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March 9, 2012Leadership, Missiology

The Permanent Revolution, Part 2: An Interview with Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim

Yesterday, I began an interview with Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim about their new book The Permanent Revolution. You can read part 1 here.

Most of your who read my blog probably know who Alan is, but here is quick refresher:

Hirsch is co-founder and adjunct faculty for the M.A. in Missional Church Movements at Wheaton College (Illinois). He is also adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary, George Fox Seminary, among others, and he lectures frequently throughout Australia, Europe, and the United States. For more about Alan, visit his website here.

You may now know Tim as well, but here is a short bio:

Tim is the founder and director of Generate, a coaching and consultant agency for apostolic ventures. He specializes in bringing strategic vision and clarity to entrepreneurial ventures and the process of innovation. For more about Tim, visit his website here.

As they did yesterday, Alan and Tim will be interacting on the blog and answering questions below.

The conversation continues...

5. On page 98 in the book, you discuss the tension between big A apostles and little a apostles. When many hear you've written a book on apostolic calling, as you point out, many might misunderstand what you mean when you talk about apostleship. What do you mean? How is this different than the charismatic version of "Apostles" we hear about in the charismatic movement (and I've written about here and here)?

Let us be quite categorical here: We are in no way suggesting that the ongoing and legitimate role of the apostolic person in the life of the church in any way adds to, alters, or subtracts from the original canon of Scripture. We don't know of anyone within broad evangelical circles who would say this. Any such claims should be dismissed immediately.

What we are saying is that the work of the original apostles went beyond simply writing the Bible. If that is not so, them most of them failed because most did not write the Bible. The apostles in the Bible clearly had other functions that related to the church's innate capacities for advance, doctrinal integrity, networking skills, creating translocal organization, etc. These are clearly necessary in any form of advancing movement...and they are necessary today more than ever as the church experiences increasing marginalization and has to adopt a missionary stance in relation to our culture.

Furthermore, we believe that the distortions of apostolic ministry found in some extreme circles of the charismatic church are dangerous caricatures of a extremely important function. But since when has extremism stopped us from trying to understand a function better. In fact it should drive us to clarity.

For instance, just because the Grand Inquisition was a severe distortion of the pastoral and teacher function (a violent demand for conformity of behavior and thought) doesn't mean that we jettison the ongoing vocation of the shepherd and teacher! Just because some Tele-Evangelists abused the evangelistic ministry, doesn't mean we reject the incredible work of Billy Graham as illegitimate ministry. Why do this with apostlic and prophetic people?

We believe that whatever ministries we have now (all APEST functions) can derive their archetype from Scripture. This is true for the apostolic (what we call extracting small "a" from big "A" apostles) but is also true of the teacher (small "t" from big "T"), etc. The same interpretive rules should be applied to all the vocations

6. Is The Permanent Revolution a book about theology or methodology? Are they separable in this case?

Ahh, this is a good question Ed. We see APEST as being primarily rooted in the ministry of Christ, so in some sense, this book is thoroughly about Christology. In other words, if Jesus expressed his ministry in APEST form (and who can doubt this?) then the ascension imagery in Eph.4:1-16 shows that the church extends his ministry in the earth--in fivefold form. However, all theology has to be incarnated, that is, it has to land on the ground be worked out in the real world.

This book stands on the Christological foundations of APEST and makes a concerted effort to go deeper into the apostolic calling and ministry. If we said this in a broader way, we believe that whatever methodology we might adopt, should be informed, inspired, and legitimized by our best theology. Hence the Missio Dei inspires our missional methods, and the Incarnation requires us to act incarnationally in the Way of Jesus, etc.

7. You often use the metaphor of DNA when describing the behavior of APEST in the local church. You also describe use the image of a genetic mutation (I love that) to describe failure to lock into the core DNA of the gospel. Every philosophical/methodological trend in church history serves a purpose for a season, and has distinct strengths and weaknesses. If churches, on the whole, adopt a missional, APEST philosophy of ministry (as you describe in your book), what mutations would you predict we then need to guard against next?

The temptation is always to go from one end of the spectrum to the other. Right now, we are pretty much locked in to a two-fold ministry paradigm, that of the Shepherd-Teacher. If the church answers its call to fan out its notion of what legitimate forms of leadership and ministry look like, and integrates the APE's into the equation, it will have to resist the energies of fragmentation that emerge anytime diversity is recognized and affirmed.

This is one reason what we end the APEST section with an all-out exploration into the apostolic function. The diversity within APEST needs a unifying force to hold it together. Without a compelling external mission coupled by an internal motivation to unity, then wakening the diversity within APEST could eventually lead to dissipation. We need the apostolic ministry to provide that missional focal point around which the diversity within APEST can find a unifying vision and rigorous venture to collaborate around.

But truth is, serious dysfunction will inevitably come when one form of ministry predominates over the others. Partly because one form cannot possibly represent the whole ministry of Christ in the world, but partly because there will be no balancing in the leadership equation and all the dysfunctions will come to the fore. So for example when one form of APEST leadership is dis-located from the others it will tend to monopolize the culture and to have a negative effect in the long run. The one-leader type church is most at risk in this case, but we can all recall organizations that demonstrate the truth of this.

So for instance,

A: If an apostolic leader dominates then church/organization will tend to be hard-driving, autocratic, with lots of pressure for change and development, and will leave lots of wounded people in its wake. As such it is not sustainable and will tend to dissolve with time.

P: If the prophetic dominates, then the whole organization will have a one-dimensional (always harking back to one or two issues) feel, will likely be factious and sectarian, have a "super-spiritual" vibe, or somewhat paradoxically, will tend to be either too activist in to be sustainable or too quietist to be useful. This is not a viable form of organization.

E: When an evangelistic leader dominates, the organization will have a obsession with numerical growth, will create dependence on effervescent charismatic leadership, and will tend to lack theological breadth as well as depth. This type of organization will not empower many people at all.

S: When pastoral leadership monopolizes the church/organization will tend to be risk-averse, co-dependent and needy, and overly lacking in healthy dissent and therefore creativity. Such an organization will lack innovation and generativity and will not be able to be transfer it's core message and tasks from one generation to the next.

T: When teachers/ theologians rule, the church will be ideological, controlling, moralistic, and somewhat uptight. A rationalistic, doctrine-obsessed, Christian Gnosticism (the idea that we are saved by what we know) will tend to replaces reliance on the Holy Spirit. These types of organization will be exclusive based on ideology like the Pharisees.

8. You discuss entrepreneurial risk and innovation in ministry and obviously value creative strategies. Given the antiquity of the gospel, why must we continue to innovate and dream up new ways of doing the same things?

The gospel will always be the gospel, and this is the compass by which we navigate our efforts to be risky and innovative. With the ever changing cultural landscape of the West, we are faced with an ever increasing level of complexity. The historical reality of the gospel, and the surplus of meaning within it's multiple metaphors i.e. redemption, reconciliation, etc., provide us with the linguistic storehouse, as well as the conceptual capacities to mediate the power of the gospel in every age.

However, once the gospel has been planted in a particular context, we have to let the resulting ecclesia begin to work out in its own culturally appropriate ways of how and where to gather, how to pursue biblical forms of leadership, and how to subversively live the gospel in their context. In every age the church has learned to hold on to the unchanging truths of the gospel while mediating that truth in ways that not only affirm the positive elements of their host culture, but eventually subvert the dark sides of that culture that stand to enhance the principalities and powers of the enemy.

9. Any final thoughts you'd like to leave our readers?

We don't believe in silver bullets--one simple solution that will fix all your problems. But darn!, this gets awfully close to being a silver bullet for the church right now. We believe that a recovery of the power of Ephesians 4 ecclesiology, and the re-integration of a fully functioning apostolic ministry in our time, will awaken powerful forces within the church. Jesus has given us everything we need to get our job done.

Part of what that means is found in Eph.4. It's vital genetic information for a missional form of church. And all we need to do is reactivate it in the power of the Spirit ...and boom! The Permanent Revolution is a hefty book. It will make you think very hard and against the grain of much of our inherited thinking in this regard. But so much rides on us getting this right. Read the book.

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