The Missional Church and the Wizard of Oz

15 Aug

“A church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling….[We must] play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, and live by improvisation and experiment.”
-Hans Kung, The Church as the People of God

Purpose Driven Church/Seeker Sensitive Church/Mega Church/Social Gospel Church…

Just processing some junk in my head right now and thinking about what the church is and my frustration with models. Not taking potshots at anyone, just working through some nagging thoughts.

I have a hard time with understanding church structures. My brain doesn’t neatly divide categories. I don’t understand how worship is distinct from discipleship or discipleship separate from fellowship or fellowship different than ministry. I’m not sure how in an effort to be seeker sensitive we ignore the images and symbols of our faith. How do you remove the cross when Paul states that the cross which was a torture device is a symbol transformed by the resurrection as the promise of life everlasting. I feel on the verge of minor anxiety attacks when I think of building campaigns and having to be a person that nods my head in affirmation that the next step for our church is to build something else. There are times when I look at these systems and I feel like I’m drowning.

At the same time I can see what the benefits would be in these cases. What are five important things to measure as a litmus test of our congregations health? Discipleship (small groups); Worship (Sunday morning attendance and music); Serving (ministry) etc… I can see how seeker sensitive places just want to strip away all things that appear religious that may have turned people away for reasons other than the gospel. And churches building bigger buildings in hopes of creating safe places in the neighborhood for people to come and enjoy each other.

There are two author’s that I have been reading the past 3-4 years that when I hear them talk about the church something inside of me resonates with their words. They are Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. The first book I read involving them was actually co-authored bearing the title, The Shaping of Things to Come. But today I want to start going through the book, The Forgotten Ways by Hirsch

His books begins with this observation/question:
How many Christians do you think that there were by the years 100AD/310AD?
The answer to these questions was that by the year 100AD there were as few as 25,000 Christians and by the time we reach 310AD there are upwards of 20,000,000 Christians.

Then take into consideration that during this time span:
-They were an illegal religion throughout this period. At best, they were tolerated; at the very worst they were very severely persecuted.
-They didn’t have any church buildings as we know them. While archaelolgists have discovered chapels dating from this period, they were definitely exceptions to the rule, and they tended to be very small converted houses.
-They didn’t have an institution or the professional form of leadership normally associated with it. At times of relative calm, prototypical elements of institution did appear, but by what we consider institutional, these were at best pre-institutional.
-They didn’t have seeker-sensitive services, youth groups, worship bands, seminaries, commentaries.
-They actually made it hard to join the church.

But that was just back then, right? God’s Spirit must have been working double time to help this fledgling movement get off the ground or it would have been crushed right off the bat. OR the same thing happened just a few years ago off the North American grid in China. When the doors were closed off to missionary’s from the West by Mao Tse-tung, the church in China went from approximately 2,000,000 to 60,000,000+ when the doors were opened back to the West. “They had no professional clergy, no official leadership structures, no central organization, no mass meetings, and yet the grew like mad. How is this possible? How did they do it?”p20

Hirsch claims that the church is loaded with potential energy but loses it in structures and as people inside grapple and use power. The premise of this book is to look at the explosion of the church in the Rome context and the China context. One ancient and the other new to see how both of these explosive growth rates occurred in times of extreme persecution.

Two phrases that he will use and define in upcoming chapters are “Apostolic Genius” and “mDNA”.

He compares the church to the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy, the Tinman, the Cowardly Lion all want to acquire something. Dorothy wants to go home; the Tinman wants a heart; the Cowardly Lion wants courage. So they go to Oz to acquire these things from the Wizard. However, along the journey they realize that the Wizard of Oz is nothing but a small man behind a curtain, unable to make any of their wishes come true. What they do discover however is that they already posses all the things they were in search of. The Tinman does have a heart; the Lion is courageous and all Dorothy has to do is click her shoes three times and she can go home.

Hirsch assumes that the church has everything that it needs and only needs to become aware of it. However it so often pursues structures such as Purpose Driven; Seeker Driven as a sort of Wizard of Oz that will solve all of their problems, but they are only short men behind a curtain.

The Forgotten Ways, if I understand correctly, is Hirsch’s attempt to help the church awaken to living/being what it was meant to be. I like this thought as I am often in the disturbing dilemma of what people ask me what I want in a church and the only things I can usually tell them are “what I am against and not what I am for.”


2 Responses to “The Missional Church and the Wizard of Oz”


  1. The Forgotten Ways pII - Confessions of a Frustrated Missionary « Rob’s Blog - August 20, 2008

    […] PresidentQuestioning Ephesians: I “Heart” EphesusDisclaimer: Why I Blog and How You Might RespondThe Missional Church and the Wizard of OzJust watch…Not For Sale: Shining Light into the Sexual Darkness-Cambodia and Thailand part 1: The […]

  2. What is Missional? « Rob’s Blog - August 27, 2008

    […] Comments Sarah on Wait…there is more than …The Forgotten Ways p… on The Missional Church and the W…JC on Just watch…Rob on Lots-O-LinksKristin on […]

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