The ‘Shaping of Things to Come’ event, reflections 1…
I attended this event yesterday, and will post a couple of reflections on things that were said.
I was slightly reluctant to go- partly because I was not sure just how much a couple of blokes from Australia and South Africa could really tell me about future development for church in Scotland. In this, I think I was partially right- both Frost and Hirsch spoke very well about their developed passions- each linked in with piles of books available at the back of the room, which is fair enough I suppose- both have a living to make. However, the groove that the books gave to the themes were general, not specifically tartan.
There was a considerable contrast in the styles of the two men. Hirsch was more technical, more given to making categorical statements gleaned from Scriptural interpretation. I confess to finding this a little alienating. Frost was passionate, inspirational and well practised with each story and each illustration.
It has been a while since I was in the presence of so many professional Christians. I would reckon that 90% of the people there (around 100-150) were in some form of ministry. The impact of days like this on the shape of the Church in Scotland has the potential to be significant then. I think that most of us who attend events like this are already quite well versed in the nuts and bolts of the arguments. We have read (at least some of) the books, and have had an eye constantly on the state of the Church for years. What we tend to do then is to take away a few nuggets of issues to chew on further. These will of course be different, but here is the first of mine;
Hirsch began the day by talking about the ‘Five Fold Ministries’ from Ephesians 4;
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature,attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Hirsch’s contention was that Churches could not grow without a recognition of the importance of each one of the ministries of church- what he called APEST- Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds and Teachers. He suggested that many of these roles have been scandalously neglected by institutional church, and that because Ephesians 4 is foundational we do this at our peril.
He also said that although this is not a ‘silver bullet’ to deal with the monster of secularism and church decline, it is a ‘sliver telescope’. Without these things, we can achieve neither unity nor maturity.
My perspective skews my response to this kind of analysis. I am much more interested in church-at-the-edge, church-in-the-gutter, church-around-the-dining-table. These kinds of churches are very resistant to grand labels. Neither am I sure that Paul’s list is either foundational or fully inclusive of all the leadership roles that Church (with a big C) requires.
To be fair, Hirsch did point out that Ephesians was a letter sent not to a church in strife, or in need of outside correction, but rather to a collection of small house groups, full of very ordinary people. We are not talking Megachurch here, where individuals are raised up high on some kind of spiritualised stage. This might suggest that people who contain within them the different gifts are fully formed mature versions of the same- more that this is their starting point towards any goal.
This is where I think that the analysis has some use. We have become very used to all those personality tests, seeking to codify and categorise our humanity- often to understand better how we fit together, how we approach different issues in different ways. So it may be with these ‘five fold’ ministries- each one looks at the Gospel from a different perspective- each one is a different mode of awareness, or form of intelligence. Here is a little more on how this might work for each one (with some of my own thoughts about the perspectives they bring);
Apostles are people who feel the ‘sentness’ of church. They keep the movement intact, guard and maintain its integrity, see the big picture.
They have to deal with personal issues and structural issues about the use and misuse of power.
Prophets are people who are highly sensitive to the spiritual depth of a situation. They listen to the voice of God. They often might use art or writing as a means to display and engage with these issues. Hirsch used the phrase ‘Canaries in the mine’- the first to sense problems, the first to notice the change of atmosphere.
They can also be difficult, awkward individuals who upset others around them.
Evangelists are recruiters to the cause- gifted communicators and networkers. Without them a movement can not grow.
They can also be driven by the buzz of the sale room, and the conquest of another closed deal.
Shepherds are people driven to heal, to care for, to nurture and to protect. They feel the needs of others around them deeply. They keep the peace.
They can also become worn down by the brokenness of other, and tend to lose the big picture because of the intensity of the small ones.
Hirsch suggested that the church has overemphasised this ministry- all those ‘pastoral’ positions in church, and points out that the Greek word associated with this gift is only very rarely (one or two) times used in the NT.
Teachers connect the dots, help others understand detail.
Most of the time this word is used in the NT refers to ‘false teachers’- pointing to the danger of what happens when ideologues get hold of the gospel and use it as a web to make their own power.
The interest for me in all this is two fold. Firstly I will talk to my friends about how this might relate to the skills gifts and characters that we have. It might be a useful way to recognise and uphold/encourage individuals.
Secondly, it might be a useful tool of analysis- to take a look at our activities through different sets of lens.