Started reading Alan Hirsch The Forgotten ways: Reactivating the Missional Church. He's the co-author (with Michael Frost) of the Shaping of Things to Come. As expected it's good stuff so far.
Following my previous post, Hirsch says this about church, based on a couple of diagrams of the way churches are laid out, 'we plainly cannot consume our way into discipleship.' (p45)
I think that's pretty prescient. He's arguing that our basic mode of operating in church is consumerist. And this applies to traditional, seeker-friendly or off the wall experimental gatherings. Each is seeking to meet a need in an audience member.
'They come to "get fed". But is this a faithful image of the church? Is the church really meant to be a "feeding trough"for otherwise capable middle-class people who are getting their careers on track? And to be honest, it is very easy for ministers to cater right into this: the prevailing understanding of leadership is that of the pastor-teacher. people gifted in this way love to
teach and care for people, and the congregation in turn loves to outsource learning and to be cared for.' (p43).
His argument - that I'm really forward to seeing him unpack - is that churches have to get smaller (and more numerous) so that everyone participates rather than comes along for the ride; and they have to get a whole lot more serious about relationships: 'a church is formed not by people just hanging out together, but by ones bound together in a distinctive bond. There is a certain obligation to one another formed around a covenant.' (p40). Such a covenant community is serious about worship, discipleship and mission.
I guess where this fits with the previous post is in the area of how our gathering help to make disciples. Part of the church's weakness in the UK is that we're not very good at making disciples. We have attenders, friends, even members; but how many disciples do we have and how do we measure growth in their discipleship?
I think my disquiet about our teaching programmes is that I'm not convinced that the learning outcome is discipleship - and anything less than that is a waste of everyone's time, isn't it?