Alan Hirsch Reflections

Alan Hirsch recently spent an evening in our home with a handful of younger CRM staff.

Alan Hirsh.jpeg

National Director of Forge in Australia, Alan – along with Michael Frost – is the author of The Shaping of Things to Come, in my view, one of the best books on the emerging church and the future of Christianity in the West. I highly recommend it.

The following are a few of the more poignant highlights from my notes during our evening of conversation …some are quotes and some are close, but all are used with his permission:

Missional effectiveness is determined by: 1) Apostolic environments, 2) Disciplemaking and 3) Organic systems (there are two others but they might be too much to explain). These are the most self-evident ones.

The West has complicated the church and made discipleship simple.
China has a simplified the church and made discipleship complicated.
Good disciples produce good leaders.

Apostolic leadership draws out the innate leadership in all of us. The management of meaning is an apostolic function.

The centralization of power institutionalizes a movement.

Church planting movements don’t move through hierarchies. Hierarchies stunt growth …there is more clutter to deal with. Control does not bring spontaneous expansion. Bottom up patterns create movements.

China is an atheistic state forcing the church to act out its essential DNA. The worst thing the government could do is to legalize the church.

We can’t learn to love unless we’ve gone the distance with a group of people.

Elements in the emerging church can tend to have the wrong feel. They feel like a declining movement rather than a transformative one. Sometimes it exhibits too much of doubt. An “initiating” movement won’t feel that way.

Suffering people/movements are not usually fundamentalist because they deal daily with paradox.

They look more like El Qaeda than the Catholic Church. Such movements are like a swarm …a virus that can’t be taken out. They maximize survival by spread. They can only be eliminated by being attacked on an ideological level where the movement is glued together. They are networks of meaning.

The institutional church that we have inherited in the West is very clumsy. It will not change. The twenty first century could be our gift to the world-wide Christian movement. We’re at a moment of rapid, discontinuous change of compelling opportunity. What we are seeing are the vibes of a movement via organic systems.

The gift that persecution brings is that it forces us to distill to the basic, essential truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior and to cling to him. It doesn’t require professionals to propagate it. It is the absolutely basic and essential emphasis.

We are people of the “story.” Not just people of the book. Complexity mucks it all up. Jesus movements are not complex. Pentecostal movements are not complicated. They focus on Jesus.

Hirsh book.jpeg

The Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost

3 Responses to “Alan Hirsch Reflections”

  1. andrew jones Says:


    great to see you blogging. so glad that alan was able to see you. it was almost 20 years ago when we chatted (your team and i) about the possibility of CRM in Australia. Its great to see the lineage of that conversation over the years and the good things that came out of CRM taking a risk.

    shaping is a wonderful book and i love it but there are one or two things that i would add to the conversation.

    1. we cannot avoid complexity. simplicity is needed in a world of complexity. simple structures enable emergence. but the end result is a multilayed ministry approach and mindset that relates to complexity (which is not the absense of simplicity)

    2. new forms of hierachy are emerging but they are not institutional. aggregation on the web involves relational hierachies of information. emerging church movements, in my opinion, DO display hierachical tendencies but they are dynamical and horizontal (bring to front or send to back) – as is the dynamical hierachy of the Truine God in his creation.

    3. an addition to Shaping – i think we need to understand bounded sets AND centered sets AND distributed sets (web)

    hey – blessings on all down there. Debbie (you remember my wife from North Community) says hi!

  2. Hismethod » Alan Hirsch on Movements Says:

    [...] Sam Metcalf has posts some highlighted thoughts from Alan Hirsch (co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come) on the nature of the church and movements (via S.A.) [...]

  3. Subversive Influence Says:

    Apostolic/Missional Hirschisms…

    Sam Metcalf reports his notes from an evening conversation with Alan Hirsch (Forge, TSOTTC; HT:TSK). Lots there, but two samples:
    China is an atheistic state forcing the church to act out its essential DNA. The worst thing the government could do is…

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