Tam and I spent last weekend at the Together in Mission Summer School. Tam is working on an MA in Missional Leadership, while I'm a tutor (teacher) on several topics (Church Planting, Church Growth, Missions History, Mission & Empowerment) and was there to attend the Master Class with Alan Hirsch (www.theforgottenways.org).
Alan is originally from South Africa, but has spent most of his life in Australia, planting churches, leading a church planters and leadership training organization. He's written a couple of books, and has recently moved to America. He was one of the speakers at the National New Church Conference in April of this year. He's a deep thinker arising not from academia, but as a practitioner.
I first met him several years ago when he was on a speaking tour in the UK with Michael Frost. I ran into him a couple of years ago while at a class at Fuller (he was teaching, but I was in another class), and we had a couple of meals together with another Aussie who was in the class I was attending. He also did a wonderful job on the Saturday morning explaining some of the finer points of rugby as we watched the tri-nations match between the Wallabees (Australia) and the Springboks (South Africa).
In this Master Class, what was one thing he said that captured my attention? Especially as it applies to what we're doing in thethirdplace? He brought me back to something about the church growth being seen in China. The dynamic there is not "how do we grow?" but 'how do we multiply?" Added to this is the view "every believer is a church planter, and every church is a church-planting church." Why is it the western church is conditioned to think so differently than this? Why can't I think this way?
One other statement by Alan: "Christology determines mission which determines ecclessiology." That is, what one thinks of Jesus then defines what I perceive I ought to do in response to him, and that then shapes what the church looks like in any given culture. What we often do, is have a view of church that we attempt to impose upon other people and cultures; it is a western view and is a kind of ecclesiastical imperialism.
Food for thought!