The section of Hirch's searching book that I've been reading this week feeds directly into conversations we've begun having at church. We know the attractional model no longer works - our falling Sunday attendance and lack of people at special evangelistic events proves that. The question is 'what do we replace it with'?
Hirsch's answer is that we need to recapture the core Christian doctrines of the incarnation and the mission of God. He argues that the attractional model tends to negate these two insights because it 'demands that in order to hear the gospel, people come to us, on our turf, and in our cultural zone. In effect, they must become one of us if they want to follow Christ.'
This is, of course, the opposite of incarnation: God comes to us - the word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood (as the Message memorably puts it). It means that we, who have been sent as Jesus was sent, must go to where people are rather than expect them to come to us.
This is the method Jesus modelled in his ministry and called his first disciples to follow when he sent them out - Matthew 10:5-16. They were to accept hospitality rather than offer it. It was Paul's practice too - finding people he could establish a workshop with, accepting invitations to be based in people's homes (see Acts 14-18).
Hirsch stresses that church grows out of mission and not vice versa. And mission grows out of a proper grasp of who Jesus is (ie our Christology). So he produces a simple diagram that says Christology determines missiology which in turn determines ecclesiology. It's a good simple principle that ought to underpin everything we do as gatherings of Jesus followers.
It follows, therefore, that mission needs to take place in third places, those spaces that are not our homes or workplaces, but rather where we socialise and have fun. This would mean more gatherings in pubs, cafes, clubs, arts centres, community halls, etc.
So, we'll see how St Arbucks goes this Sunday. But we'll also be exploring how our allotment group can become a missional community with shovels and coffee. And what else...? The possibilities are limited only by our imaginations.