Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit


I was reading On the Verge: A Journey Into the Apostolic Future of the Church (Exponential Series) this afternoon. Alan Hirsch describes ethos in the fifth chapter. He likens it to the operating system of a computer. It is in many ways the culture of a church. His discussion prompted me to consider the environment of decision-making at our church. In most churches decision-making meetings begin with prayer. We usually ask God for direction and wisdom in our praying. Yet this is often the last reference to God in our conversation. We debate how decisions will be received, who will be impacted and often lean into personal preferences. Hirsch asserts,

Decision-making in a church that refers everything to Jesus ought to be markedly different from decision-making in one that doesn’t, because the church that does is held by the primary commitment at the deepest possible level to becoming more and more like him. (Kindle location 2410)

We have spent considerable time rethinking our decision-making in recent years. Perhaps this element of church life is an essential part of our ethos. The way that we do business should not be like the world. It should be markedly different. Hirsch suggests that we replace the word church with the word movement. He insists that our vocabulary influences our ethos.

As a church leader, I am challenged by this idea of ethos. I am sure that changes in congregational ethos do not happen overnight. Sometimes it takes years to shift the mindset, the culture. I am also sure that we have much work to do to bring about needed changes in how we function. I like the word movement. Maybe we should consider using this language. Hirsch includes a quote from H. R. Niebuhr at the beginning of this chapter. It aptly describes the adjustment needed in our context.

There are essential differences between institutions and movements: the one is conservative the other progressive; the one is more or less passive, yielding to influences from the outside, the other is active influencing rather than being influenced; the one looks to the past, the other to the future . . . the one is anxious, the other is prepared to take risks; the one guards boundaries, the other crosses them. – Niebuhr (Kindle Location 2257)