Every so often, you run across a book that is so immanently relevant and so incarnately applicable it’s ridiculous. Obviously, we believe this to be true about the new 5Q book and the more dominant titles, like The Permanent Revolution and The Forgotten Ways, however, there are alot of resources in this conversation. If you haven’t read On The Verge: a journey into the apostolic future of the church, we believe that you are overlooking something significant. In all truth, this is not a sales post. While, you should totally pick up a copy, the reason is that On The Verge is a handbook that takes ideas and turns them into action. The authors, Alan Hirsch and Dave Furguson have created a field guide, a creative companion for on the ground apostolic discovery. Here’s what our friend, Mike Breen, said about the book:
A good friend of mine, Professor Eddie Gibbs, has said that the church in the twentieth century had achieved great things, but one of its sad legacies was the growing schism between missiology and ecclesiology. In his opinion, this led to a missionless church and a churchless mission. What Alan and Dave are offering is the possibility that the twenty-first century might be quite different: by reconnecting the forces of attraction and mission, we see something that is greater than the sum of its two parts. We see a church that is much more like the one Jesus intended. He was the most attractive man who ever walked the planet, and his life was a constant expression of God’s mission to the world. His church should therefore be the visible manifestation of his life. I would encourage you to read this book more than once.
So, here’s an excerpt of Alan’s chapter called “Verge Vibe: Operating System of Apostolic Movement.” There’s so much jam-packed into these three sections, it’s like a master class for the whole Summer.
Jesus Is Lord
Remember, this is about recognizing that the absolute centrality of Jesus — the incarnation, his life, his teachings, the cross, the resurrection, parousia (his second coming), and everything in between — becomes the spiritual center around which the church ethos (and culture) orients itself.
• Ethos = Jesus is ever-present King and Lord through the Spirit. This will mean that Jesus must become the reference point for all decisions as well as for matters of spirituality and direction; he gets first say and the last word. Does it square with what Jesus said and who he is? If not, we don’t do it. If Jesus says don’t, then we won’t; if Jesus says do it, we’ll hop to it. He gets first say.
• Ethos = Christocentric monotheism. Monotheism is to theology what marriage is to relationships — you forgo all other options. Jesus is the only Lord. This will mean dismantling idolatry in all its forms — political, economic, domestic, sexual, relational, and so on. (Caution: watch for falling idols!)
• Ethos = holistic worship. This means broadening our notion of worship, getting beyond the over-romanticized “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs and seeing that anything and everything (including songs, friendships, business, play, and so on) can be worship, if directed toward God. Even sex can be true worship when it is so directed! When sex is undirected by holy intentions, it is a vile, enslaving idol. Worship is simply offering all that we have and do back to God through Jesus.
• Ethos = nondualistic spirituality. There is no compartmentalizing faith within a Verge culture. We must help people experience everyday things as filled with holy possibility. We have to stop doing church in such a way that it sets people up to experience life as a dance between the so-called sacred and secular. All of life can be made holy — get to it.
How can “Jesus is Lord” become the center of your church ethos?The church in the 20th century achieved great things, but one of its sad legacies is the growing schism between missiology and ecclesiology. This has led to a missionless church and a churchless mission. Eddie Gibbs Click To Tweet
Disciple-making isn’t a peripheral activity; it is essential activity. If you aren’t inviting people to a consistent life-practice of yoking themselves to Jesus, you aren’t doing what we’re meant to be doing. Our job personally and corporately is to live in, out, and from God in Christ and to become more and more like him.
With this in mind…
• Ethos = evaluating discipling reality. You may want to do a constant mDNA checkup on this point. Do a discipleship audit, assessing all movement/church activities through the grid of discipleship and disciple-making. Ask, does this hinder or help people becoming apprentices of Jesus? Ask, where and how exactly are disciples being formed in the way of Jesus?
• Ethos = everyone is a disciple. With this ethos/value, the church commits itself to its core task. We don’t seek to just convert people; we are committed to apprenticing them to the Master. This isn’t for newbies only! Apprenticeship is “a long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson puts it, and this includes the leadership of the church. Only those who demonstrate ongoing discipleship to Christ should be put in positions of authority.
• Ethos = helping people get back to God. Discipleship takes place both pre- and post-conversion. When the mDNA discipleship informs ethos, it means that evangelism will be reframed in light of the Great Commission to disciple all nations. We begin discipling people, Christian or not, and see what God will do. Share the gospel, to be sure, but don’t just leave it there. We must commit ourselves to relationships and friendships, not just decisions for Christ.
• Ethos = what would Jesus do? This question wasn’t just for youth groups in the nineties; it’s for everyone. To be a disciple means becoming more and more and more like Jesus. To be his disciple, study the life and teachings of Jesus often and spend time directly with him in prayer.
• Ethos = instruction-action-reflection (repeat). When discipleship is actually ethos, then we are committed to lifelong, holistic learning, not just the transfer of information through doctrine done in the first thirteen weeks of membership classes. We need to be engaged in a cycle of instruction-action-reflection that doesn’t end as long as we are breathing.
• Ethos = mentoring mentors. Everyone is in an apprenticeship relationship, no matter who they are, how old they are, how mature they are, and so on. It’s a lifelong process, and you never graduate this side of heaven. For instance, 3DM leaders commit themselves to what they call “8-6-4.” A leader disciples eight people, those eight each disciple six, and each of those six commit to discipling four — which means one leader disciples over 250 people.
How can disciple-making and apprenticeship become essential to the ethos in your church?Disciple-making isn’t a peripheral activity; it is essential activity. If you aren’t inviting people to a consistent life-practice of yoking themselves to Jesus, you aren’t doing what we’re meant to be doing. Click To Tweet
This element of mDNA enshrines at our core consciousness a bonding with the theology of the missionary God (Missio Dei) and our calling to do likewise: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). As the Father: commits us to follow the logic of the incarnation of God in Christ. Sent me: commits us to the idea that mission is rooted in the sent and sending God. So I send you: commits us to follow in that way. We are sent as the Father sent Jesus — to go deep among a group of people, to contextualize and personalize the gospel in ways that are meaningful. In other words, we are designed and destined to be a missional-incarnational people.
It might look like this:
• Ethos = going out. Sending also means going. It means movement of some sort — if not geographical, at least into every sphere and domain of society and into every nook and cranny of culture. No one dodges this. There is no such thing as an unsent Christian! We are all missionaries. It is not a profession; it’s the calling of every disciple.
• Ethos = going deep. This means respecting people where they are at. Incarnational practice means being present, patient, humble, and respecting the humanity of people and people groups — their culture, their dignity, their current location in their journey toward God.
• Ethos = church follows mission. (And not the other way around.) Incarnational mission demands that the church be constantly adapting to suit the context. A missional church must be a culturally savvy church. We will constantly be inventing new ways to be the people of God in new and changing cultures.
• Ethos = taking church to the people. (And not just people to church.) This means that we actually have to spend time with the ones to whom we are sent: go into their worlds, inhabit their spaces, bring good news, and be the good news we proclaim.
• Ethos = creativity and innovation in all things. The contextualization (incarnation) of the gospel requires this. Innovation is implied in the foundational missionary calling of the church to incarnate the gospel wherever we are.The missional church engages the community with the intent of being a blessing. It looks for ways to connect with the world beyond the walls of church real estate and programming. @ReggieMcNeal Click To Tweet
How can you contextualize a missional-incarnational impulse into the ethos of your church?