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.



Leadership in the new context, lessons for post-charismatics…

There are many questions to be asked in the wake of the so called  ‘Lakeland outpouring’. I asked some of them here but I came across the post below on the ‘subversive influence’ blog. Check it out…

Reinterpreting the Lakeland Fallout : Subversive Influence

Because, I very much agree- the issue is not really about Todd Bentley- but it is about leadership. It is about the power and control we give to (or is taken by) Christian leaders- who are seemingly unassailable because they are seen as anointed from on high, and are perhaps supported by the machinery of a spiritual institution that is all powerful, at least to it’s members.

For people like me, who no longer feel inclined to ally myself closely with movements like these, it might be easy to step back into our small groupings and feel all superior. After all, we knew this was going to happen didn’t we?

But we are at a turning point in the history of the Christian Church in the west, at least. The old is shrinking, and the new is… well where exactly?

Is the church emerging? Is something new being built that will become the proclaimers of the Kingdom of God in this new context?

I hope so, but we have a long way to go yet- and it seems to me that like any other human organisation, our new church will experience conflict, broken relationships and lack of clear direction…

Jesus Promised us the Holy Spirit, as comforter and guide. But it seems that he has also always used LEADERS… and  we who have been part of whatever the ’emerging church conversation’ is now going to call itself desperately need leaders.

Brother Maynard said this;

My informal appeal to post-charismatic and missional bloggers for the month of September might be to spend some time thinking and writing on the forms of leadership (apostolic or otherwise) which we need to see in the church today. What characterizes this form of leadership? How do we recognize leaders, and how is their authority derived and exercised?

Well I am a month late- it is now October, but I will belatedly attempt to take up the challenge!


They have to be big strong accomplished and invulnerable don’t they? They have to charismatic and Charismatic, attractive and attractional, visionary and focussed. Leaders are focussed on goals and strategic targets- and the organisation of resources (money and people) towards the achievement of these.

Except I think that this kind of leadership no longer works. It is no longer works for me. It makes me want to walk in another direction. My context is Post-Christian semi-rural Scotland, and our attempts to engage with our neighbours in a place where church has a poor reputation, and for most, little relevance.

Before I go on, I had better describe something of where I live, work and worship…

I live in a small town, but I am still connected to friends who live in urban situations. I am used to management in my working life (which always seems to me to be a very different thing from leadership) and now find myself within a small community with no designated ‘leader’, with all the strengths and weaknesses that this leaves us with.

We are small. We seek to be partners with others, not competitors. Our ambitions are shaped by bringing our limitations and strengths together, offering them to God and asking him to use them. So for us, leadership remains very much like facilitation- taking a loose agenda and encouraging one another to take some risks. The true leaders are those who are prepared to take a slightly larger risk, whilst always seeking to put the love for others before the task at hand…

Tensions are manageable, but painful. People’s commitment to the group is based on relationship, so the very existence of our project demands that we look after one another.

For us, this sort of works- most of the time. I suppose it kind of fits our characters, the context that we have grown out of, and the time and energy our group members have to spare. There is a kind of core group, but a lot of others who are less involved, and might or might not see themselves as ‘members’, but still contribute to and benefit from some of the things we do.

But this kind of absence-of-leadership does not resolve all of the issues. I decided to make a list of leadership issues that apply in my own context. Forgive me if some of these are obvious- but I think that they need to be re-stated.

  1. As things get bigger, they become more complex. Does this mean that things must always be more centalised? Does the imagery of industrial or military command structures really ever fit a church context, or should leadership be best understood as a supportive network– where the comparisons are better made with web-based networking or discussion sites like Facebook or Wikiedia? Here, the issue is not control- although subscribers might have to agree to a degree of regulation. Rather it is a network based on trust and mutual commitment. LEADERSHIP in such a network seems to require a whole different set of skills- the maintenance of good communication, facilitation, ‘framing’ discussions and issues to allow others to engage and respond, providing opportunities for engagement- but not removing responsibility or using power.
  2. But power always remains an issue? There will always be power differentials. Some will always have more to say, more influence and more abilities etc. Does there need to be a way of balancing this- sharing it out? Whilst democracy might not be the aim, methods of engaging and making sure that the voices of the marginalised are moved to the centre also require leadership.
  3. We all need people to look up to. This may not always be healthy, as unrealistic expectations on both sides can emerge- but it seems to me that this network will form around people who others look to with respect. They in turn will look to others who they respect. The danger is that this system throws up more hierarchies- more Todd Bentley’s. We need to have a way of celebrating gifted individuals, whilst making sure that their giftings are not overvalued.
  4. We all need a hand on our shoulder sometimes. Finding sypathetic and understanding mentors in this network can be hard. Without mentoring, how do people grow into the new spaces that church is moving into? How are they held accountable? How is gifting recognised and encouraged?
  5. We all need to see the bigger picture. Housegroups are great, but most of us also love to meet in a larger group- to make some more noise at times, and feel part of something bigger. Internet connections are no substitute for human ones. To bring people together requires organisation. Organisations need to be led.
  6. Women, minority groups etc. can no longer be excluded, and must be encouraged. For too long, the white, male, middle class church professional has been centre stage. It’s time to share.
  7. Authority, orthodoxy and mission statements- these are corporate words, not Kingdom ones. In a network, these will still be important- but should be decentralised. People should be encouraged to work out their own understandings, within practice, not within the academy, or even the blogosphere! There might be some room for ‘big theology‘- but it should be general, and generous. The emphasis should be on ‘small theology’ (Karen Ward’s words not mine) worked out in community. Lets agree that we will disagree on much, but share most. There will always be a difference between broad PRINCIPLES and POWER STATEMENTS that rely on expert interpretations.
  8. Leadership should be judged by servanthood, not by status. Easily said, I know. But there are some things that can be done to encourage this- make some leadership positions time limited perhaps.
  9. People are always more important than projects. That is not to say that we should avoid doing stuff if it upsets people- but that we should get that 1 Corinthians 13 stuff out as a set of goggles through which we examine our programmes, lest they become resounding gongs.
  10. The roles of apostles ( and the other 5-fold ministries)? How does someone come to be called an apostle? I think that this is not a title, but a role performed by a very few- whose influence is recognised over a long period of time. These people have great responsibility, but will always be fallible and human. Let us never pretend they are super-Christians- in fact some of them will be super-human (in the sense of being all the more connected with their humanity). As for the other ministries- i wonder whether we should keep the focus LOCAL, and measure it in COMMUNITY…

I think that is enough for now…

Check out also this really interesting series by futurist guy that begins here

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