I was very struck by this diagram summarising the missional movement of the church. It comes from Al Hirsch’s book ‘Right Here, Right Now’, written with Lance Ford.
The principle is simple – an Apostolic church-planting movement creates new communities of faith. Each of these communities is then a hub for the mission of the people of God – resourcing believers to live-out their faith in every sphere of life and culture. This results in a transformational movement, as influence multiplies and overlaps.
What struck me in the simple beauty of this approach is that it is exactly what we are seeing come into place in France. I have appreciated this kind of thinking in theory for many years, but it is something else again to see it emerge in practise. The ‘hubs’ in this understanding don’t need to be big, impactful mega-churches. In many ways it’s better if they aren’t, so that the gathered expression of church doesn’t steal all the attention / resources / life away from it’s dispersed expressions. In France, where a church of 200 is considered a great success, a missional hub can be just a few families. Gathered meetings can be in homes – as long as the hub is strong enough and creative enough to resource real mission in everyday life. The dispersed expressions are businesses, creative projects, homes, families, neighbourhood projects, all choosing to reflect in some way the gospel narrative. This is where the action is in Christian mission, and in truth it always has been. Mission is not expressed in the projects and products of the church but in the everyday lives of the body of Christ.
We’re excited about the potential of this approach in France for a number of reasons.
The first is that the more traditional form of mission has so resolutely failed. Inviting people to join the church through special events and activities in which they are challenged to ‘sign-up’ to a Christian worldview has proved counter-productive in most French settings.
The second is that under-the-radar approaches can and do work in France. The well-known French resistance to public evangelism does not, surprisingly translate into hostility towards personal faith. Once you’ve agreed not to set proselytism as your evident goal, and to work instead on real relationships in the context of shared cultural activities, France is as open and receptive a society as any.
The third reason is that while churches have to fight for influence and acceptance, individuals have it already. The people of God are already embedded deeply into French culture, through jobs, family networks, friendships and cultural activities. You don’t have to fight for relationship if you choose to value the relationships you already have.
In the old model, everything is against the church regaining a strong foothold in French society. The evangelical community is too small, too divided, too out-of-touch and too widely pilloried to hope for revival any day soon. But in this new model a small band of believers can have an unexpected and disproportionate influence.
Let’s see more churches planted in France – but only so that we can resource more businesses; more creative projects; more social and cultural leaders; more agents of daily transformation…