Last Wednesday, Alan Hirsch gave a two-session talk at Dallas Seminary. For a myriad of reasons, I didn’t think I’d ever see that day, but I’m very glad that day happened. For those of us who have read pretty much every word he’s written, it was very “Mission 101” but you could tell that for many who’ve never heard of him, it was a very good introduction to his work–which, for the uninitiated, hinges on the nature/future of the Church. Needless to say, I’m a fan.
Anyway, since many of his ideas have been discussed in detail here at The Diner, I thought I’d touch on what he said that was new to me.
His sessions focused on discipleship and how to do that most effectively once a church walks through the lengthy process of allowing your Christology to influence your Mission, which should design your Ecclesiology. Those are fancy seminary words that mean that your view of Christ defines what your mission is, and you should design your church practices around that. His theory (one I agree with) is that in the North American church, the church practice and design is actually front-loaded and drives everything else. That’s a discussion for another day.
Hirsch set forth the idea that almost every church has a mission/purpose statement and list of values and all that jazz…and he asked the question, “What if your core values were modeled in your church’s behavior?”
Which is a great question. For example, if your church has “prayer” as a value, how does that play out in the way your design your services and ministries. If it has “scripture” as a value, how does that influence the church practices? On and on through all your church’s values. That alone would lead to some amazing conversations.
But Hirsch took it a step further. He proposed that our practices create rhythms, and that a body of believers who are practicing rhythms will change the culture…first of the church body, then those areas of life they interact with.
His example was of a church that decided to align their practices with their values and had a list of clear expectations for their members in the discipleship process which they would influence their worlds. It went something like this: The church valued GOODNESS, and held their folks to 3 times of “blessing” per week, one to someone in their community, one to someone outside their community and one they could simply choose as they came across need. A blessing could be a Facebook message or giving someone a car and any and all between and beyond.
Another value of their community was HOSPITALITY, and they wanted their community to spend time intentionally over a table (meals or coffee or beer, etc.) 3 times per week (same idea as blessings).
Another value was LEARNING, and they wanted their community to read through the Gospels, one other book of the Bible, and one piece of quality literature at any given time.
Yet another value was LISTENING TO GOD, and they asked their community for 1 hour per week to listen to God in contemplative prayer.
Their final value was SENDING. Particularly as it relates to engaging the areas where God placed them daily. They wanted 20 minutes per day of journaling from their community members, asking 2 questions: First, where did I resist Jesus today in Kingdom business? And, second, where did I work with Jesus today in Kingdom work?
Now, my point isn’t that these are the values we should all have and the activity we should be engaged in. Nor was it Hirsch’s. The point is that the things they said they valued were things they designed the way they did discipleship (and held each other accountable to in their small groups). The point was to create rhythms which would lead to changes.
So, my questions to you, patrons, are:
1) Do you agree that our practices create rhythms, and that rhythms create changes (internally & externally, personally & corporately)?
2) Do you think most churches “front-load” the way they do church, rather than let values creatively influence programming?
3) What is a stated value of your church and how do you see that value influencing the way you “do church?”
Have a cup of joe and have at it, patrons!