The Shaping of Things to Come by Frost and Hirsch – A Literary Review
Today I wanted to share with you an older book (meaning it came out in 2003) that I hadn’t had the chance to read until recently. I can see now why so many have been talking about this book. It is rich with missional insights and challenges. I hope you enjoy the review.
I basically start with my sense of the author’s thesis, followed by a
general overview of the book, and then I focus on themes that are
pertinent to my research. With that said, here is my review.
Frost and Hirsch in The Shaping of Things to Come assert that we need to “get over” the Christendom mode of doing church and move forward to the emerging missional mode if the church is to survive and thrive the West. This will require fresh imagination and courage as well as a radical and revolutionary approach.
In part one, Frost and Hirsch declare that the way out of the demise of the church is not by evolution, but by revolution. They are calling for what amounts to a second reformation. In the remainder of the book they call us to move from the Christendom mode of doing church to an Missional mode of being the church, which they describe as: (1) An Incarnational Ecclesiology – where the church moves from being attractional, to incarnational and contextual; (2) A Messianic Spirituality – where we move from a speculative Hellenistic approach to a more Hebraic concrete approach; and (3) An Apostolic Leadership – where we move from ordained clergy leadership, to the five-fold leadership – Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher that belongs to the whole church.
THEMES TO RE-VISIT
Hirsch and Frost first call us to an incarnational ecclesiology. They state, “The Incarnation provides us with the missional means by which the gospel can become a genuine part of a people group without damaging the innate cultural frameworks that provide that people group with a sense of meaning and history.” (37) Incarnational ministry is identifying with people as much as possible without compromising the gospel, “having a real and abiding presence among a group of people, (39) it requires a sending impulse rather than an extractional one, (39) and “finally, incarnational mission means that people will get to experience Jesus on the inside of their culture and their lives.” (40)
They encourage church planters to move from planting attractional churches, like every other church in the West, and invite them to plant incarnational ones: “Instead, why not allow they rhythms and lifestyle patterns of the people we’re trying to reach determine the shape our communal life and worship meetings take?” (63) Practically they encourage many things including: finding people of peace (64), multiplication, not addition (65), third spaces (24), shared projects (25), and commercial enterprise. (26)
Frost and Hirsch, as thoughtful practioners, give many helpful and instructive charts throughout the book. The following charts summarize key concepts in the book: The mode of the church in the three different eras chart (9), the attractional verses incarnational chart (41), the bounded set or centered set approach chart (50), the extraction vs. incarnational chart (72), the commands verses practices chart (80), the contextualized church chart (85), Hebert’s model for critical contextualization (90), Travis’s six types of Christ-centered communities (91,92), the missional-incarnational-messianic-apostolic mode chart (158), the socio-dynamic view of ADEPT chart (174), the leadership styles and their relationship to organizational life cycle chart (179), the organizing a revolution chart (203), and the bounded, fuzzy, centered sets and theological structure of Hirsch’s old church charts (207-209). The chapters on Imagination and the Leadership Task (Chapter 11) and Organizing a Revolution (Chapter 12) are worthy of further study.