The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church


“How can the church in the West reimagine itself after 1700 years of living within Christendom? Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim address reestablishing the building blocks of the five-dimensional ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. While a number of books have addressed this radical challenge, none have done so with such depth, comprehensiveness, scholarly engagement, and prophetic forthrightness. It could provide the urgently needed catalyst for the revitalization of a tired and entrenched church.”—Eddie Gibbs, senior
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The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church

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“How can the church in the West reimagine itself after 1700 years of living within Christendom? Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim address reestablishing the building blocks of the five-dimensional ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. While a number of books have addressed this radical challenge, none have done so with such depth, comprehensiveness, scholarly engagement, and prophetic forthrightness. It could provide the urgently needed catalyst for the revitalization of a tired and entrenched church.”—Eddie Gibbs, senior professor, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary


“At a time when being ‘apostolic’ has great appeal, this book is a biblical reality check. Alan Hirsch, along with Tim Catchim, brings his trademark skill of integrating theological, organizational, and sociological insights, as well as his good-natured love of the gospel and God’s people. This is sure to become a standard text in the field of church leadership studies.”—Michael Frost, author, The Road to Missional and The Shaping of Things to Come


  “This book, written by one of the foremost missional thinkers of our day, addresses what I believe to be the most necessary and neglected of subjects—the equipping gifts of Ephesians 4:11. It opens the Pandora’s box of missional inquiry so the rest of us can try and get our minds on a subject of wide consequence that will not likely settle back down.”—Neil Cole, founder, Church Multiplication Associates; author, Organic Church, Church 3.0, and Journeys to Significance


“Church leaders are increasingly aware that the big shift for us is to move from managing an institution to leading a movement. Our learning curve is steep. We need help in reimagining and redesigning our leadership beliefs and practices. This volume helps us do exactly that.”—Reggie McNeal, author, The Present Future, Missional Renaissance, and Missional Communities



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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470907740
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/28/2012
  • Series: Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series , #57
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 960,093
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Alan Hirsch is the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. Currently he helps lead an innovative learning program, called Future Travelers, helping numerous megachurches become missional movements. He is an award-winning author, international speaker, and a strategist for numerous organizations.

Tim Catchim is a grassroots church planter experimenting with innovative forms of mission. While working as a church planting assistant and evangelist with the Montgomery (Alabama) Inner City Ministry, he started a mentor program for at-risk youth that gained state recognition. He also started an intensive summer internship that trained students to do missional-incarnational forms of ministry among the urban poor. He is currently planting a network of missional communities in Clarksville, Tennessee. He also serves as the founder and director of Generate, a coaching and consultancy agency for apostolic ventures.


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Table of Contents

Foreword (Darrell L. Guder)

Preface: A Briefing for the Journey

Introduction: The Crisis of Infertility and What to Do About It

Part One: Ephesians 4:1–16: Frameworks for Ministry

1 Activating the Theo-Genetic Codes of APEST Ministry

2 An Elegant Solution: Distributed Intelligence in the Body of Christ

3 Better Together: The Synergy of Difference

4 Missional Ministry for a Missional Church: A Church Where Everyone Gets to Play

Part Two: Apostolic Ministry

5 Custody of the Codes: Mapping the Contours of Apostolic Ministry

6 Come Back, Peter; Come Back, Paul: The Relation Between Nuance and Impact

7 Living from the Center: Apostolic Ministry and the Renewal of Christianity

Part Three: Apostolic Leadership

8 The Enterprise of Movement and the Movement of Enterprise

9 The Spirit of Innovation: Creating New Futures for the Jesus Movement

Part Four: Apostolic Organization

10 Movements R Us: Thinking and Acting Like a Movement

11 Apostolic Architecture: The Anatomy of Missional Organization


Appendix: A Question of Legitimacy: The Restoration


The Authors


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Interviews & Essays

The basic trouble [with the modern church] is that the proposed cure has such a striking similarity to the disease. —Elton Trueblood

In a revolutionary era... you need to learn to think and act like a revolutionary. People in revolutions who don't act that way have a particular name: victims. —Joshua Ramo Cooper

We can all recall the almost ubiquitous stories about a renegade hero who was once famous and brilliant, who has now found himself rejected, scorned, and cast aside—think Jack Bauer in the 24 series here if you need an example. Mocked by his peers, alienated from all but a few friends, given to alcohol binges, and generally feeling very sorry for himself, the protagonist is all alone and given up as a loser. However, the plot soon reveals that the very organization and people that rejected him (usually the police, the special ops unit in the military, or in Bauer's case CTU) realize that the fallen hero is the only person who can resolve a particular problem. Our hero, now freshly deputized, enters into the fray and ends up saving the day.

The reason why this theme is so prolific in the countless stories, poems, and movies is that it is mythic. And it is mythic because it points to some real, lived, experience in human affairs. There is a wisdom deeply embedded into our myths that tell us that many of the answers we need will come in the form of radical outliers, people who exist on the margins of what is considered conventional. The mythbecomereal involves the profound recognition that these exiled heroes are in some real sense what we really needed to resolve the issues we currently face—that the answer does not come from within the existing state of affairs, but rather from outside the ingrained understandings of what is considered normal and conventional. As in the many movies we see, the outlier does bring the muchneeded dissonance into the status quo, a dissonance which jolts the system out of complacency, initiates a learning journey, and results in the eventual resolution of the problem at hand.

Whilst deemphasizing the silverbullet bravado side of the myth, we nonetheless think that this myth of the exiled hero is entirely applicable to the nature of our dilemma—the exiling of the APE's fits this narrative—and reflects our desperate need to reembrace them in our own day. We need to reembrace and reintegrate the ministries of the apostle, prophet, and the evangelist with those of the shepherd and teacher.


How did the shepherdteacher model of leadership come to occupy such an exclusive place in the church's life? How could the other three vocations of apostle, prophet and evangelist drift so far from sight that they hardly even make it on the map, much less into our vocabulary and conversations about leadership? We believe that the answer to this question lies in the unique nature of the APEST itself and the outcomes when the system becomes dysfunctional. As we have seen, each ministry type produces a certain ministry impact that together produces a holistic result. But the opposite is also true, when each ministry, taken by itself, divorced from the other ministries, it produces a dysfunctional, aberrant, result in the people of God.

So, for instance, the Shepherd and Teacher (ST) will tend to design more stable environments where people can learn to relate and grow in their understanding of the faith. However, as the learning and maturing are to be lifelong activities, communities led primarily by these ST's will lack urgency and will likely concentrate on issues relating to longterm sustainability. The net result will be to move inexorably towards a state of what living systems theorists call equilibrium.

The ST functions are ones that bring needed equilibrium into the system. And this is completely necessary for longterm sustainability—few can survive in chaos situations for too long. The problem however, arises when the ST functions become disengaged from the full APEST system. The result is that much needed balancing with disequilibrium producing ministries is undone. When this happens, the dialectical pressure is removed and equilibrium becomes a settled state...and when a living system is in perfect equilibrium it is effectively dead.

Jeffrey Goldstein in his insightful book The Unshackled Organization describes equilibrium as the state in which a system is at rest or not changing. At equilibrium an organization seeks to stay the same, simply repeating its habitual patterns and in a sense over relying on solutions that worked for it in the past. He notes that as a result "it is a condition of the lowest organization and complexity." And because of the addiction to the stable state and to past approaches, the emergence of any new patterns of behavior in the system are experienced as opposition to the deeper, more dominant force of equilibrium. "

The truth is that organizations in this state are extremely difficult to change—even when their very survival is being threatened. This is because equilibrium, like any death, is experienced incrementally, as an encroachment, slowly creeping up on the unwitting subject. Humans are classic deniers of our own impending death...the same is precisely true for all human organizations. In fact, in many ways institutions are Babellike attempts to perpetuate life and thus deny death.

And should the organization and its leadership perchance rouse from its death slumbers, alert to the danger, in most cases it would probably be too late to do anything about it. Is this not the sad pattern involved in almost every closure of a local church or the decline of entire denominations? The real problem here is assuming that the dying organization (along with the incumbent leadership that led it to that condition in the first place) were actually willing to pay the price for change, by the time it makes that decision it will likely lack the internal resources (both theological and ministerial) to do anything about it. All the generative resources needed would have been already invalidated and/or ejected from the organization long before. Therefore such organizations will lack the theological architecture, a deepseated sense of apostolic urgency, or the leadership capacity to solve their own problems. If at all, these would have to be 'imported' from outside.

And just so that we are not being misunderstood here, we want to assert again that it's not that the ST variation of leadership intends to produce such stifling equilibrium. We fully believe that the vast majority of Christian leaders are sincere in their desire to serve God and his people in whatever way they can, and thankfully very few willfully intend to damage the church and its mission. What we are saying is that ST forms of ministry are simply not wired to produce missional movement— as community builders and wise philosophers it's not what they were designed to produce in the first place. Rather ST's provide the integrative/operative aspects of ministry, whereas the APE's furnish us with the more generative/adaptive forms.

This just underscores yet again that all ministries are intended by Jesus to be part of the broader, synergistic, interplay between various other ministry types. Each type contributes something that the others cannot. APEST represents an organic whole in which none are meant to operate independently of the other—we are called into a body function where there is significant diversity of ministry form and expression.

All this highlights the need for the reinstatement of the permanent revolution originally intended in Ephesians4. That it is permanent and inbuilt is highlighted in verses 7 & 11 where we learn that Jesus has placed, indeed permanently given (here expressed in two aorist indicatives of didomi), the intrinsic capacities to his people to keep them precisely from such a situation. Here is the algorithm of ecclesial maturity: the internal selfrenewing system that we need to keep on the journey and to fulfill our tasks.


Living systems approaches rightly note that all living systems resist change and tend towards equilibrium. The status quo is called that for good reason, and it has a long history of, and an inbuilt capacity to, resist change. In other words, resistance to change is entrenched into the system caught in status quo. This means that when trying to stimulate change and activate mission, church leaders will need to be very prepared for some conflict. Churches that are used to equilibrium will resist being moved out of the somewhat predictable, safe routine they have settled into overtime.

Furthermore, we need to recognize that the very equilibrium itself is produced and maintained by the incumbent leadership that created that condition in the first place! Leaders are part of the system one way or another. And we must recognize that it is not easy for anyone to acknowledge culpability because it means taking responsibility for failure to grow and advance the cause. Pride, ego, paradigm blindness, and vested interests are not easily exposed. But we can trust the Holy Spirit, that he desires his church to grow, and we can trust that the deepest instincts of every Christian will resonate with the missional calling of God's people. These can, and must be awakened. And when they are, we can be sure it is a work of God's grace. However, if leaders and/or members of any organization is not willing to reengage the missional Spirit and go where he leads us—and it will inevitably mean change—then it is highly doubtful whether the much needed adaptation can take place.

And so organizational dynamics, spiritual warfare, and plain human nature conspire to play their part in perpetuating the monopoly of the more maintenance driven forms of organization and leadership. As the collective representation of human concerns, organizations almost inevitably develop an uncanny capacity to actively resist change. Haven't we all heard that ageold bureaucratic refrain "we just don't do things like that around here!" The sad truth is that unless the necessary precautions are taken, over time all organizations tend to become more important than their founding mission. When this happens they will actively enforce conformity, codify behavior, and actively weed out dissent. In other words, they tend to equilibrium and resist disequilibrium.

It is because of this that innovators are seen as rebels, dissenters, and upstarts. They are almost always marginalized because their very existence and nature implies that things are not as they should, or could, be. In other words, the very act of innovation involves an implied critique. Any suggestion that there might be more to ministry than shepherding and teaching can invite the full range of responses, ranging from more mild "unbiblical", to suggesting that those proposing a broadening of the categories are 'cultish', or that the wouldbe apostles and prophets are simply power hungry people who are trying to lord it over the flock.

And there is no doubt that there have been APE type people who do fit any or all this descriptions. But demagoguery and power mongering are certainly not limited to the APE claimants. For instance, the Inquisition, surely the ugliest chapter in church history, was initiated and operated by ST's no less—all in the name of religious conformity and ideological control! The truth is all humans are susceptible to misuse of power and to wrong motives, and history amply indicates that the priestly classes who have monopolized leadership roles in the church up to this point have had more than their share of abusive power. In fact priestly types of abuse are possibly one of the worst because it violates people where they are most vulnerable (in their relation to God) and bears false witness to the Gospel. This is not about laying blame in either direction, but is a call to a muchneeded selfawareness on the part of those defending the status quo.

This dismembering of the Body of Christ has done violence to the ministry of Christ through his church. More specifically, it has meant that the more generative forms of ministry, representing as they do the impulses that naturally drive us towards missional engagement, spiritual renewal, cultural revitalization, and ecclesial innovation, have been negated in that process. In many ways, this process has taken something of the adventure of missionality out of the venture of church. Rather than audaciously engaging the significant challenges that we face, we have become known as being an overly defensive religion, conservatively defending its ground and trying to hold on to its diminishing status in Western society.

We do well to remember at this point that it is a key task of Christian leadership to lead the church into God's purposes and future—it's a Kingdom of God affair. This involves significant risk and requires that we overcome our impulses for safety and security and to burrow down in fear and defensiveness. The great commission is hardly a call to safety and equilibrium! And we should also remind ourselves that Jesus never promised that the church would be 'safe' but rather that he will be with them in their ordeal of witness. (John 16:33, 2Cor.1, Hebrews 1112, 1Peter, etc). Surely we need to reembrace the exiled ministries in order to creatively engage the challenges we face.

2Alan has written an entire text with Michael Frost that explores the role of adventure, courage, and risk in the church, mission, discipleship, and leadership. See Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, The Faith of Leap.

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