Anyone who begins a chp with this quotation from TS Eliot has my attention: “The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.” So Alan Hirsch quotes Eliot to open chp 4 of The Forgotten Ways.
Questions for the day: Is consumerism the biggest threat to discipleship today? What is the best way to make disciples?
This isn’t just about the old debate about orthodoxy and orthopraxy but about the stunning impact Christian integrity, love, and holiness can have on those who observe them. In other words, it is a comment about the significance discipleship needs to play in “church programming” (to use an expression Hirsch might wrinkle his nose at!). So, the second element of mDNA — missional DNA — is discipleship.
Overall this chp had lots of good ideas, but it wandered around way too much between discipleship and leadership and consumerism. Still, I want to put on the blog today the central ideas of this chp.
First, Hirsch thinks the major challenge facing the church to day is consumerism — it has infiltrated everything, including identity, purpose, meaning, and community. He lists the rise of capitalism, the nation-state, and science and how these conditions have turned religion into a privatized, personal, non-public exercise. And the pervasiveness of consumerism has made much of Christianity consumeristic. And medium has overwhelmed the message.
Consumerism of our day and discipleship of Jesus’ day are incompatible. And, “if we don’t disciple people, the culture sure will” (111). We have two options:
1. Redeem consumerism.
2. Reject consumerism.
A model of rejection is Rutba House’s new monasticism.
Second, he thinks the point of it all is to make “little Jesuses” in every neighborhood. He sees this as the Conspiracy of the Little Jesus. This is a good section, but what I’ve said gets to the heart of it.
Third, he deals with leadership and how we train people to be leaders (and this is part of how he sees discipleship). He posits the Academy over against the Apostolic Genius. Here he’s picking on seminaries. In the Academy approach, which is “thinking our way into a new way of acting” (Hellenistic approach), the person is yanked from society and taught abstract things and re-socialized into a new way of life and these folks then have trouble adjusting and then impose the Hellenistic approach on the local church.
The Apostolic Genius approach was from the Hebrew concept where we are involved in “acting our way into a new way of thinking.” It leads to new thinking and new behavior, while the Hellenistic model leads to new thinking with old behavior. And he’s got a cool chart to show this.
I doubt Hirsch has read much of Plato or Aristotle, for they weren’t simply abstract guys, and I don’t think the Hebrew system is simply doing leading to thinking — but the simplisticity of his thesis isn’t the thing to pick on.
The issue here is simple: What is the best way to disciple others? How do we get it done? What’s involved? What are the goals?
Clearly, anyone who has done it knows that an “outcome based theory of education” proves that we are concerned in the Church of leading others into a life of discipleship and that can only come about if we know the behaviors and thinking patterns necessary for such to come about — and then creating a “program” or “model” or “system” that leads to that. And it won’t occur simply in a classroom. It must occur in both the classroom — learning things — and in the rough and tumble of actual being and doing. Reading a good book on marriage helps most marriages; living daily with anOther in love will transcend that book into living realities.