Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Forgotten Ways - Alan Hirsch

On holiday I read Alan Hirsch’s book “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.”  Hirsh is a missionary at heart serving in urban Australia.  He is a practitioner who gets on with the job, but also a thinker who reflects biblically on the changing culture we are seeking to engage in God’s mission.  Alan challenges his readers to look back to our roots and remember what we so easily forget.  We are called to be a community of people under the lordship of Jesus, defining ourselves and organising our life around being an agent of God’s mission to the world.  This is true both here and there, on the Taieri and in Thailand!

What stops us being active in God’s mission like this?  Sometimes we forget that we are called to be disciples – apprentices who are learning from the Master.  All the congregations at East Taieri Church will be participating in a series in August titled “Called on By God Together.”  It aims to reaffirm our sense of being called to be followers of Jesus, who help others to follow also.  Sometimes we lose confidence in the gospel, forgetting that we are sent out with marvellous news to share.  This is part of the reason I’m keen to host one of the African Christians the Church Missionary Society are bringing here in 2014. They have a white-hot faith in the gospel.

But in Hirsch’s book I read: “for we who live in the Western world, the major challenge to the viability of Christianity is not Buddhism, with all its philosophical appeal the Western mind, nor is it Islam, with all the challenge that it poses to Western culture. It is not the New Age that poses such a threat... I have come to believe that the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism.  This is a far more heinous and insidious challenge to the gospel, because in so many ways it infects each and every one of us.”[p.106]

Our identity, meaning and purpose are found in Christ, and not in consuming ever more sophisticated goods and services, not even religious goods and services. 

Positively, Hirsch looks at the early church and the growing Chinese church and asks what makes them tick?  He describes the DNA of a missional church as mDNA (missional DNA).  It is this mDNA which codes the “apostolic genius” which pulses through the early church and apostolic Jesus movements through history. [p.76] His working definition of missional church is: “a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world.” [p.82]

He explains the key components of this mDNA using the following diagram.  The heart is having Jesus as Lord.  (Not as simple a thing as we first imagine).  He goes on to expand on each of the other five key elements.