August 31, 2023 / Alan Hirsch

Metanoia: Wholehearted Change in Unprecedented Times

*Editorial Note: “Metanoia: Wholehearted Change in Unprecedented Times” was Alan Hirsch’s mind-blowing plenary session from Awakenings 2023. The keynote excerpts below comprise a portion of Alan’s plenary session, which asked, What is a faithful response to the apocalyptic and revelatory events of these times? This plenary focused on recovering the biblical understanding and application of ‘re/turn’ (Old Testament) and paradigm shift (New Testament). This ‘whole narrative’ biblical revelation offers us an amazing theory of change that addresses our prevailing sins and intransigencies as well as sparking imagination through radical transformation and mind-shift. Alan drew upon themes from his latest book, Metanoia, proposing that paradigm shift and re/turning is the only faithful way forward in these disrupted times.

Full Awakenings 2023 video and audio bundles are available as well.  ~CK

P.S. You are invited to dialogue further with Alan on this very topic, on Thursday, September 7th, 2023, at 1pm ET.

Register here for our free webinar, “In Our Pursuit of ‘The Gospel,’ Have We Lost Jesus? A Casual Conversation with Alan Hirsch and Lisa Rodriguez-Watson.”

Don’t miss this!


Sketchy Theology participated in Awakenings 2023 by creating these fantastic sketchnotes of most sessions. So great!

An Apocalyptic Moment

What a great privilege. I am grateful for the amazing work of Missio Alliance and really excited to be here again—at my fave conference — Shhh, don’t tell. And I thank Lisa Rodriguez-Watson for inviting me to talk on the topic of my latest book (Metanoia) which launches today, at this event. In my opinion, the people gathered here represent the hope of the evangelical church in the US. It’s humbling to be able to speak to you all, especially at such a time as this. 

It is fair to say that as we come together, and in these times, it feels like we are really living out the book of Revelation. We are living in Apocalyptic times. And I’m not only referring to the pandemic here! But also, I refer to all the ideological swirl, conspiracy theories, and lizard brain politics – manifestations no doubt of the powers and principalities — but also I mean the uncertainty around A.I., the unfolding environmental crisis, etc.  

One of the weirdest things that happened to me last year is that I actually met in person with Pope Francis. One of his comments that stuck with me is that we are experiencing World World 3, but only in pieces. Even if you don’t agree with the Pope, things certainly feel dramatic and life changing, don’t they? “Unprecedented;” “a turning point;” and “epochal” are but some of the words used in this season.

Apocalyptic, indeed.

And it is worth noting at this point, that John receives his revelation not because he is the quintessentially open spirit, but also because he finds himself in the extreme liminality of a Roman prison on the isle of Patmos — not a pleasant place by any stretch of the imagination.

The truth is that it often takes liminality to open our eyes to what is really happening – Like it does right now! 

It’s also worth reminding ourselves that the word ‘apocalypse’ really means to disclose, to reveal, to unveil, or to expose – ‘Peeakaboo’ in other words – The revealing of something previously obscured or hidden.

Something is being said to us in this moment. Something is being revealed and disclosed. There is an unveiling of deep underlying, mainly sinful and broken, patterns in corporate human culture as well within individual human souls. This unveiling consists of patterns of civilization so deep that they seem to replicate themselves indefinitely, until some climactic event exposes them for what they are – ultimately calling us to repent of our own complicity.

I think this is precisely what is going on today — what I call the apocalypse of the (American) ecclesial soul. We are seeing the social / political / ecclesial system with all of its flaws, its unfaithfulness, and its vulnerabilities. We have become aware of those deep principles and practices within our churches that will lead to our eventual destruction unless we repent. 

Metanoia – repentance – is a reboot of your entire system. Repentance resets the ecclesiastical system to the basic systems we see in the New Testament church. This repentance is a gift to the church. Share on X

What is super interesting with the Scriptural narrative is that the book of Revelation begins by calling the seven churches —which are in a real sense archetypal churches — to repent. Jesus affirms some aspects of these churches, highlights some deficiencies and sins, and threatens to remove their lamp stands if they don’t turn around (Greek: ‘metanoia’). If Jesus calls these original churches, and in some sense archetypal churches, to repentance, what makes us think we get a free pass when we corporately sin against God or collectively lose our way as the Church?

We, as the church of Jesus, should acknowledge and receive these events as a time for correction, refinement, and growth — both individually and collectively. 

What is God saying to us in this ‘kairos’ (time) of testing, in the midst of these intersecting global crises? Crisis is a word which Webster’s dictionary defines as “the point of time when it is to be decided whether any affair or course of action must go on, be modified, or terminate; the decisive moment; the turning point. ” This definition squares with the biblical term ‘krisis’ as a ‘sundering’ (separation), as the refining judgment of God that determines events.

A Multifaceted Crisis

This crisis for the church is multifaceted:

  1. It is a spiritual crisis. 
    • There is a pandemic of fear and anxiety, hatred and violence throughout society, and it’s emanating from deep within the evangelical church! This issue of spiritual bankruptcy by itself ought to be real cause for repentance. I believe that this alone is fueling the mass ‘deconstruction’ of evangelicalism going on in our day. Heck, I feel it churning on within myself! And I know I’m not alone. The revelatory events of the past 6 or so years has precipitated the biggest faith crisis I have felt since being a follower of Jesus. Not a crisis in God, but in the church!  
  2. It is a missiological crisis.
    • The church’s credibility and witness before a watching world has been seriously compromised. Our corporate inability to deliver Jesus’ message in a meaningful way has been spotlighted.
  3. It is a theological crisis.
    • We are forced to take a serious look at our understanding of God’s nature and his kingdom purposes in the world. It is time for us to repent of our various idolatries and ideologies that have narrowed our understanding of God.
  4. It is an ecclesiological crisis.
    • A fragile, unfaithful, and ineffective understanding of the church has been exposed. We must unearth our core, misguided paradigm, and redesign it from the ground-level up.
  5. It is a christological crisis.
    • It has become glaringly apparent that the church lacks clarity on the nature of Jesus and the centrality of his character and purpose in every dimension of our affairs. We must correct any fundamental misalignments and acknowledge that Jesus is the only legitimate center and measure of the church. It’s always ‘ReJesus time,’ but particularly so at present. Failure here means we fail everywhere.
We are experiencing a Christ-less Christianity. We then must ask – is what we are experiencing the Church? What we need is not gospel centrality nor biblical centrality, but a return to Christological centrality. Share on X

Apocalypse Reveals New Possibilities

But it is not all doom and gloom. As Gaby Viesca indicated in her introduction to Awakenings ’23, disruption also brings innovation. Apocalypse also reveals new possibilities and prizes. In the book of Revelation, Jesus promises great reward for the churches that overcome. And as Einstein noted, “In every crisis, lies great opportunity.” These possibilities were actually there all along, but we have managed to successfully avoid them because we simply keep repeating the old patterns. 

Isn’t it amazing that what we been being trying to do for so long, is now actually happening? For instance, Ed Stetzer noted in a personal conversation with me in the midst of Covid, that we have now all actually been sent.  We’ve been dispersed, kind of like the Jerusalem church in Acts. God used a season of persecution back then to ‘send the church outward’ and so spread the flame of the gospel. Is this now happening with us?

A mega-church pastor I was listening to noted that the church isn’t closing; but rather opening in hundreds of new places. 

If only we had eyes to see, and words to name what we are seeing.

People are open to God in new ways. The Body of Christ has been activated in a new way.

Isn’t this what we always wanted?

Isn’t this what Jesus (and the rest of the New Testament writers) points us toward?

Whatever threat or promise before us, we are being changed as we speak. Our hearts and minds must catchup to this reality. They must align. Isn’t this how ‘metanoia’ happens? If so, are we willing to respond?

We live in an era of multiple intersecting crises – crises of fear that are spiritual, missiological, theological, and ecclesiological in nature. But the most significant crisis we are experiencing in the church is Christological. Share on X


Alan Hirsch is the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. He leads 100 Movements, an initiative of Movement Leaders Collective with the audacious kingdom vision to invest in 100 Jesus-Movements to shift the tracks of history, and has founded Future Travelers and the 5Q Collective as well. Alan is considered to be a key missional thought-leader and strategist. He is the author of numerous award winning books, including The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements (2016), The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (2013), co-authored with Michael Frost, and 5Q: Reactivating the Original Intellegience and Capcity of the Body of Christ (2017). Alan is an adjunct professor at multiple seminaries and lectures globally. He is series editor for Baker Books’ Shapevine series, IVP’s Forge line, and a contributing editor of Leadership Journal. Alan’s newest book, Metanoia: How God Radically Transforms People, Churches, and Organizations From the Inside Out (2023), released at Awakenings 2023!

Register here for our free webinar, “In Our Pursuit of ‘The Gospel,’ Have We Lost Jesus? A Casual Conversation with Alan Hirsch and Lisa Rodriguez-Watson.”