Becoming a Level Five Church

by Alan Hirsch

Alan Hirsch

There is no doubt in my mind that we are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our day as we witness the adoption of a more movemental understanding of church. Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church, a book to which I am directly contributing, is an excellent primer in movement thinking. In it, Todd, Dave, and myself focus the conversation on the critical movement function of multiplication.

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The truth is that the overwhelming majority of churches in North America are either declining (what we call subtraction) or merely growing by addition. Neither of these will be sufficient to stem the decline of the church in North America. In fact this kind of thinking is probably part of the reason why we are in this situation in the first place. The concepts of church (ecclesiology) inherited from Europe and the Reformation are innately hard to reproduce and are designed to grow–if at all–by addition. But it’s going to take a different approach, what we call movement-thinking and movement-acting, if we are going to be able to move towards reproducing (level four) and multiplication (level five).

At the heart of the book is a scale of one to five in terms of capacities to multiply. The reader is asked to locate his or her place in that scale and to explore some of the issues that they will have to overcome to become a level five. It also exposes the rationale within the thinking and practices of the leader and the church that make it hard to transition to the next phase. The key task of leadership here is to first of all get a vision for multiplication and then recognize the nature of the built-in barriers to multiplication—what I like to call movement killers—and how to dislodge and change them. These barriers can be overcome through focused and concerted effort in strategic areas of the life of the church. Becoming Five shows how to realign the target, how to overcome the inertia of the system, how they might tip the system towards multiplication, as well as offering some useful clues about how change the church culture.

It is going to take real guts, vision, and determination to realign the system to achieve different outcomes.

To be honest, I think a lot of church leaders are going to find Becoming Five a compelling but pretty challenging read. This is partly because most of the leaders reading this book would likely want to grow through multiplication (called aspirational vision in this book) but have so much invested in the status quo built on subtraction or addition. It is going to take real guts, vision, and determination to realign the system to achieve different outcomes. We believe that the time is right, the holy discontent with the current approach is at a peak, and that God is still calling us to be his witnesses among the nations. The only way we are going to be more faithful in this is to become level five movements. We have work to do. Take the challenge and enjoy the journey!

Alan Hirsch is part of the Exponential team. He is founder of Forge Mission Training Network, 100Movements, and co-founder with Todd Wilson of Future Travelers. He is an award winning author and thought leader in the field of missional movements.