Alan Hirsch’s latest book, The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church, co-authored with Tim Catchim, is on my must-read list.
Apparently, Hirsch’s main point, according to Hirsch’s Books and Culture reviewer, Gregory Metzger, is this: the five-fold model for ministry set out by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4- “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (APEST)”- is intended for the church in all times and places. Hirsch conscripts this model to argue that the renewal of today’s church will depend on so-called “apostolic movements.”
Metzger, who is writing his own book on Peter Wagner and Wagner’s “Neo Apostolic Reformation”- I’ve shared my qualms about this particular movement, also known as “dominionism,” here- offers a critique that is constructively critical, even if not entirely convincing in places. Maybe this is because I am inclined to want to agree with Hirsch. I, too, share Hirsch’s vision for renewal of the church; and, I greatly admire his commitment to chipping away at layers of sediment (institutionalization, in other words) that over the centuries have handicapped the church from freely and obediently responding to the call of the Holy Spirit to God’s mission.
I do have some questions for Hirsch, and they are as follows: what do such “apostolic movements” look like? Are they known by an explicit adoption of this five-fold model of ministry? What, if anything, makes an “apostolic” movement different from a “missional” movement? If it is true that centuries of church institutionalization have privileged the “shepherd” (pastor) and “teacher” at the expense of “apostles,” “prophets” and “evangelists,” are there not dangers to now privileging apostles at the expense of the other roles? And, if the two-headed monster of authoritarianism and triumphalism found an easy home within an institutionalized church, who is to say that it won’t again rear its head, this time only under a different guise of “Neo Apostolic Reformation” or other such “reformations”?
Maybe one built-in protection here belongs to the inherent nature of “movement.” “Movement” requires a certain degree of flexibility, openness to the Holy Spirit, the flattening of traditional hierarchies and maybe even an eschewing of more mainstream channels of power. But the Reformation as a “movement,” I would argue, was a failure by Martin Luther’s own standards: it ultimately did not produce Martin Luther’s vision of a “priesthood of all believers,” or “holy intercessors” continuously unleashed to serve God and their world. The Reformation’s fast-moving currents eventually slowed into trickles, and what was once a fiery movement of the Spirit became captive to human monopolies on religious power.
Of course it would help that I read Hirsch’s book before unleashing a torrent of questions. But maybe some of you have already read his book and can enlighten me. Did any of you ask questions like mine? Did you find satisfying answers? What were they? I’m all ears.