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The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church Paperback – Abridged, Audiobook, Box set

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Product details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic, Div of Baker Publishing Group; Reprint edition (1 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801046300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801046308
  • Product Dimensions: 22.7 x 15.4 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 901,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Alan Hirsch is founding director of Forge Mission Training Network and cofounder of, an international forum for engaging with world-transforming ideas. Currently he leads an innovative learning program called Future Travelers which helps meg --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Bentley on 3 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book sees the church in the Western world is in crisis. Numbers of Christians attending church is at record low and Christendom is dead with the loss of Christian influence. It seems the institution of the church doggedly gripping onto the last vestiges of the old ways dying at its core. Frost and Hirsch boldly state we need revolution not evolution to bring the church in the West into a second reformation . It is a popular book with pioneering ministries with which I am involved. It centres on the need for an ‘Apostolic’ movement as “the mode of the New Testament church - to describe something of its energy, impulse, and genius as well as its leadership structures.” It seems the missional approach of revitalising the first century Christian spirit to recapture the determination to preach Christ even if we are martyred for so doing.
It has a bold style: starting by demanding “you read this first” and the reader 'will find it unnerving'. I have concentrated on the last section ‘Apostolic Leadership’ as this is the theme of this module. The APEPT theology is imaginatively argued. There are five types of leaders essential for this church revolution rather than the Pastor/Teacher roles that seminaries present train for. This theme is widened to five ministries of congregants and its is in favour of devolved ‘Eco-leadership’ and small but numerous church plants or cells. . “We believe such a matrix is the antidote to the triangular or hierarchical model that empowers certain leaders and dis-empowers the majority of Christians.”
I chose it knowing it was from a differing theological perspective to my own; hoping to be challenged.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John Bidwell on 22 Nov. 2012
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This book may shock the traditionalist, but the Billy Graham style outreach no longer brings in the seekers. Why? because over the last 20 years the culture has changed. Without compromising the Gospel, this book analyses the cultural changes and suggests new ways to engage culture with examples of successes. We expect people to come to church, but this book is encouraging Church to go to the people, to get out of our comfort zones, and really think what Christendom has created and how this is a barrier to effective evangelism.
This book will challenge the reader and may disturb the vicar who is often entrenched in a comfort zone of traditionalism.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
An Historical Anti-history with Western Implications 22 Aug. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is true we are living in changing times. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch not only recognize this as a historical truth, but they offer a theological proposition for what the authors consider the impending irrelevance of the current church. Indeed quite an indictment, the theological judgment is coupled with an offer of a major shift in thinking for the Christian church of the West. This book is an Australian perspective on the current state of the Western church that both bites and instructs (or what many theologians mean by "informs").
Frost and Hirsch build their argument by declaring their own orthodoxy, and yet the book is really written to promote "emerging missional communities" that are not particularly concerned with orthodoxy. Say Wha? The book is intended to give legitimacy to the emerging church and to justify its role in missiology by providing a vocabulary for the current praxis. The authors construct their line of reasoning by surveying what they call the Christendom church, the church as has existed from Constantine up to the present day, and then exposing the inherent weaknesses and growing irrelevance in that approach. After a quick overview of what the authors define as biblical Christianity, they promote an alternative post-Christendom church that is radically different from Constantine's baby.
The authors unabashedly borrow terms from a wide variety of theological camps to support their proposition that Christendom-thinking has almost died, laying in the casket already and stinking. By identifying with the postmodern culture, the authors instead advocated a "wholesale change in the way Christians are doing and being the church" (ix). The book is not intended to be prescriptive, but the authors do cite many current models in their advocacy for the creativity they say is necessary to reach post-Christendom.
To build their argument further, Frost and Hirsch define Christendom-thinking (remember Constantine?) by discussing four of its main elements. First, the traditional church has been an attractional model where lost people are asked to come to a building to find Christ. Second, there has been a dualistic framework for separating the sacred from the secular. As such, Christendom has placed a premium on sacred places for meeting. Third, the Christendom model is hierarchal with a separation of clergy and laity. Fourth, even the sacraments have become institutionalized and have lost their meaning.
The authors counter this irrelevant model with a post-Christendom church model. Instead of being attractional, Frost and Hirsch advocate a missional approach with the church going to the lost instead of asking them to come to church. They also advocate neutral space where lost people can be met in a nonthreatening environment. They say that average Christians should lead the ministry of the church instead of relying on a hierarchal system of authority. And they promote a messianic or Hebraic renewal of Christianity's initial roots to discover the deeper meaning behind the sacraments.
Part of what the authors promote is valid. The traditional church has indeed lost its understanding of meaning behind the tradition. But to advocate a radical overhaul of the church might be considered reckless, rebellious, and redundant (that would preach if I had a poem to close with). Frost's and Hirsch's argument is paradoxical at worst and a wake up call for the church at best.
Some of what the authors promote is reckless. To abandon the entire historical church model on the whims of one emerging culture might not be warranted. Granted the church should adapt the medium to reach the current generation, but the authors philosophically identify the medium as the message, so I think there is perhaps some confusion as to what defines the church at its core, the true biblical functions of the church and the reality of the gospel message.
The authors could also be accused of rebellion. Rebellion can be revolutionary (see Lenin). Rebellion could also be mutinous (see Bligh). Rebellion can also be foundational for a new identity (see Tea Party). I simply wonder if the great majority of Christian history needs corrective action versus switching sides.
Much of what the authors promote is redundant. Although the book is sprinkled with various diagrams and charts to identify the church and culture, it seems that most of the information presented is simply an integration of ideas from current social sciences. Their vocabulary is definitely fresh, but it seems that nothing the authors endorse is new to a healthy historical and biblical church model. The church has never previously used the term "not yet Christians," for example, but they have used the term prospects. Even their APEPT five-fold ministry formula is in reality an adaptation of the Pauline teaching method in Ephesians.
It is true that an unhealthy imbalance has been generated as the church has historically ignored apostolic and prophetic leadership, but to say that it has been nonexistent is to be naive to Christian history. Therefore, the authors' arguments should not fall upon deaf ears in the West, but it should be read within a larger historical perspective. For this reason the book has some valid missiological implications for planting churches cross-culturally.
However, perhaps the greatest fault of the book is the potential to fall into the same snare for which it denounces the traditional church. Christendom established a certain mode of doing church. The authors identify both a new model and new mode for doing church, and almost in an either-or approach, they say the West should jump off the old wagon and onto the new. Even if the main points of the argument are valid, Frost and Hirsch would do well to balance their new vision with a broader historical perspective.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great 20 Sept. 2013
By Per-Arne Peterson - Published on
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It was as advertized... As far as the book is concerned it is very challenging in terms of its thesis.
7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
not biblical 27 Jan. 2014
By twizzle - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Because this book doesn't take the Bible (or Church history) seriously it is hard to take it seriously. I thought it was overstated, sensationalized, and, worst of all, not based on Scripture. If someone writes a book on how the Church should be run it should be filled with Scripture. It should deal carefully and soberly with what the Bible says. This is especially the case when any supposedly radical direction is suggested. I stopped reading this book when the authors said of the OT temple "the temple was not God's idea. Even though he accommodated human weakness and allowed David his temple...." (p. 98). How can anyone have even read the Bible and think that the temple wasn't God's idea? They also call unbelievers "not-yet-Christians," what's wrong with using biblical (and accurate) terms. You don't know if they will be Christians so it is an absolutely stupid suggestion to call any unbeliever that. You can find "wicked heathen" in the early Church fathers, the age of the church this book is supposed to take us back to, but where is "not-yet-Christians?" These might seem like trifling complaints, but my point is their thinking is far from biblical or scholarly, too far for making such claims for their philosophy as they do. So, ironically, this book does tell you what is wrong with many churches today.

Their work centers on the idea of Missional vs. Christendom churches. They say, "the fact that the Christendom paradigm has presided over the last seventeen centuries in the West..." (p. 29). It's really hard to keep reading after such a thing is stated as a "fact." How broadly are the defining their "Christendom?" Too broadly. And then acting like the "Missional" movement marks the change in Church history back to the "glory days" (though they weren't really that, btw). They fail to deal with the complexities of Church history and different world views and paradigms that have developed (and there are many more than two). I'm not asking for a detailed analysis of all possible paradigms, just an honest, moderately sophisticated dealing with the facts. And no sensationalism.

The authors act like they are presenting an incredibly radical change to the Church, but really much of what they say can be said of other churches that aren't "missional." The 12 hallmarks of a missional church (p. 25) could be applied to tons of churches that aren't "Missional." They bring up three additional features of missional churches and most of the book focuses on these. The features are that the missional church 1. is incarnational 2. has messianic spirituality 3. and apostolic leadership.

1. Incarnational: They contrast incarnational with so called attractional churches. Missional churches don't "create sanctified spaces to which unbelievers must come to encounter the gospel." I've never heard of a church that does such a thing. All serious Christians seek to influence people for Jesus all week everywhere, not just on Sunday or at church. Nothing is new here.

2. Messianic spirituality: - A missional church "adopts the worldview and practices of Jesus the Messiah, rather than that of the Greco-Roman empire." All serious Christians seek to adopt the worldview and practices of Jesus. Why say it in this way? Again, they should discuss the specifics of application. Such broad statements seem to be designed to sell people on the revolutionary nature of their suggestions. It seems like sensationalism.

3. Apostolic leadership: They use Ephesians 4 for the basis of a five-fold leadership - apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher (APEST for short). They state that there is nothing that limits the application of any of these to the NT time. Apostles, it seems to many Bible scholars, only belong to the first century and people who were witnesses to the resurrection (Acts 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1-2; 2 Cor 12:12 - "signs of an apostle"), and who had a unique commission from The Lord. They don't deal with these issues. In Ephesians 1:16 they seem to think the text is indicating that each member of the church has one of the APEST gifts. Each member does the work of the ministry, but each member isn't gifted with one of the APEST gifts of vs.11. They describe these gifts as being functions not offices. All of these functions can be seen in any healthy church, though many wouldn't call the "apostolic function" by that name. This is another example of how poorly this book deals with Scripture. The authors don't really seek to define and explain these terms biblically. He just says, "an apostle does this and an evangelist does that." Please show me that in the Bible, exposit the Scripture.

The idea of a revolutionary approach to church is appealing and sensational. The missional movement wants to see itself as a revolutionary solution to the problem of a sickly Church and world. I think God has told us what makes a real revolutionary church. Psalm 1 says that everyone that constantly meditates and delights in God's word will be successful (in His eyes). Such a church or person may make a seemingly small impact on culture and most definitely won't appeal to the majority of the ungodly, the sinners, and mockers (Psalm 1) or the rulers who won't be wise and do homage to the Son (Psalm 2) or to the mighty, wise, and noble of this age (1 Cor 1), but they seek another country (Heb 11) and the approval of God (Gal 1). People act like, "yeah we know that but we need a new method." No, we need to be nearer to God and more in His word.

As a minister in Moody's day said: "Give us a revived ministry and we will soon see a revived church."
back to the basics 26 Jun. 2014
By d2 - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
refreshing look at Biblical truth vs mankind's tradition. I have been working on using the model found in this book to develop and shape an outward focused mission. Very practical and helpful.

T Dronkers
Director, Ministry to Men and Building Strong Families
Lake Ridge Baptist Church
Diagnostic and Prescriptive. 21 April 2014
By Pam Lynch - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book provides an in-depth and broad perspective on the present decline of the influence and effectiveness of the church in the western world and also what is needed to turn it around. Church leaders and church members have an opportunity to look at their own assumptions regarding the mission of the church and to gain an understanding into what the general population feels about the church. The book may be a bit verbose (therefore a 4 versus a 5 star rating), but it does give many examples and an in-depth treatment of the issues. The authors draw from many sources to give a very broad perspective and I felt that it was very good and an excellent read.
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