empowered by the spirit for mission

The Forgotten Ways Handbook

A book review

The Forgotten Ways Handbook by Alan Hirsch and Darryn Altclass aims to introduce the ideas of The Forgotten Ways to a wider audience. You can apply these principles whatever your situation whether pioneering or in an established church group. But be prepared for a radical reshaping of your group around mission when you do. Ideally the handbook is to be worked through by a group with the leader who has already read The Forgotten Ways but you can still gain a lot from it on your own as I did.

Unlike a lot of accompanying handbooks this contains concise and comprehensive summaries of the key sections of the original text so that it works perfectly well without having to read that book first. In fact The Forgotten Ways Handbook is as an excellent introduction to The Forgotten Ways. I found the summaries well written and clear. I was pleased that the diagrams from the original book were included.

After each summary the handbook challenges you to put these principles into practice as individuals and as a group. At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions and practical goal setting exercises. Not having worked through this with a group it’s hard to say how well the discussion questions would work but there did appear a lot of them in each chapter. Reading them out in turn and answered them could be a laborious task and take a very long time. Perhaps they need to be used for reference for a discussion by the facilitator. Handled well, I’m sure the results could be dynamic.

The Forgotten Ways Handbook shows you, in simple practical terms, how you and your group can be more missional and incarnational and more apostolic and prophetic. Well worth considering as your next group study course.

The Shaping of Things to Come, The Forgotten Ways and The Forgotten Ways Handbook are all worth getting. I’m looking forward to reading more by Alan Hirsch.


September 30, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

The Forgotten Ways

A book review

The Forgotten Ways gives us a thorough explanation of what Alan Hirsch calls apostolic genius – six key aspects of the New Testament church that we should aspire to today: making Jesus lord, discipleship, being missional and incarnational, the ministries named in Ephesians 4:11, the organic nature of church and the fellowship of working together in mission, that this Australian missionologist calls, comminitas.

This is a fascinating and absorbing read. Hirsch’s model fits together well and despite the lengthy descriptions the detail was easy follow with helpful diagrams. The Forgotten Ways uses well explained illustrations from business, sociology and science but its main thrust is thoroughly biblical. Hirsch may oppose hierarchy and institutions but has a healthy appreciation for discipleship that encourages others to live God’s ways. Despite including real life examples sometimes I felt the writing was a bit too theoretical. I also wondered if the abbreviations and jargon Hirsch creates is really necessary. But there is plenty here to challenge you. The question to grapple with is how to move yourself, your group and your church forward in these ways.

What I really liked about The Forgotten Ways was that it puts together being missional and incarnational with being prophetic and apostolic. Hirsch points out people today with apostolic gifts such as Neil Cole – a key figure in the organic church network. This book bridges the gap between books about Ephesians 4 ministries from charismatic circles and books that take more of an emerging church approach to being missional and incarnational.

This is a significant book. Church leaders, church planters, group leaders and students of missions definitely need to read The Forgotten Ways. There is also plenty in it for any Christian keen to understand more about missional, incarnational and apostolic principles.

Related post: The Forgotten Ways: Apostles in the Emerging Missional Church

September 28, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

The Shaping of Things to Come

A book review

This week I’ll be writing three reviews on books by Alan Hirsch starting with ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’ that he wrote with Michael Frost in followed by ‘The Forgotten Ways’ and the ‘Forgotten Ways Handbook’. Alan Hirsch is one of the few emerging missional types to write on the use of the Ephesians 4 ministries today.

The Shaping of Things to Come’ is for those who want a detailed introduction to what it means to be an incarnational, missional and apostolic Christian in the 21st century. You need to be prepared to look at the historical and cultural aspects of mission and to reflect in depth at how the church can be re-contextualised to reach emerging generations.

Really this one is for Christian leaders and students of mission. It is well written with real stories of a few radical ideas for mission and church planting. It was fascinating but it did require a lot of attention. However this was helped by the glossary and, for me a very visual thinker I found the many diagrams summarised the points well.

There are many books around that look at the principles of the emerging church a lot of them are written from an American perspective whereas this book takes mainly an Australian view point. So I was interested to see what it had to offer.

What it presented does at times over-generalise about weaknesses in today’s church but what Hirsch and Frost propose is deeply biblical, even though the book isn’t really biblical exposition. Its arguments are compelling. It shows that there are those within the emerging church movement who are building according to the pattern outlined in scripture. ‘The Shaping of Things To Come’ is not just scholarly and culturally aware but also very biblical. I am most excited about the last section that looks at the Ephesians 4 ministries as key elements to the ecclesiology it is proposing.

If you want to get your teeth into something meaty in this area I would certainly recommend ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’.

September 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

How often do you speak in tongues?

I’d be very interested to know your answer to this question. The poll is completely anonymous but you can identify yourself and give me more details in the comments if you want to.

I will post the results of this in a week or two.

September 23, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

5 Tips on How to be Empowered by the Holy Spirit for Mission

Here are a few tips on I’ve jotted down on how I have found the baptism and the gifts of the Spirit helpful in missional living – that is helpful in both chatting about Jesus and serving others in his name:

1. The Spirit can help and guide you in conversations

Genuine two way conversations with those who don’t share our faith are important. Often it is when you chat with someone one to one perhaps over a coffee, a beer or a meal that you can have a deeper conversation. This is where making an effort to develop relations outside your small circle of Christians is important. Communicating your Christian convictions is vital but conversations are not about winning arguments or having all the answers. Conversations give you opportunity to listen and explore a spiritual topic together. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you together into God’s truth.

In a larger group it sometimes can be difficult to speak up with a Christian perspective. Praying silently can help prepare you particularly praying in tongues. But there are times when you need to cease the moment and open your mouth and say something. If people are not interested there is wisdom in knowing when to shut up. If someone does have any thoughts or questions on spirituality they may be the ones starting a conversation with you in the future.

2. The Holy Spirit brings answers to our prayers

Answers to prayer are another way that the Holy Spirit works. If someone tells you about a need or some illness you can offer to pray for them. People often appreciate an offer to pray or getting your church group to pray. You may offer to pray for them audibly in front of them and lay hands on them but you don’t have to. It can be very encouraging when a friend or colleague thanks you later and tell you something amazing that happened as a result of your prayer.

3. God speaks can speak through us by his Spirit

This isn’t something I’ve got that much experience of with those outside the church but there are times when you may feel that God is speaking to you about a person. You may have a sense that the Holy Spirit has giving you something specific to say. This is what the Bible calls prophecy but I have found it is better to raise the point naturally in conversation rather than to start with ‘God has told me…’!

4. The Spirit motivates us to serve in mission

Not everyone finds conversations like this easy. For some it is a lot easier to be involved with two or three other Christians reaching out, chatting and serving a few others people. Perhaps your workplace has a Christian Union. There could be a church outreach project you could help in. As a small group or a family you could invite neighbours or friends for a meal. You could join a street outreach, help at a drop in centre or find a Christian charity that is looking volunteers. These activities can give you a focus, a reason to start conversations and to show God’s love.

Local mission is about serving with other Christians in your workplace or local community. But be prepared to mix with people that you don’t normally mix with or go places that you wouldn’t normally go to. God has a habit of moving you out of your comfort zone. But never forget he has promised to go with you by his Spirit. A couple of years ago I found myself running a prayer tent at a local community fun day – praying for people and anointing them oil.

It is the Holy Spirit who motivates us to serve. As you read the Bible the Spirit may give you revelation and insight into God’s heart and mind. God is on a mission not just to get people to heaven but to impact people’s lives and influence our culture for good. As the Spirit guides you he shows you how he is working out his purposes and calls you to join him.

God may want you to set up a project yourselves. You may become aware of a need in your community and feel that there is an opportunity to serve as Christians in that area. He may want you to invest time, effort and maybe even cash. It may involve working with others but it may also mean setting up a charity or social enterprise yourself and all that goes with it. Whatever you do when it gets tough you may need God given faith to keep on going.

5. The Spirit meets our needs when we make costly choices

It is great when God prospers us and calls us to be an influence by getting a job that pays well. But in order to fulfil God’s mission God may want you to make certain lifestyle choices that actually cost you financially. God may call you to work part time, rather than pursuing a full time career, so that you can give more of your time to your family, your church or your community.

He may also speak to you about your shopping habits. At Greenbelt this year a student responded to an appeal to do their bit for the world by committing to buy fair trade coffee and eco-washing up liquid even though it would cost her more and mean travelling further to do her shopping. Decisions like this are not easy to make.

You may find yourself short of cash for other things. But this may also mean that you see God meet those needs in miraculous ways. It is amazing when you get anonymous gifts just when you need it. Such experiences can build up your faith to pray for others. But they are wonderful in themselves.

That’s the Holy Spirit at work empowering you for mission.

September 21, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Small Is Big

A book review

Do you want to know how God’s Spirit has been moving recently in the Western world and how you can get involved? Then you must get Small is Big. There are books around on small groups and church planting but this book, originally published as The Rabbit and the Elephant in 2009, combines the knowledge of the organic church movement from researcher George Barna with wisdom from skilled practitioners Tony and Felicity Dale.

It is ideal if you want to start a church in your home or in someone else’s. I also found it pretty useful as a member of an existing home group. Small is Big outlines the present growth of simple or organic churches that has been quietly mushrooming over the past couple of decades. It explains simply some of the underpinning principles particularly looking at passages such as Luke chapter 10 where Jesus sends out the 72. Small is Big gives you some practical tips of how we can outwork these in 21st century world illustrated with real life case studies.

These principles can be quickly put to work a group you are setting up or even in your existing group. Some tips such as how to organise meals together you can start applying right away. Others are more strategic, such as appointing leaders with authority based on relationship, when to plant out and how and even whose house to meet at.

The idea of continually planting out new small groups is a good one and does appear to be a key to church growth. But why churches have growth spurts is often very illusive. Small is Big might be a bit too prescriptive for some particularly if you are already in an existing group. Nevertheless there is much to learn from this encouraging book.


September 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

7 charismissional Links

If you Google the word “charismissional” you will find loads of links. Ploughing my way through them I saved a few that I thought you might be interested in:

1. Gilliam Community Church

Gilliam Community Church describes itself as Charismissional linking to Grace’s original article in Porpoise Diving Life.

2. Cynthia

A home schooling mom shares some honest thoughts on the issue. She explains how she left a charismatic church and what she feels about that now. She ends by linking to Grace’s article on charismissional which she finds encouraging.

3. Paul Mayers

Jokingly using the term charismissional, actually in this post he sees some interesting connections between the post charismatics and the emerging church. Unfortunately Paul deserted the world of blogging for the wastelands of facebook a couple of years ago.

4. Jason Clark

This church planter in London currently blogging on posterous, in this post  laments the lack of reference to the Holy Spirit in the Emerging and Missional Church.

5. Calacirian on ‘It’s A Dance’

Calacirian raves here about a new book on the Holy Spirit which he thinks will appeal to charismissional or post-charismatic types as well as everyone who needs to experience the Holy Spirit. It’s a theological discussion come story as far as I can see based around the theological idea of the Trinity being a dance.

6. Cafe Church

Cid Latty, Café Church network leader article, discussing café church mentions the term charismissional in this article posted by Methodists Evangelicals Together. “Part of the thrill of serving in this context” he says “is that we have to remain keenly charismissional as we re-dream what church can be…”

7. Starfish network on ‘Post-Charismatic?’

In the midst of a number of reviews on Starfish network is one for Rob McAlpine’s ‘Post-Charismatic?’ pointing out how the book encourages those who have become post-charismatic to re-engage with the spirit in mission.

This list could go on.

September 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Bryn Jones Was One of My Influences

I only sat down and talked with Bryn Jones once but I owe the man much as do many Christians today.

Fresh out of University in the ‘80s I remember reading Restoration Magazine – a Christian publication Bryn had founded. Bryn among others contributed to this magazine that taught the various emphasise of what some called the house church movement. This included such topics as the kingdom of God as a present reality and not just a future hope, that as Christians we are in covenant with God and with each other and the role of Ephesians 4 ministries. I was looking for a place to do my postgraduate studies in computing at the time. I was so struck by what I read that I decided to choose Bradford where the magazine was published, determined to learn more.

On my arrival I promptly found Bryn’s church – Church House Christian Fellowship. A decade earlier Bryn had brought together three Bradford churches. The merged church purchased and refurbished the old Church House building of the local diocese (pictured below) from which the church took its name.

Bryn had a great heart for social justice which came over in his preaching. He was studying a Masters in Peace Studies and I would occasionally see him in the corridors of Bradford University. But it was with David Matthew, then the editor of Restoration Magazine, that I quickly developed a good friendship. David had previously been one of the elders in the church and founded a Bible college that trained up the new leaders of the movement. I learnt a lot from the teaching of the church with Bryn Jones and others speaking each Sunday. I also learnt a lot chatting with Dave over curries or relaxing on a beanbag sipping herbal teas.

Bryn believed in restoration not renewal

Church House, Bradford - photo by Tim Green aka atoach

Many charismatics looked to God to renew their denominations. Spirit filled Christians may have felt that they had more in common with each other than with non-charismatics in their own churches. However they were often encouraged by charismatic leaders to stay in their churches and pray for change.

Bryn Jones’ view was very different. He believed in churches starting from scratch – built on New Testament lines free of denominational traditions. Not that the New Testament churches were perfect. He wanted to restore all that was in his heart for the church from the beginning. Bryn’s desire was not to start a new denomination. He saw what he was building as an organic network of churches with a fluid structure. This is what he believed church should be like.

Bryn Jones was a modern day apostle

Another controversial point was that Bryn was recognised as an apostle. He worked with others in an apostolic team made up of ministries outlined in Ephesians 4:11 – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. From what I understand the team had grown out of a group that had met in the home of a much respected Bible teacher Arthur Wallis.

Bryn Jones had also worked alongside others such as Terry Virgo – who went on to form his own very successful apostolic team New Frontiers – and David Tomlinson who is now a prominent voice in the Emerging Church. By the time I arrived in Bradford these men had left the scene but Bryn’s younger brother Keri Jones who was also recognised as an apostle and was one of the many visiting speakers at Church House.

The line up of Bryn Jones’ team was constantly changing and even David Matthew was sometimes uncertain as to whether he was official on the team but he was never bothered by that. The whole thing was based on relationship.

Bryn Jones’ continued influence

I had only been at Bradford two or three years when things began to change. The church moved into new premises and became known as Abundant Life Church with Paul Scanlon taking the lead. Bryn announced that he and his team Covenant Ministries were moving to the Midlands to be based at Nettle Hill in Coventry. The college that David Matthew had established Covenant College was moving there too.

I responded to a call to move to the Midlands to support one of the new churches there. After being in Bradford for only four years I moved to Birmingham. And I am still here in the same church to this day – though we have seen some changes. After being released by Bryn we linked up with Alan Scotland whom Bryn Jones earlier had recognised as an apostle. Alan, in a similar way to Terry Virgo, sees his apostolic role as more advisory than Bryn did, facilitating the work of local churches.

David Matthew also moved to the Midlands but lived in Leicester while working at Nettle Hill editing the college’s distance learning Modular Training Programme, which I went on to study. David is a good friend and we still keep in contact. When he felt that his time with Bryn had come to a natural end David returned to Yorkshire.

Bryn Jones’ legacy

I was sad to hear of Bryn’s death in 2003. He was a great man who pioneered God’s purposes in a way that few do. Yes, looking back I would say there were mistakes along the way and people got hurt. In trying to restore an understanding of leadership and authority there were some inevitable abuses. But we must never forget that Bryn taught us so much about apostolic ministry, the kingdom of God and restoring God’s simple organic pattern to church life built on relationships. Many of these ideas have been embraced in other churches today – not just house churches. I’m grateful to have met this man and to have been influenced by him.

Related Post: An Evening With A Real Live Apostle
Further Reading: Restoration History by David Matthew
You can buy Restoration Magazine on CD here.

September 14, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

5 Worship Ideas from Greenbelt

Five ideas from the Worship Co-operative at Greenbelt this year that could be adapted as part of corporate worship in your church:

1. Placing stones on the cross

Prayer stations involved physical actions as prayers such as placing stones on a cross that was lying on the floor as a prayer for someone who you felt was heavy in heart. Most people came to the cross to do this. It was very naturally and there was no pressure to do this. In fact there was no pressure to do any of the activities.

2. Writing on the wall

In another time we were encouraged to write our thoughts and comments on some potentially controversial scripture verses on big sheets of paper on the walls or at another station we jotted down answers to a simple broad question on a sheet in a response to a thought provoking video that was looping.

3. Silent prayer or short sentences

Our prayers were often silent and individual. In one worship time we lit tee-light candles as a prayer for situations or people we knew or even ourselves. But on one occasion we could bless others while tying some wool round their wrist and this involved short one sentence prayers.

4. Attaching a ribbon

If there was a situation we wanted to see change and were praying for we were encouraged to write this on a ribbon and pin it to a cloth. Similarly in another station we could plat a ribbon to remember any loved one we had lost as we prayed about that situation.

5. Prayer station in an envelope

In one service each person was given an envelope as they came in. The envelope contained a number of items – a heart, a mirror, a feather and so on. We drew each one out in turn and were directed to meditate and pray silently about an issue related to that item.

There were some activities that were more elaborate than these and a lot of work had gone into them but I think these five would be good for ideas that we could start with.

September 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Molten Mediation at Greenbelt 2011

Molten Meditation was a great way to start Saturday morning at Greenbelt this year. If you want to chill out and seek God at the same time then some of these Molten Meditation tracks are for you. I can imagine these being wonderful ways to de-stress after a busy day or to prepare yourself in a morning.

The London based Molten Meditation team of Robin Vincent and Hannah Claire-Cameron have produced some beautiful computer generated sounds mixed with readings of scriptures.

It was great to start the day listening to some of these tracks with Robin and Hannah doing the voiceovers with some psychedelic visuals playing. After only one or two quick relaxation tips I was away – at some parts only vaguely aware of my surroundings. I’m sure that these tracks would work well in corporate setting as well as at home in your own devotions.

The music is carefully planned to rise and fall appropriately. They got the timing just right giving time to reflect on the verses but not dragging. I did find Hannah’s voice more soothing than Robin’s. Perhaps she was a little more restrained.

I have come across recordings in the genre in stress management and also in Christian settings where this process is sometimes referred to as soaking particularly among charismatic Christians. These can be a valuable way to experience the Holy Spirit. Of course this style of worship also links in strongly to more contemplative traditions. Recordings in this genre can include a number of different approaches to such mediations including muscle relaxation, guided imagery or prayers. Molten Meditations approach is to read passages of scriptures to reflect on.

It really enjoyed it!

Related post: When I spoke in tongues at Greenbelt

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September 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

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