The Permanent Revolution – Alan Hirsch / Tim Catchim [Feature Review]

August 31, 2012 — 2 Comments


Page 2 – The Permanent Revolution – Hirsch / Catchim

Assigning the lack of emphasis on apostolic ministry within Christian literature to the work of the enemy falls short of explaining the theological background for why so few Christian leaders have come to the same conclusions. They offer a better explanation, however, for the more functional reasons that the church has limited itself to the shepherd-teacher model.

The apostle, prophet and evangelists are pioneers who push into new territory while shepherds and teachers care for the established settlements. It is a natural organizational tendency to consolidate around stabilizing influences, especially in places of societal privilege. Ignoring the more mission-oriented roles offers security at the expense of the impact that God intended for the church to make.

Apostles extend Christianity, often through church planting. Prophets call God’s people to faithfulness, protecting the spiritual DNA of the church. Evangelists are recruiters, gathering people to join the church as a missional movement. Shepherds nurture and care for the community of believers. Teachers share wisdom and understanding with God’s people.

These roles function not individually but as one whole that is designed to work together. When missing any part, the church loses sight of its overall mission. “For instance, if we persist in using the standard shepherd and teacher frameworks for church planting, then we will inevitably see that the primary purpose of the new plant will be to run worship services and Bible studies.” (12)

There is a specific “intelligence” embedded into each role and all are needed for the church to thrive. Chapter two describes each role’s contribution to the church’s mission before narrowing its focus down to the difference between the apostle and the prophet in chapter three. Apostles are missional and focused on going outward while prophets are more incarnational and aim at going deep.

The church can be both enhanced by the contributions of each role and limited by an imbalanced focus on one of them in particular. Like the facets of a diamond, the five-fold ministry is most functional when it works together in synergy.

After establishing this framework in part one, the authors narrow their focus to the apostolic role in ministry, leadership and organization in parts two through four. It seems that a whole book could have been devoted to following up these initial insights with how the five-fold ministry can work together for the mission of the church. Since the apostle is seen as the primary catalyst for the church’s expansion, they saw it fit instead to focus on restoring apostolic ministry.

“As far as we can tell, there has never been a highly transformative, exponential people movement in the history of the church that has not been catalyzed by apostolic ministry.” (114) Apostolic influence is necessary to help believers who are all called to share the gospel to engage outside the safety of their own circles. Mission is embedded within our genetic code and apostles help to make sure that we live true to our design.

Using Peter and Paul as prototypes, we learn that there are two biblical types of apostolic ministry. While both are explorers, Paul is more of a pioneer in that he focuses on spreading the gospel to new territories. Peter is compared to a miner who is less concerned with new territory than with digging deep within the community to mobilize the church for mission. These two types of apostles work together to generate movement and sustain its energy.

One of the strengths of this book is its focus on continuity with our historic faith. For example, the authors recommend seeing the church’s renewal not as creating something new but as listening to the missional Spirit of God already present in the church. He will reconnect us to the old paths that God designed and our identifying with his divine purposes for the world cannot help but renew us.

The other side of the book’s historic claims is that it would solidify the author’s position if they would trace the historic continuance of the apostolic role within the church. At least providing a series of examples would have done more for their argument than sweeping claims that apostles have always been present at the heart of the church’s mission.

As leaders, apostles are entrepreneurial and needed to encourage the church to take risks for the sake of mission. They are innovators who are full of ideas and never satisfied with what has become normal. “Innovation and risk have to become a regular, integral part of what it means to function apostolically, and it will have to take on an iterative quality.” (173) The apostle leads the high-risk missional efforts and empowers the community to continue moving them forward.

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