THE SHAPING OF THINGS TO COME: MISSION AND INNOVATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY CHURCH
Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
Through exploring the three aspects
that came from the early church (explained in Acts 2.42-47) I appreciated the equal importance placed on ‘Communion, Community and Commission’ (p.77). Where the incarnational church can be flexible and even chaotic, it was reassuring to have this essential foundation to building a faith community.
Being a visual person, I connected well with the idea that ‘creativity adds new meanings to old activities and rituals’ (p.186). So often we leave the interactive and engaging elements of worship to the children’s ministry, and yet I see adults craving for some inspiration and creativity.
‘Christian leadership operating best as a community within a community’ (p.68) was a concept I struggled with. Having been a part of a community that had a regular change over of leadership, I saw the importance of longevity as well as a key person pushing forward the future missional vision. In the last six months I have spoken to people involved in two incarnational churches that has had their key leader move on and the community has been disbanded. Without a leader it is incredibly challenging to have a champion pushing forward the cause of mission in the community. From my experience at Northern Community Church of Christ I also see the impossibility of transition from attractional church to incarnational church occurring unless you have a key leader constantly guiding this process. Later in the book the authors state the responsibility of leadership is to ‘establish a climate for creativity’ (p.196) and so I was left unsure as to what role leadership did or did not play in the incarnational church.
A similarity I can envisage within both attractional church and incarnational church is that of sub-cultural groups. Hirsch and Frost felt this happened more within attractional church settings (p.46) yet I see that incarnational churches also tend to draw people of the same mind-set into the group. While the authors felt this was a negative, I think it is human nature. While we should not reject someone just because they are different to us, I think the people we connect with more naturally are, in turn, those who we can minister to most effectively.
With that belief in mind, I see that incarnational church allows connections to be made into the faith community through those people the church are meeting with and connecting with throughout the comings-and-goings of their life. This model comes across as ‘a single rod and a single hook on the end of a single line’ structure rather than the fishing net dynamic Hirsch and Frost advocate (p.44). I felt that as the book continued to develop the idea of relational and messianic ministry – both which are key in developing spirituality – the fishing net analogy became disconnected to incarnational church and the single fishing line became more of a reality.
The resounding question for me is: How important is longevity? While some incarnational churches ‘might exist for only a season’ (p.67), can we truly have a positive impact on a community if we are only there for a short period of time?
This article was written by Linda Bailey
Linda started theological studies in 1999 in Australia. After working for ten years in various church ministries, she now works as the breakfast producer at 89.9 LightFM - the Christian radio station in Melbourne, Australia. She writes blogs every day about passages she is currently reading in the Bible. Follow her on Google Plus +Linda Bailey or Facebook by clicking the like button on the right of this page.