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Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century

This Spring I spent 2 days with the authors of The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century (by Australians Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch).  A couple of major things stand out for me that I wanted to pass on.

1. The BELLS acronym.   Blessing, Eating, Listen, Learn, Send

Each person in the community commits (or in their case covenants) to do the BELLS on an individual and corporate basis.

Blessing> 3 x a week: one from someone in the community, one from your target people group and the 3rd is your choice. This would simply be affirmation, words of encouragement, short blessing prayers, etc.

Eating>  3 x a week: one from someone in the community, one from your target people group and the 3rd is your choice. This would require you hosting a sit down meal 3 x a week.

Listen> one day a week for extended listening from God

Learn> one day a week for extended learning from God (focused on the Gospels, keeping Jesus the center!)

Send> acting as a missionary during the week. Sent to the neighborhood and "target group".

Once a week, then, the whole community gathers for a sit down meal and does the same BELLS, yet they do it all on a corporate level. The "send" is highlighting one person from the community who tells what they do for work and the others encourage them in that job and give them prophetic insights what God will do with them on the job, etc.

The functioning part of 1 Cor 14.26  (“When you come together brethren…”) would happen during the "Listen and Learn" time.

I found this a very usable and reproducible model with built-in outreach that is mealtime centered and blessing people. A common motif of the work is "Be a gift to someone who doesn’t know Christ"!

2. Core values need core practices.

Most Christians agree on the basic core values and principles (ie. worship, fellowship, transformation, witness, stewardship, passion for Jesus/the lost, etc.) but these values need to be expressed and lived out in real life!! Our trouble is not so much poor orthodoxy but poor orthopraxy!

Therefore, the core practices. Get people to commit or covenant to keeping them… not just “wishful thinking” about them. They used the phrase : "We need to re-monk ourselves" meaning we need more of a sense of being a single community, covenanted to reaching stated vision and values within our target people group (ie. stay-at-home moms, water skiers, upward mobile professionals, bikers, etc.)

3. Reaching Post-moderns

A big culture barrier in reaching Post-moderns is the following world-view: "I cannot trust people who profit by telling me something."   They suggest to think in terms of "unpaid laymen" and treat everybody in the community as a non-salaried missionary.

Another key issues is:

The 3rd Place (ie. 1st place is home, 2nd work) . This was made famous in the USA by the founder of Starbucks, who believed that people have a 3rd place where they really are themselves and want to meet with like minded people. Post-moderns are not attracted to "CEO- church" but are attracted to relationships with followers of Jesus. We need to make their 3rd place our 3rd place.

The problem in the USA is that for most Christians church is their 3rd place. There is no time left fior a "4th place"!! The church model we inherited from Europe in the 15th and 16th Centuries is attractional: “Come and worship with us.” We are in the center of town and everything rotates from here outwards!

“Missional church” on the other hand admits that “attractional church” has too many barriers in the way of 80% of the non-Christian culture and is not working anymore. Their battle cry is: We must take church to the people, meet where meet, living as Christ did- in their midst

Jeff Gilbertson

One reply on “Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century”

Thanks for this also, Jeff. I have read “The Shape of things to come”, I know Mike and have meet Allan, so I am familiar with the ideas. But your summary of BELLS was very helpful (I don’t specifically remember that from the book, at least not in that form). We are struggling to establish a house church (or rather, turn a house group into a missional house church), so this is very helpful. Thanks.

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