Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways. Reactivating the missional church. Brazo Press, 2006.
A.H.- founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. Church planter.
Hirsch is an outspoken representative of the emerging church camp. The endorsements for this book come from that camp. That designation would put him at odds with church leaders of the institutionalized church found in most denominational organizations. The reading of this book will seriously mess with your ‘comfort zone’ as you become exposed to what Alan calls Apostolic Genius.
There have been amazing phenomena of explosive growth of Christianity, e.g. the early church, the growth of Christianity in China after Mao Tse-tung’s Cultural Revolution, etc. “It is the central task of this book to try to give a name to these phenomena and to try to identify the elements that constitute it” (intro)
“All great missionary movements begin at the fringes of the church. Most great movements of mission have inspired significant and related movements of renewal in the life of the church.” (30) Churches must transition from being attractional to engaging culture on its own turf. This calls for a “proximity space”, (37) where interaction on a broad scale can take place. Disciple-making becomes an indicator of success when this happens.
“Apostolic Genius” (78) is the key to explosive Christian growth. At its center is the Lordship of Jesus. The ‘elements’ of Apostolic Genius are, “Disciple-making, Missional-Incarnational Impulse, Apostolic Environment, Organic Systems, and Communitas not Community.” (79) Together these elements become the “mDNA” (79) (m is missional) of Apostolic Genius. “The rest of this book will be an attempt to describe these aspects of Apostolic Genius by identifying, defining, and translating each aspect of the mDNA into our context in the West.” (79)
Discipleship in a believer is a process that is never completed. “The major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism.” (106) “The quality of the church’s leadership is directly proportional to the quality of discipleship.” (119)
“The missional-incarnational impulse- is the impetus and patterning of Jesus movements over space and time.” (128) This element is in contrast with the contemporary church focus of “the evangelistic-attractional mode”.
The apostolic environment is represented by the ministries listed in Eph. 4:7,11-12, ‘apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral and teaching/didactic. The body of Christ was never meant to become an institution but rather remain an organic ‘body’ experiencing organic growth. Such grow this described as “viral growth”. (210) There is a difference between reproduction (early church) and cloning (institutional church).
The fifth element of Apostolic Genius is “communitas” (217) (an instructured community in which people are equal, or to the very spirit of community characterized by liminality- Wikipedia) e.g. Israel during the Exodus.
“This book has been about bringing to light a lost potential that has lain hidden at the very heart of God’s people for much too long.” (245)