Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Book Review: “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church” by Alan Hirsch, 2006, Bazos Press, 272 pp.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

The seminal idea in "The Forgotten Ways" is that the contemporary church must rediscover the "Apostolic Genius" that lead to the explosive expansion of the church in the early centuries of the Christian era and which can also be seen in the growth of the underground house church in China today. This "mDNA" (missional DNA) has six interrelating elements: Jesus is Lord, Disciple Making, Missional-Incarnational Impulse, Apostolic environment, Organic Systems, and Communitas, Not Community. Each of these elements is fleshed out in the ensuing chapters with examples offered from cutting edge ministries (with a special view to the Australian scene).

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

I'd have to say Hirsch's book was one of the most thought provoking reads I have had in a while. He does a good job of seeking to be biblically faithful, tied to the early church ethos, and yet radically missional in contemporary culture. He sounds a warning against the liberal church ("Liberalism comes later in the life of a movement and usually is a clear signal of decline") and also against the established church mired in traditional structures and thinking ("all great missionary movements start at the fringe of the church"). His ideas seem a bit unrealistic (open a restaurant that can become a "third place" for the lost and Christians to interface), but pushing the envelope is the only way to reach the lost, so who can fault him for his creativity? He is also given to "Constantine bashing" as he idealizes life in the early church. This seems to be common to many: align yourself with the early church (or your take on it) as you critique institutionalism or "Christendom".

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

I can find value in each of Hirsch's chapters. I suppose the greatest challenge is to become more "Missional-incarnational" in ministry and lifestyle. We cannot expect to reach people with attractional "come and see" ministries. Rather we must adopt "go and tell" mindset and strategies to reach our communities. Like Jesus we must come with Presence, Proximity, Powerlessness, and Proclamation (p.132). We've got to figure out how to "structure our lives as leaders, our money, and people in ways that propel missional activities"

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 109 "In the modern and postmodern situation, the church is forced into the role of being little more than a vendor of religious goods and services. And the end-users of the church's services (namely, us) easily slip into the role of discerning, individualistic consumers, devouring the religious goods and services offered by the latest and best vendor"

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