Recently, I’ve been re-reading Michael Frost’s Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture. It’s a field guide for the church today. As I mentioned in a tweet last week, when it was published, it was red hot prophetic, describing a world that the church was moving toward. Now, it’s dead on Church in the world as it is. Well worth your time to read and a great companion to your 5Q reading.
Let’s start here: One of the concepts that leaps out of the pages of 5Q, Alan’s new book, is the idea of the symphony. In 5Q, Alan writes,
The art of symphony is very much needed when it comes to grappling with big biblical or theological themes. My favorite theologian, Hans Urs con Balthasar, says that in trying to make sense of the big ideas in Scripture, we need to recognize that all the various concepts, ‘depend on the perception of the whole form and on the interrelatedness of its various aspects. If any single aspect is taken in isolation from the others the total form has already disappeared.’
Here’s what that means: The Church is the symphony of heaven on earth that is given the work of playing God’s song of love for all people. Everyone has an instrument, a part and a place in the song.
If we look at the Church as solo performance, we are no longer looking at the body of Christ. “An architecture of wholeness,” as Alan writes, “is necessary to give context and meaning to the individual parts.”
5Q (APEST) is the basic organizing structure of the symphony that Jesus, himself, gave the church. His intention was that there should always be five sections (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, Teacher) singing that Kingdom love song over the community.
When a community (or communitas, if you’ve read Exiles, Shaping of Things to Come, Forgotten Ways – which will make you never want to say ‘community’ again) is working in symphony, Frost describes it in seven challenging and soul-refreshing ways.
Seven Sounds You Hear In The Symphony Of Heaven.
1. The sound of a community of heartfelt praise, not the fake mouthing of sentimental worship songs.
The leadership of the Prophetic voice is so critical here. Songs of heartfelt praise are more than reciting clever lyrics in skinny jeans. They’re about creating space for the ministry of music to penetrate the heart and soul, to re-order chaotic perspective and provide a voice to the symphony of human experience and emotion. Everything a person is belongs in the midst of heartfelt praise. There is no square inch of worship where the whole of Jesus doesn’t lay claim to the whole of the worshipper.
Heartfelt praise creates space for the ministry of music to penetrate the heart and soul, to re-order chaotic perspective and provide a voice to the symphony of human experience and emotion. Click To Tweet
2. The sound of a community of authenticity and truth, not public pretense.
These days, a community of authenticity and truth looks like the intentional and holistic ability to exercise unity in diversity. The skillset of the Shepherd is critical in contending for the community when opposites collide, interests conflict and ideologies exclude. Recently, one of the 5Q team interviewed Dan White, Jr., on this very topic. You can watch it yourself here!
The next generation of world changers and history makers are already rejecting appearances and in its place, stepping out into the world in faith that Jesus will do in and through what he has promised to do in and through them: greater things. This note resonates with grace and love!
3. The sound of a community that does not live for itself, but genuinely serves others.
The power of God at work in Christian community can accomplish so many things. One of the most important is the disruption and destruction of consumerism: the disease of self. People are drawn to Christian community when it is a visible antidote for the empty pursuit of more of the self, what author and professor, Len Sweet, calls the counter-flow to the under tow.
The evangelist has the opportunity to gather people that Jesus loves to do what Jesus did for other people that Jesus loves for no other reason than that Jesus did it. Add this note to the chord and you begin to hear some brilliant harmony.
4. The sound of a community of missional engagement with it’s host empire, not retreat into a religious ghetto.
Apostolic leaders are ‘sent’ into the world. That’s what the word apostle means, “sent one.” To circle the wagons and become an inward facing group is not apostolic, it’s unpostolic. The muscle of the apostle pushes through the fear of being contaminated by the culture and courageously does the work of healing it with the power and love of the Holy Spirit. Apostles see wounds that need healing, empty spaces that only Jesus can fill, wanderers in search of a home and they draw close. The church needs more ghetto-phobic disciples with hearts pulled toward mission – mission in their backyard, their office, their grocery, their street corner.
5. The sound of a community of mutual responsibility, not privatized religion.
When we think of the sound of the “church”, we tend to think of the choir or the preacher. We tend not to imagine the voices of the disciples who are discipling. We don’t think of the mothers who laugh together, fathers who cry together, long faithful grandparents of the faith praying for the success of the body of Christ. If we desire a Church that looks and resonates with Jesus’ song, the role of Teacher needs to return to what it meant when Jesus as called “teacher,” someone who walks alongside, teaching apostleship into disciples by every means necessary.
6. The sound of a community of hope, not intimidation and alienation.
It’s hard not to love how this is framed! That hope is the opposite of intimidation and alienation. If Christ is the hope of the world and his Church is hope for the world, then these two false-power dynamics have no place in community. Comfort and connection, those belong in a community of hope. They are the hallmark of community. When the symphonic Church is playing the song of God’s love, comfort and connection resound like tympani and bass.
7. The sound of a community of justice, not just lip service and phony left-leaning pronouncements.
It takes all five APEST gifts to pursue justice, the whole, holistic presence of the body of Christ. When you pursue justice, you may see Jesus; but when you pursue Jesus, you will always see justice. James told the church, if you want to show me your faith then let me see your actions. Justice in the church is more than speeches and flyers. Those things are good, but the body of Christ has to find ways to stand against injustices. The body is called to find the gaps and fill them, to oppose cruel and indecent treatment of all who bear God’s image, to refuse to support and finance systems and services that oppress, abuse and objectify. When the body of Christ actively engages the justice of God in the world, that’s one powerful sound.Hope is the opposite of intimidation and alienation. If Christ is the hope of the world & his Church is hope for the world, then these two false-power dynamics have no place in community. Click To Tweet
Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch have co-authored The Shaping of Things to Come, Re-Jesus and The Faith of Leap. Catch them changing the world in a book, or conference, or blog post, or podcast near you!
So how about it? How do you see these seven marks singing the melody of Christ over your neighborhood, your community and the world? Where is your place in the symphony?