Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rediscovering Forgotten Ways I.

In an arresting article found in the October 2002 Atlantic Monthly Philip Jenkins (Penn State, author of The Next Christiendom: The Coming of Global Christianity and Lost Christianities) wrote: "As the media have striven in recent years to present Islam in a more sympathetic light, they have tended to suggest that Islam, not Christianity, is the rising faith of Africa and Asia, the authentic or default religion of the world's huddled masses. But Christianity is not only surviving in the global South, it is enjoying a radical revival, a return to scriptural roots. We are living in revolutionary times. But we aren't participating in them. By any reasonable assessment of numbers, the most significant transformation of Christianity in the world today is not the liberal Reformation that is so much desired in the North. It is the Counter-Reformation coming from the global South. And it's very likely that in a decade or two neither component of global Christianity will recognize its counterpart as fully or authentically Christian." At the United Methodist Convocation of Cabinets in the fall 2007, one of the African bishops spoke eloquently on what they were doing with the resultant transformative social witness and expansive evangelistic growth. A variety of other speakers commented on how much we had to learn from the so call 3rd world. Our best thinkers and practioners call this "missions to the first world approach." It involves translating best practices in missin developed over the last century in the two-thirds world in the first world." (Alan Hirsch) I hope to write a series of blogs Alan Hirsch's insightful book Rediscovering Forgotten Ways. More later.

1 comment:

  1. While I have not read Mr. Hirsch's book (though I plan to do so), I have a comment and a couple of question based on statements I found on his website, theforgottenways.org.

    First the comment. It appears that Mr. Hirsch would have us tap into the "ways" of the ancient church. I recently finished reading A People's History of Christianity by Diana Butler Bass and was reminded of this quote (p.308), "In order to recapture [the church's] former glory...Christians must go back to some halcyon days...Of course, no one agrees what constituted this golden age; what counts as orthodoxy, spirituality, and morality have varied wildly over the last two thousand years." She goes on to ask which golden age is best -early church, medieval Christianity, the Reformation (which one?) or a decade like the 1950's "when churches were big and families were strong."

    So the questions - what of these golden ages(if any) constitute Hirsch's "Apostolic Genius?" It appears to be the early church from the review on Amazon.com, but it also appears to be more than that. Bishop, what have you found in his book?

    Now, I understand the idea of and the need for "reverse mission" (what "missions to the first world" was called when I was at Perkins) and I also understand the need for the church to be missional. In fact, without mission it is not church. I believe Emil Brunner (among others) puts it more eloquently, "The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning. Where there is no mission there is no church". I also agree with the idea that the church is on earth to participate in missio Dei.

    One last comment and question (I promise). I believe somewhere in my reading Hirsch also advocates for some new metrics beyond numbers such as attendance and new members. One example was to "measure" the effect the church was having on the community outside the walls. What is your opinion of this? Of course, new does not necessarily replace old. It could simply compliment or add to it.

    I also look forward to hearing your impression of the other books in this series, like ReJesus.