I want to devote a series of posts to Alan Hirsch’s new book, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (Baker: Brazos, 2006). I will kick it off today with a brief whetting of your appetite to purchase this book and think about it with me.
Relying upon Rodney Stark, a church historian, Hirsch calculates reasonably that the Church grew from 25 thousand in AD 100 to about 20,000,000 in AD 310. How did the early Christians do it? How did they grow so much?
And from a different era altogether: when Mao Tse-tung seized control of China, there were about 2 million Christians; he killed most of the leaders of the church there. When the so-called Bamboo Curtain was lifted, estimates were that there were 60 million Christians; and that there are about 80 million today. How did that happen?
Notice Hirsch’s contention about the early Christians, most of which apply to the Chinese followers of Jesus:
1. They were an illegal religion.
2. They didn’t have church buildings.
3. They didn’t have scriptures (the Chinese had underground, partial copies).
4. They didn’t have any central institutions or professional forms of leadership.
5. They didn’t have seeker-sensitive services, youth groups, worship bands, seminaries, or commentaries.
6. They made it hard to join the church.
How did they grow? Hirsch’s book explores that question. Come along.