By Emily Ferguson
Alan Hirsch did not expect to find himself tucked away in Melbourne’s semi-rural outskirts for the majority of 2020.
A global thought-leader on missional movements and leadership – and the former of head of Mission and Revitalisation for Churches of Christ in Victoria/Tasmania – Alan fled his residence in a New York City ‘vertical village’ when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, only to find himself in another lockdown when he arrived back in his hometown.
His days are still busy – four to five hours are spent working online with some of North America’s most influential churches and missional movements, such as Tim Keller’s Redeemer City to City, Forge, NewThing and his own global Movement Leaders Collective. Much of the rest of his day is spent in study and prayer – an opportunity to embrace the “little budding monastic in me”, he admits.
When it comes to the Church, Alan says, “I feel like the time we’re in is somewhat what the Bible might mean by apocalyptic: an unveiling, pulling back the curtain, peek-a-boo, take a look. I think we’re having things exposed, such as our over-dependence on Sunday worship – which is important, but completely over-depended on.
“I think we’re being called to repent. ‘Metanoia’ [a Greek word] is big in my mind at the moment. Mind shift, paradigm shift – that’s what it means. I think God is saying to us, ‘be willing to have your minds expanded and let me lead you into a more dynamic, more faithful future’. If we’re willing to go there and to rethink everything in order to be a movement in our cities, I think we could find something happening!
“Right now, I feel the most significant thing we can do is call the Church back to an experience of Jesus Christ and to conformity to his way. For me, the main thing is: if the church doesn’t look and think like Jesus it’s probably not the Church. It’s something else – but it’s not the Church of Jesus Christ.”
Alan is deeply concerned as he looks across the Church in the West, but also sees strong hope.
“I think we’re being forced to discover ourselves in a radically new way – to discover smaller, new adaptive units of church. This is an opportunity to step more into faithful, dispersed expressions, and to re-equip the Church. We’ll get our gatherings back, but it won’t be the same, whether we like it or not.
“I could foresee if people do a thing on Sunday mornings and they gather in a local house somewhere, you can beam your services in. You can find ways through electronic media to keep the unity system as well as having diversity of expression and teaching people to be ministers in their cities, giving them tools for discipleship and evangelism – the activation of all God’s people.”
Alan celebrated his 60th birthday last year and has spent a lot of time thinking about how he wants to invest what he describes as his “legacy years”.
“I feel myself deeply defined as a custodian, or a steward, of certain ideas. I’m meant to deliver them. That’s my life’s purpose: to get these ideas delivered and understood and implemented, inasmuch as I can.
“What I do at the moment is run a thing called Movement Leaders Collective, which is a global community of people who lead movements or who are emerging into movement leadership. I do everything I can to enhance this group – that’s my people and I’m their pastor. It’s what I want to do with my legacy years.”
Alan Hirsch is widely considered to be a global thought-leader on missional movements and leadership. He has worked with churches and organisations across the world, but mainly in North America, Europe and Australia. Alan is the founder of 100 Movements, Forge Mission Training Network, and the 5Q Collective. All three organisations focus on pioneering leadership development and training, and consulting with the Church as missional movement.
Hirsch is the author of numerous award-winning books including The Forgotten Ways, The Shaping of Things to Come, ReJesus and The Faith of Leap, Untamed, Right Here, Right Now, On the Verge, and The Permanent Revolution.
His experience includes leading a local church movement among the marginalised, developing training systems for innovative missional leadership and heading up the Department of Mission and Revitalisation for the Churches of Christ in Victoria/Tasmania.
You can read more about Alan’s personal story in his book The Forgotten Ways.