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The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church Paperback – 2 Dec 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers Inc (2 Dec. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565636597
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565636590
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 480,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Matt Wilson on 31 Aug. 2005
Format: Paperback
Finally, a book which offers a real alternative to the contemporary church leadership mindset. Frost and Hirsch's most important point in this book which contains so much good stuff, is that Christ's desire for his people, the church, is to be a transforming presence in the world - an Incarnation. They illustrate, in slightly tongue in cheek fashion, the way that the church has signed up pretty much wholesale to an Attractional model of church - essentially tipping the great commission on its head, turning Christ's 'Go' into 'Come'.
I really hope loads of church leaders read this book and begin to realise that attracting people to their building is totally NOT what their job is about, Jesus came to destroy the temple and rebuild it out of living stones.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Forth Write on 21 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
Utterly excellent - at last a book which has the honesty to say of our modern context 'we're not at all sure how to do mission' but then takes some important principles and expands them to help us dream about what mission may look like. Rather than imposing a blueprint, rather than saying 'this is what the world is like and this is how you have to be missionary' - it said to me 'take time to discover your world and then listen to what God may be saying into your context'

Stepping out of a world which we Christians effectivly described into one in which all our 'language of description' often seems to be Martian is most disorientating. This book says 'yes it is isn't it - here are a few tentative suggested first steps'.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joshua D. Jones on 3 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I found this book more enjoyable than Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs. It has better theological meat to it. The authors focus on four aspects of what the emerging church should be: missional, incarnational, messianic and apostolic. These four characteristics make up the four sections of the book. They use the term "messianic" to refer to holistic spirituality and "apostolic" to refer to the five-fold ministry.

Perhaps one of the books biggest faults is the sweeping generalizations that it makes. For example, "Dualism has for over 1,700 years created Christians that cannot relate their interior faith to their exterior practice." (pg 19) They also seem to be saying in the first two chapters that the church has failed to be missional since the time of Constantine. Did Wesley really not take the gospel to the people? Did the Salvation Army fail to engage its culture? Did we really have to wait 1,700 years for the "emerging" church to finally arrive and show us the way to really do church? I also felt that they may have made their case better if they had spent more time brining their ideas out of scripture than out of poems, Einstein quotes and films. Though most of us love films (less poems), most of us want to be careful in how we build God's church. I found most of their ideas to be biblical, even profoundly so; they just didn't do much work to show how they can be exegeted from scripture. They took some shots at "patriarchy" but did not attempt to show from scripture how patriarchy was unbiblical. In fact they seemed to use the word in the way that I would use the word "chauvinistic" which is something entirely different.

In spite of the overgeneralization about the death of the western church, the book does address some real problems.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. Mccormick on 25 Nov. 2008
Format: Paperback
At the start I found this book interesting, which it is. But, I think it makes very sweeping and generalizing statements about the 'traditional church' many of which seem to be unfounded, or made on the basis of one visit. Some of the things they were suggesting seemed plausible, others not so. I would recommend reading this book if you are interesting in the church of this century, but I myself did not enjoy, or agree with a lot of the things they said.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 29 reviews
146 of 156 people found the following review helpful
The Shaping of Things to Come 3 Sept. 2005
By Leonard Hjalmarson - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Ivan Illich was once asked what is the most revolutionary way to change society.

Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform?

He gave a careful answer.


If you want to change society,

then you must tell an alternative story."

Tim Costello

Passionate.. idealistic.. imaginative... seminal.. incisive.. visionary.. these are some of the words that come to mind as I consider my six weeks living with "The Shaping of Things to Come." A gripping exegesis of culture, church and history, with some careful theological reflection along the way, Frost and Hirsch contribute to the dialogue on innovation and mission and end up with re-imagining eccelesiology against the backdrop of emerging culture.

The book is organized into four sections and twelve chapters. Instead of an intro a subheading appears: "You must read this bit first." This section is like a manifesto where the authors declare some of their bias - toward missional efforts rather than revitalization (outward vs inward) - that the small and experimental groups around the world may be the best hope of Christianity - that they intend to reshape ecclesiology around mission. The authors consider themselves missionaries more than academics.

In this short section they define two important terms: institutional and missional. Rather than a sociological definition they use a functional one: the church has been an institution to which outsiders come in order to receive a certain product. They argue that the church must redefine itself in terms of mission: to take the gospel to and incarnate the gospel in specific cultural contexts.

Part One "The Shape We're In"

1. Evolution or Revolution?

2. The Missional Church

Part Two "Incarnational Ecclesiology"

3. The Incarnational Approach

4. The Shape of the Missional Church

5. The Contextualized Church

6. Whispering to the Soul

Part Three "Messianic Spirituality"

7. The God of Israel and the Renewal of Christianity

8. Action as Sacrament

9. The Medium Really is the Message

Part Four "Apostolic Leadership"

10. The Genius of APEPT

11. Imagination and the Leadership Task

12. Organizing the Revolution

Chapter 1 argues that tweaking the system will be of no avail. We do not need an evolution, we need revolution. The authors quote Einstein that "the kind of thinking that will solve the world's problems will be of a different order than the kind that created those problems in the first place." We need to step out of the box of Christendom.

Christendom, as opposed to the movement Jesus initiated (Christianity), has been the dominant religious force in the world for 1700 years. Under Constantine Christianity moved from a subversive, marginalized and persecuted movement to the favorite religion of the empire. "Christianity moved from being a dynamic .. movement.. to being a religious institution with its attendant structures, priesthood and sacraments."

The authors note that GOCN has elucidated twelve features of the missional church. Frost and Hirsch propose three more, over-arching principles that give energy and direction to the twelve. These are:

1. The missional church is incarnational, not attractional, in its ecclesiology. By incarnational we mean it does not create sanctified spaces into which believers much come to encounter the gospel. Rather, the missional church disassembles itself and seeps into the cracks and crevices of a society in order to be Christ to those who don't yet know him.

2. The missional church is messianic, not dualistic, in its spirituality. That is, it adopts the worldview of Jesus the Messiah, rather than that of the Greco-Roman empire. Instead of seeing the world as divided between the sacred (religious) and profane (nonreligious), like Christ it sees the world and God's place in it as more holistic and integrated.

3. The missional church adopts an apostolic, rather than a hierarchical, mode of leadership. By apostolic we mean a mode of leadership that recognizes the fivefold gifts detailed by Paul in Ephesians 6. It abandons the triangular hierarchies of the traditional church and embraces a biblical, flat-leadership community that unleashes the gifts of evangelism, apostleship and prophecy as well as the currently popular pastoral and teaching gifts.

"We believe the missional genius of the church can only be unleashed when there are foundational changes made to the church's very DNA, and this means addressing core issues like ecclesiology, spirituality, and leadership. It means a complete shift away from Christendom thinking, which is attractional, dualistic, and hierarchical."

Part Two opens with a chapter on the incarnational approach, and the quote that I used to open this review. The authors argue that coming to grips with being incarnational requires an entirely new paradigm. The western church has been primarily attractional, and has stood apart from culture and invited people to "come in."

Frost and Hirsch find four characteristics of the incarnation. It involved,



the Beyond in-the-midst

the Human image of God

From these characteristics they conclude that "the Incarnation provides us with the missional means by which the gospel can become a genuine part of a people group without damaging the cultural frameworks that provide a sense of history and meaning" and that "in reaching a people group we need to identify with them in all ways possible without compromising the truth of the gospel itself." (p37) They note that the danger of failing to practice incarnational mission is cultural imperialism.

Chapter five is "The Contextualized Church."

"Don't think church, think mission!" the authors often announce in their lectures as part of the FORGE Mission Training Network. In contrast to the cultural imperialism of many past missional efforts, the authors advocate a "radical rethink about the symbols, language, metaphors, vernacular and idioms we employ when presenting Christ to our world."

Part Three - Messianic Spirituality

The Bible of Judaism... makes one contribution to Christian faith. It is the profound conviction of these ancient rabbis, whom Jews revere and call "our sages, of blessed memory," that Scripture forms a commentary on everyday life-- as much as everyday life brings with it a fresh understanding of Scripture.

Jacob Neusner, p.111

"So much reflection on Jesus portrays a man who is overly serious, who wrung his hands a lot.. rather, his was a very attractive spirituality.. He was notorious for hanging out with the wrong types.. We need his model of holy laughter, of his sheer love of life, of his infectious holiness, of his common people's religion... We partner with God in the redemption of the world." 114-115

The writers argue that an alternative, missional approach to being and doing church is best supported by an alternative approach to Christian spirituality. This makes perfect sense. Western dualism has resulted in a gnostic approach to life and to salvation, a damaging influence that has undermined the very foundations of the gospel itself. The result has been an ontological Christology, divorced from history and from life.

The author's sense of dis-ease has taken them on a journey of discovery. Alan Hirsch's Jewis heritage took him back to those sources, and Michael Frost's Catholic heritage took him to Benedictine thought on the sacralizing of the everyday. This in turn resulted in both discovering the work of Abraham Heschel and Martin Buber. The rich early traditions of the Hasidic movement opened a deep resonance with Scripture.

Under broad categories, key differences are these:

Hellenistic thinking is speculative in nature, whereas the Hebraic spirit is much more concrete. As Philip Yancy wrote, the church affirmed that Jesus was "the only begotten Son of God, Very God of Very God.." but those statements were light years removed from the Gospel accounts of Jesus growing up in a Jewish family in the agricultural town of Nazareth.

Second, the Hebraic spirit is a religion of time. The Hebrew Bible describes history as the primary source of revelation of God and God's will for the world. History is where we must do our work to advance the kingdom.

From this point the author's move to speak of the redemption of the everyday. The Jewish people have preserved a profound ability to celebrate life: L'chaim!

Frost and Hirsch point to films like "Chocolat" and "Babette's Feast" as potent parables of the poewr of pleasure to redeem and reconcile. "It is not for nothing that the covenants -- new and old -- were sealed in full meals, replete with four glasses of wine... It is unredeemed or undirected pleasure that destroys life."

The authors rely heavily on the work of Abraham Heschel and Martin Buber. Buber's work "I and Thou" was floating around seminary in my early days there in 1980. I remember it as a profound work of reflection on the meaning of relationship and identity and humanness. Buber comments that, "He who does a good deed with complete kavanah, that is, completes an act in such a way that his whole existence is gathered in it and directed in it towards God, he works on the redemption of the world, on its conquest for God.

Part Four - Apostolic Leadership

In this fourth part Frost and Hirsch continue their imaginative and reflective theological work. Some will find chapters eleven and twelve worth the price of the trip. This section could almost demand a review all its own. Chapter ten begins the tour with "The Genius of APEPT."

For three or four years now I have been uncomfortable with talk about the "five fold ministry." I've had difficulty identifying my discomfort, but I'll bet many of you are ahead of me on this and could give me many reasons why it doesn't work for you.

It seems that the phrase is mostly used in charismatic circles as part of a package that sells a certain understanding of authority.. hierarchical and positional, founded around office and status in the community, and aimed at maintaining a clerical management culture. Unfortunately, that particular conception of authority is part of the reason that the modern church got stuck, and the places that talk a lot apostles and prophets are too often old paradigm.

As I have completed my read of Frost and Hirsch, "The Shaping of Things to Come," I have found myself asking some old questions about vocation and its relation to gifting, and gifting and its relation to position, and of course, questions about the relationship of leadership and authority in this matrix.

It seems to me that we have three urgent tasks in the emergent church in relation to the biblical revelation on gifts and authority.. we have to disentangle leadership and authority, we have to disentangle biblical language about gifting from the cultural morass of Christendom, and we have to find a way to embrace the diversity of gifts in the body. If we attempt to do one of these without the other, we will probably slide back into a familiar clerical mode with centralized and positional authority.

Frost and Hirsch run the five gifts through the grid of organizational and social research. While at first glance this may seem pedantic, it is really helpful. They make the following connection:

entrepreneur/innovator - the apostle

questioner - the prophet

recruiter - the evangelist

humanizer - the pastor

systematizer - the teacher

This is helpful for two critical reasons:

1. it pushes us to see the function of these gifts in any church team.

2. it moves toward disentangling these biblical terms from the muck and mire of cultural religion

There is more to say.. grab the book!
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Outside the box?...No where near the box. 26 Jun. 2005
By grubedoo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Most books I enjoy I read in a matter of a week or two. I'm in month number two with this book. Not because I don't enjoy it, quite the opposite. I enjoy it so much and it's so thought provoking I have to chew on and savor it as much as possible.

The book challenges the very foundations of western Christendom, especially how and why we do church. It acknowledges the evolution of western culture from modern to postmodern and postChristian as well as points out that the Christiandom church remains firmly rooted in the Renaissance. The authors (who are knee deep in the application of their theories) challenge almost every aspect of the modern "church." They take great effort in getting the reader to think outside the box and imagine what church could be.

Another strength of the book is the author's refusal to give instructions on how to create what they call the "incarnational, messianic church." They use examples of some that have been started, but won't allow for their vision to become a 5 step program or formal institution (even though human history suggests its inevitability). Rather, they allow the reader's imagination to roam limitlessly and encourage the reader to aspire and create unique, functional and wonderful communities that give Jesus to people.

In general I dislike most Christian literature. It's too formulaic and/or narrow-minded. But this book will remain in my top 10 for a long time, along with books like; "Blue Like Jazz," "Traveling Mercies," The Ragamuffin Gospel," "Searching for God Knows What," "Eternity in Their Hearts," "A New Kind of Christian," and "Let Me Tell You A Story."
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Cutting Edge Thinking on Mission for Today. 11 Jun. 2004
By N. Vandersee - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you want to be challenged in your thinking about how we do church and mission you have to read this book. Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch are among the foremost thinkers in the world on these areas. They describe the present state of the church acurately and they articulate a method of contextualization that is reproducable anywhere because they don't tell you to adopt their 'model', but instead give you the tools to incarnate the gospel in your own context. This is especially valuable as quite often many books on mission say "Do it our way". Often what works in one culture will not work in another. This book seeks to articulate the theology and methods that can be appplied as easily in North America as they could be in the middle of Africa.
Mike and Alan are evangelical in their theology and uncompromising on the gospel, but they will not hesitate to challenge and overthrow our sacred cows that hinder our mission to 'not yet Christians'. In their methods they are often radical, in their mission they are always passionate. This book will be a great read even if you don't agree with everything they say. If you want to start thinking outside the box, let me encourage you to read "The Shaping of things to Come".
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Rock The Boat 22 Mar. 2006
By S. Moyer - Published on
Format: Paperback
You will need some time to read this book. The authors present a new paradigm for doing church and missions in our time. They show us something we already know, that the current model (they call Christendom) is failing - and that attempts to maintain the status quo are costing us ground. I will resist the urge to tell you what I found in this book - it would take too long and others have done this well. If you are tired of the current model of pastoral/teacher, bring the lost to church, sing, give, preach, do it again next Sunday... then read this book. Let's rock the boat and start a revolution - let's be bold and creative about how we do Christianity. Let the Holy Spirit work in us today so that we can be couragous like the followers of Jesus were in the early days of the church!
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
read slowly, let it sink in 17 Sept. 2004
By Bob Hyatt - Published on
Format: Paperback
this is one of those books which must be read a few pages at a time. At this point in the conversation, most "emerging church" books are saying much the same thing, recycling some already covered concepts or mired in criticism of "what is" without providing a clear vision of "what could be." Not this book- new ways of looking at things, excellent insights for leadership as well as solid, missional thinking add up to an inspiring book that you'll have to put down often, simply to think about what you've just read.
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