question, and as the so-called “queen” has been removed from the game, leaders have been forced to learn what the other chess pieces on the board can do. This in turn has forced us to reflect on the nature of the Church as a living, distributed, incarnational, network—the very essence and mark of all world-changing, transformative movements.

Furthermore, many contexts have experienced crisis stacked on top of other crises. The exponential rate of decline of Christianity in America and Lebanon’s year of meltdown serve as but two examples to demonstrate that the pace of change is increasing rapidly in today’s world.

For many church and ministry leaders, this has involved re-examining deeply ingrained habits and wills. It seems that God has taken charge in guiding us to both adopt and adapt to newer, more fluid expressions of ecclesia. To varying degrees, we can now see church communities operating more as a movement, such as responding to needs in society and also being less focused on church buildings. Pastors, in many cases, are doing a lot more than they were before the pandemic.

Perhaps it is only natural, but this transformation is happening because of the crises and not as a result of revisited theology. (Consider that much of the New Testament was also written in the context of crisis!) Furthermore, God has quietly brought 1% of the world into his Kingdom through church planting movements in the past 25years, mostly among Hindus and Muslims. We have much to learn from these remarkable movements and their churches.

Considering our present crises and the prevalence of discipleship movements to learn from today, perhaps now is the time to revisit our theology of church.

To do this, we propose an imaginative exercise to reflect on anew and, we believe, biblically faithful expression of church. This contrast between “typical ecclesiology” and “movemental ecclesiology,” seen in the embedded picture, “A Paradigm Shift in Church Mindset,” may be better understood as a continuum and not an artificial dichotomy the way it is portrayed. Hybridity is possible, and the two can creatively coexist like two trains coming and going from the same station. But sometimes it is indeed helpful to learn through examining meaningful differences.

Typical ecclesiology is often the unreflected-upon legacy of Christendom. We do church according to our traditions in the way we assume it has always been done. By contrast, a movemental ecclesiology emerges from our understanding of Jesus who was sent into the world (Jn.20:21). Christ is the head of church (Col. 1:18); his missional life of crossing boundaries serves as our source and exemplar. This rally to a wild Messiah for the sake of the other is not simply a first step, but rather a radical reorientation that permeates all we think, feel, and do.

 

Warrick Farah teaches missiology at ABTS. He serves with One Collective and is the editor of the forthcoming book, Motus Dei: The Movement of God and the Discipleship of Nations.

Alan Hirsch is the author of The Forgotten Ways: ReactivatingApostolic Movements which is being translated into Arabic by Dar Manhal Al Hayat.

 

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