Born to Run
Got up at 5am then went for a run around the Lake at the bottom of the hill that Alan Hirsch lives on. I put together a playlist for the run – including the classic Mammas and Pappas song “California Dreaming.” I struggle to be away from the family for a whole week – but want to take the opportunity this trip provides to dream a little about how to take forward three of the initiatives I am working on with the Evangelical Alliance.
Spending the morning with Alan Hirsch generated lots of ideas – I recorded an interview with him that hopefully will appear at some stage. But the big idea that stuck in my brain was Alan’s self description as an Inceptor of ideas into the church. As a prolific author (one of Alan’s book has sold 60 000 copies alone) and speaker and adjunct faculty member at Fuller, George Fox and a host of other seminaries. 52 year old Hirsch is not leading a major organisation, he does not have a steady income from one major job. Instead he is writing and speaking to earn his living. But more than that Alan sees his primary calling is to be someone that helps the church engage with new (yet forgotten) ideas. The image is of course taken from the film Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Where a new form of psychological espionage focusses not on stealing ideas but on giving them away – implanting them into someone’s mind. As a benevolent inceptor of ideas Alan has had and continues to have huge influence to a wide range of church groups and streams. He has introduced the term “attractional church” to distinguish them from missional churches – in fact together with Mike Frost Alan has played a huge part in normalising the missional church language.
I am intrigued by this model of ministry – perhaps in the digitally re-landscaped world we live in this role is increasingly important as the old linear authoritarian structure that dominate so many of our churches and organisations are not the best way to see change – but rather a locally grounded, missionally experienced, digitally savvy inceptor might be just the kind of change agent we need.
Hospitality and Community
I had not met Alan before last night – yet he offered me a place to stay in his beautiful and inviting community house. A brilliantly diverse group of people live together: a married couple, two single professionals and a mother and her amazingly bright 9 year old daughter. It was a lovely community to visit for 24 hours and another demonstration of the way that Alan and his wife Deb practice what they preach finding new ways to live out the gospel. I am grateful for the time to learn from Alan and his friends and will experiment with following in a small way in his footsteps as an inceptor of ideas.
Kara Powell of the fuller youth institute was the next person it was my privilege to meet in Pasadena. Kara’s work on “Sticky Faith” is an advanced parallel of the work we have been doing on “It takes a whole church to raise a child.” Sticky Faith is really hitting a nerve as the US church struggle to hold on to its young adults and so Kara is much in demand as a speaker and educator. I was able to grab a quick lunch with her looking for advice on how to take the “It takes a whole church” initiative further. Kara is a whirlwind of ideas, analysis and anecdotes. It was hard to keep up with the flow of insight and wisdom. I came away inspired and challenged: real change in the lives of young people is possible but the challenge comes when we think of the scale of reconfiguring that needs to take place if the church is going to find a way to help young adults not just survive in their faith into adulthood but actually thrive and grow. How can we empower youth workers to take themselves seriously as grown up members of the church? how do we help parents to be disciple makers? How do we navigate the politically loaded world of evangelicalism so that the reimaging of children’s and youth ministry to work with parents is not hijacked by a male headship / complimentarian agenda nor a retreat from the wider culture into the homeschooling-is-the-only-way ghetto. Kara gave me some fantastic ideas and i am looking forward to thrashing them out soon.