Monday, January 03, 2005



For those planting churches in today’s postmodern America, the challenges can sometimes be overwhelming. Allellon Ministries was created to provide encouragement and direction for those who dare to take up the calling. Todd Hunter is the co-director of Allelon (which is the Greek word for “one-another”), a foundation working toward planting “missional communities” across the United States. In part two of an interview with Hunter, RELEVANT spoke with him about the state of Christianity in modern America and how to find our way out of the spiritual slump we’re currently in.

Hunter knows that the modern Church is facing much more difficult opposition today than the Church of recent history. “In my day we struggled with whether or not it was okay to use a guitar in worship or if we could wear sandals or shorts to church. These days the Church is dealing with issues of more weight like, ‘Is the Bible authoritative?’ and ‘Is there truth and can you know it?’ and things like moral relativism.”

Hunter uses creative language to help express how modern Christianity got to be in the shape it’s in today. “I think the easiest way to get a grasp of this is to take an idea from Systems Theory, [which] came into popular culture from Peter Senge and the business logic that says, ‘Your systems are perfectly designed to produce the results you’re now getting.’ So, what I want to say is, [the modern Church] is in this position today precisely because of what we’ve been doing. When I hear people say we need better leadership and slicker vision casting and all that, I want to say, ‘No, that’s why we’re in this position, and if we want to change the outcome, we have to change the system.’ To me that is primarily a theological statement. It’s about giving people a new imagination for what it means to be a Christian.”

Hunter offers his perspective on what sort of mindset a modern Christian should take when attempting to make an impact for Christ today. “I think we need to go back to being missionaries. Whether one likes the word ‘postmodernity’ or not, the intellectual and ethical landscape has changed today. I don’t really care what label you put on it, but something’s happening, and clearly the position of church in society is changing. If that’s the truth, then a new culture has come to our shores in the form of postmodernity. And we have to think like missionaries; we cannot act like pastors in Christendom who are setting up a franchise.”

Hunter takes the idea of being missionaries in one’s own culture seriously. He feels that we need to approach our own culture as if we don’t live here, and therefore cannot make any assumptions about who those outside the Church are and where they’re coming from. “In the words of Leonard Sweet,” Hunter said, “’I’m an immigrant to this culture; I’m not a native.’ Now, my son who’s 18, he’s a native.”

Once we can grasp the idea that the Gospel is more than a set of events frozen in time and shift over to a more “day-to-day” walk with Christ, what’s the next step? Hunter agrees that this is the greatest challenge of all, but suggested a three-fold plan of attack. “It seems to me that there’s a teaching, a prophetic and an evangelistic component that has to happen. I think the teaching thing is that somebody just needs to explain everything we’ve been talking about. In the same way that there were tracts that explained the old version of the Gospel, we need people who can explain the real Gospel of the kingdom and who can locate the cross on that map, so that people don’t get the impression that Jesus’ death doesn’t mean anything, because that’s certainly not what we’re saying. We just need to locate that fact [of the cross] on a different map.

“Then I think there’s a prophetic component, like the prophets of the Old Testament who constantly were calling Israel back into faithfulness to her covenant partnership with God to be salt and light. So, we need prophets who can, in really dramatic and powerful ways, call Christians back into being the people of God.

“The evangelistic component is about finding new ways to succinctly tell this story and help people make a decision to live in this new reality.”

Hunter also suggested that perhaps the solution to reaching people may not be as complicated as we sometimes try to make it. “I used to get together and meet with a small group of people, sometimes four or five, sometimes 10 or 20, and we’d sit together at a local coffee shop and read The Message together and just talk about it. I take no heroic credit for that because that’s just the way I’m wired. I like people, and I like to learn their stories, and that’s just what I enjoy doing. But, I do see a potential in a more conversational way of teaching and learning,” he said.

Hunter’s true passion is still getting down on the ground level with pastors and worship leaders, wrestling with issues large and small on a daily basis. He loves encouraging those who are out there trying their best to daily plant churches across the country, and who really do their best to model what it means to be a follower of Christ. “When you take the Spirit and the text, together with community and reaching out to people where they are, along with a good facilitator to make it work, I think you’ve got the right combination to really communicate with people.”
[Keith Giles is writing his own story about his time in the wilderness and putting together a few subversive projects of his own in his spare time. You can see one of them at]

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