Changing Your Mind About Repentance with Alan Hirsch

I’ve been privileged to be invited into a group of Movement Leaders, led by Alan Hirsch. I wish it was in NYC again but it’s on interplanetary Zoom as so many things are right now. Alan just gave us some really challenging input on what Repentance really is and what it might mean for church in these days. Here are my notes…


It feels like we are living in apocalyptic, dramatic times – and we’re involved in the drama like Revelation. It’s a new experience for us, but it’s always been the world John describes in Revelation. A world in conflict. We are just less aware of it – and we need to become more aware! 

John receives that Revelation not just because he’s so open to God, but because he finds himself in a place of liminality, on Patmos. Liminality opens us up. 

Apocalypse means ‘unveiling what was always there.’ 

So – what does the Pandemic unveil? 

Some of the deep, underlying, sinful patterns that run so deep in the human psyche and structures. We are seeing the flaws in the system. That’s a gift to us.  To see the precarious world we live in. 

We can’t just try to return to normal. We must ask, “What’s God been trying to say to us?” 

Our natural condition and propensity, is to go with what we know. But that won’t take us into what we need to look and lead forward into. Because normal was not that great. 

Repentance possibility comes in a Kairos time. 

The church isn’t closing – it’s potentially opening everywhere! If we have the eyes to see, and the words to name what we have been seeing. Now we get to see the church unleashed! Whether by threat or promise – we are being changed. 

The issue at the heart of this is REPENTANCE – as individuals and institutions. 

Do we actually know what it means? It doesn’t seem like it. We think it’s ‘I did wrong so I confess my sins.’ It’s way more than that. 

  1. It’s Reorienting your life – to TURN. 

Turning back to God. Convert. 

  • It’s Reframing how you see – metanoia. 

Literally ‘thinking above or beyond what you’re thinking now.’ Paradigm shift. It means having your mind blown! Those experiences where you can never see the same way again after this.

“The Truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”

So often we have held onto our little piece of the truth as if it’s the whole truth – that is way bigger than that. Like the old story about all those blind men trying to figure out what an elephant from what they can feel. That leaves a very small God, pieced into one dimensional doctrines. The gospel is so much bigger than the church can contain. 

  • It’s Responding in ways and actions consistent with having repented! 

Why is this important? 

  • Because any move closer to God involves repentance. It smashes our idols. Grace comes to show us God is bigger
  • If you fall in love with your system, you’ll never change it. Do not get so attached to your cause that you cannot let it go. Tradition can become traditionalism so quickly. 
  • We have to be adaptive, playful, experimental, childlike again. Keep asking, what are we not seeing? What is not on our current map? 
  • When the flaws of a system are revealed, we have a response-ability to do something. You have to reboot, recalibrate, reset. 

How do we do that? 

We have to engage;  

  • HEART 
  • SOUL (mind) and 
  • WILL to change the HEART.  

It’s not good enough to just say ‘sorry’. There are processes to go through. The mind (of the organisation) – must first unlearn, to relearn, to realign around Jesus. Get back in line with him. The will must assess our choices and recommit or commit to new ones. 

The big question is… “WHAT IS GOD TRYING TO SAY TO US?” 

We have become so over reliant on particular ways of being and doing church. The challenge of leadership now is to lead – and not just get through it but come through into what the Lord has been telling us and many of us have been dreaming of for so long? An adaptive ecclesiology for the 21st Century.