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Book Review: The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch

Hirsch, Alan. 2006. The forgotten ways: reactivating the missional church. Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press.

 

Alan Hirsch is a pastor, speaker, and the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network, focused on developing missional leaders in western contexts.  He is coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church and author of, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.  He has served as the Director of Mission and Revitalization for his denomination in Australia.  Hirsh has experience in church planting and mission for many years in inner city Melbourne, Australia. 

The thesis of this book is that the Western church is in need of a paradigm shift of foundational proportions, a return to the roots of Christian mission and church, to unlock the hidden and forgotten missional DNA deep inside which, can issue new life and purpose for the church in the world. 

Hirsch argues his thesis in two main sections.  In the first section, Hirsch uses his personnel narrative to present some key ideas discovered through his life and ministry experience.  These ideas have significantly influenced his understanding of church.  Via this narrative, Hirsch hopes to take the reader through a missional reading of the situation that he feels the church in the West finds itself within. 

In the second section, Hirsch sets out to describe what he calls the Apostolic Genius, the energy and force that permeates significant Christian expansion in history (:274).  This Apostolic Genius seems to have at its core a missional DNA (mDNA) found in every believer.  Hirsch identifies six elements of this mDNA, Jesus is Lord, Disciple Making, Missional-Incarnational Impulse,  Apostolic Environment, Organic Systems,  Communitas, Not Community (:25).  It is by rediscovering our forgotten mDNA, that the Church rediscovers its purpose. 

Hirsch has written a monumental book that encompasses careful thought, reflection, interaction and experience.  His study of the seminal writings, theological thinkers, and Church philosophers is evident.  Hirsch presents us with a text that brings many of the current thoughts on missions, ecclesiology, post modernity, and the Western Church together into a practical resource for rediscovering and unlocking our Christian imagination.  We can sum all of this information up with one simple line of text, “We must live our truth” (:114). 

Yet, how does one live our truth?  Like Hirsch, I think that the answer can be found by focusing on discipleship.  A critical component of mDNA, discipleship directly affects the modern church.  Discipleship is the hinge on which we turn; it is the point of the journey of transformation in Christ likeness.  Many times, we replace discipleship with ministry, yet our call is to transformation so that God accomplishes his ministry through us. Moreover, what is the result of God’s ministry through our lives… reconciliation and discipleship.

This is not to say that discipleship comes before mission and ministry.  That misses the point completely.  Hirsch tells us that, “We need to act our way into a new way of thinking” (:123).  The willingness to act on that which we do not know completely is faith.  It is in such action that we live into the truth that we are discovering and allow God to transform us under his control.  This is the idea of the ex nihlo or void that is necessary for God to minister through our lives to the world.  This void acts as a signpost to those observing, it says this is not by my own power but by the power of God who by Grace chooses to use those whom seem not capable and insignificant for the glory of his kingdom. 

 

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