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The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church Paperback – April 1, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"Hirsch has discovered the formula that unlocks the secrets of the ecclesial universe like Einstein's simple . . . formula (E=mc²) unlocked the secrets of the physical universe. There are some books good enough to read to the end. There are only a few books good enough to read to the end of time. The Forgotten Ways is one of them."
--Leonard Sweet (from the foreword)

"With The Forgotten Ways, Alan Hirsch has brought us closer to the reality of seeing a true apostolic church-planting movement in the West. This is a seminal work that will change our thinking, our vocabulary, and hopefully our way of being the church in this new century. I have already read the book twice and will probably devour it again."
--Neil Cole, author of Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens and Cultivating a Life for God

"A full-blooded and comprehensive call for the complete reorientation of the church around mission. Nothing less than the rediscovery of a revolutionary missional ecclesiology will do for Alan Hirsch. A master work."
--Michael Frost, coauthor of The Shaping of Things to Come and author of Exiles

"A fascinating and unique examination of two of the greatest apostolic movements in history (the early church and China) and their potential impact on the Western church at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The book may well become a primary reference book for the emerging missional church."
--Bill Easum, Easum, Bandy & Associates (

"It is refreshing to read a book relating to the missional church that provides theological depth coupled with creative thinking. The Forgotten Ways helps to rescue the concept of church from the clutches of Christendom, setting it free to become a dynamic movement in place of a dying institution."
--Eddie Gibbs, coauthor of Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures and author of LeadershipNext: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture

About the Author

Alan Hirsch is the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. His experience includes mission and church planting to the marginalized as well as leading at the denominational level. He has written nine books, many of these are considered to be seminal works in the area of missional church and spirituality.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press; 5TH edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587431645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587431647
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Hirsch is the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. Currently he co-leads Future Travelers, an innovative learning program helping megachurches become missional movements. Known for his innovative approach to mission, Alan is considered to be a thought-leader and key mission strategist for churches across the Western world. Hirsch is the author of The Forgotten Ways; co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come, ReJesus, and The Faith of Leap (with Michael Frost); Untamed (with Debra Hirsch); Right Here, Right Now (with Lance Ford), and On the Verge (with Dave Ferguson).

Alan is co-founder and adjunct faculty for the M.A. in Missional Church Movements at Wheaton College (Illinois). He is also adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary, George Fox Seminary, among others, and he lectures frequently throughout Australia, Europe, and the United States. He is series editor for Baker Books' Shapevine series , IVP's Forge line, and an associate editor of Leadership Journal.

His experience in leadership includes leading a local church movement among the marginalized as well as heading up the Mission and Revitalization work of his denomination. He has been on leadership team with Christian Associates, a mission agency planting churches throughout Europe. Alan is adjunct professor at Fuller Seminary and lectures frequently throughout Australia, Europe, and the U.S.

Many people ask me whether there is some reason and logic of my various writings or whether they are random reflections on various subjects related to the missional church. Given that with the publication of The Permanent Revolution in February, I have completed my "library" of missional books, I thought that it is well worth explaining the rationale for my authorship to this stage. So for those who are interested, this is how it goes....

-The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church is really a foundational book and is considered seminal in setting the incarnational-mission conversation in the West. It really is scaffolding with which we can go about reconstructing our way of being along missional lines. It covers areas of incarnational mission, messianic spirituality, and innovative leadership, but redesigns these clearly along missional lines. I believe that the ideas therein are as valid as ever, and Baker is drafting a second, fully updated, edition as I write, so look for it. However, it is worth saying that it was written to help church planters to think like missionaries in the West as the assumptions behind the more formulaic church growth type approaches were no longer valid in our context. This has proved more and more true as we have advanced into the 21st Century. I have to admit that we (Mike and I) never expected the established church would take it seriously. The intended pioneering audience, along with the keen sense of urgency with which we wrote the book, can explain the overly revolutionary tone of the element I correct somewhat in my later work On The Verge.

-I consider The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church to be my centerpiece many ways my magnum opus. The heart of this book is what can be called a "phenomenology of apostolic movement." In other words, what factors come together to generate high impact, exponentially explosive, spiritually vibrant, Jesus movements in any time and context. Because of its systematic and somewhat comprehensive nature (it identifies a system of six elements called mDNA arranged in a dynamic system) it acts as the organizing ideas that guide the rest of my writings. As I have become more and more convinced of the validity of the core ideas laid down in this book I committed myself to elaborate on these in the six books that follow. Readers of my other works should always have this as the guiding reference work.

- The book ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church (with Mike Frost) is all about the central and definitive role that Jesus plays in all movements that claim his name. It is a serious elaboration of the element (called an mDNA) in The Forgotten Ways which I tagged as 'Jesus is Lord!' In this serious book we explain why we believe that it is primarily Christology that must define the core nature, purpose, and mission of the church. We are a messianic movement after all. Therefore all renewal must in the deepest possible sense involve a recovery of the role and significance of Jesus for discipleship, spirituality, theology, community, and mission.

- My book Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship (with my beloved wife Deb) takes a somewhat different approach to the standard spiritual disciplines or teaching the 'heads of doctrine' approach to discipleship and formation. While not denying the validity of these, we suggest that certain things, ideas, and relationships intrude themselves into the God-relationship and block our capacity to be all that Jesus intended us to be. We believe that by identifying these hindrances, and moving beyond them, opens us up to becoming impactful followers of Jesus. Essentially it is an anatomy of modern idolatry and an exploration of what we call Shema spirituality--understanding the nature of dynamic monotheism, loving God with all that we are, and our neighbors as self. This book elaborates on the mDNA of discipleship and disciple-making. It is designed to be very accessible to Christians wanting to grow in their love of God.

- Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People (with Lance Ford) is pretty much as the title suggests. As an elaboration of the mDNA of incarnational mission, it is a very practical book about how to get (and stay) engaged in everyday mission and make a Kingdom difference in the various arenas of life. Anyone should be able to read and engage the ideas in this book. In many ways it aims at activating the whole people of God (and not just leadership) into the missional equation. This is a huge missing piece in terms of movement dynamics.

- My latest offering, The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church is the book that focuses on the nature of ministry and leadership within (and for) apostolic movements. Coming out in Feb 2012, the book focuses on apostolic leadership in particular, but it does so within the broader context of fivefold gifting complex set out by Paul in his foundational work on ecclesiology...Ephesians. It's a big book in every way; weighty in content, unavoidable in its logic, and provides a strongly dissenting alternative to the prevailing forms of leadership in the church. It is likely to be a pretty controversial but will hopefully recalibrate the way we think about, and do, ministry and leadership in the 21st Century. It correlates to the mDNA of apostolic environment in The Forgotten Ways.

- My book On the Verge: The Future of the Church as Apostolic Movement, written with mega-church, multi-site, church planting movement leader Dave Ferguson, is all about organizational dynamics and change particularly as it relates to established, and relatively successful, forms of contemporary church (although it is by no means limited to them.) The book is thoroughgoing exploration of the nature of paradigms and paradigmatic change, change management and process, innovation of new forms and ideas, and of creating movement dynamics in large and complex systems. This is at least in part an elaboration on the mDNA of Organic Systems.

- The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage (once again with Mike Frost) started as a project to simply elaborate the mDNA of Communitas--that form of togetherness/communality that happens in the context of an ordeal, danger, risk, and challenge. But we soon realized that it meant that we had to look more deeply at the nature of adventure, risk, and courage and how it changes the equation of church, discipleship, spirituality, leadership, and yes...even our most basic theology. Its an exciting book with huge implications for how we ought to think of ourselves and how we should act in the world.

- And lastly, but by no means least, there's The Forgotten Ways Handbook: A Practical Guide for Developing Missional Churches. Written with the help of my old friend and collaborator Darryn Altclass, this book is meant to be as thoroughly practical as the primary text The Forgotten Ways is theoretical. It is a literal cornucopia of suggestions, ideas, practices, and possibilities that can embed missional ideas and a movemental ethos in local churches and organizations. Designed for group work and discussion, it is a great compliment to both the primary text and On The Verge.

I think that with the above output, I have produced the necessary material that God has commissioned me to do at this stage of my life. I wholeheartedly believe that the form of the church that will advance the cause of Jesus in the 21st (and reverse the decline of the church at the same time) is that of the apostolic movement with all its spiritual dynamism and missional energy. But our imaginations have become so captive to a more static and more regulated form of the church. All these books, read individually, but especially when taken together, present a comprehensive, alternative, primal, vision of the church as a dynamic, high-impact, spiritually authentic, and sustainable, people movement in the Way of Jesus our Founder.

Alan Hirsch
Sunday, January 1, 2012.

PS: Check out the picture in this profile that visually illustrates what I have said above.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Bradley J. Brisco VINE VOICE on March 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Using studies by Rodney Stark, Hirsch calculates that the early church grew from 25,000 in AD 100 to about 20,000,000 in AD 310. How did this happen? What was going on in early Christianity to experience this type of growth? To illustrate that this phenomena was not just an early church experience Hirsch shares the example of the church in China. When Mao Tse-tung took control of China there were approximately 2 million Christians. However, when the Bamboo Curtain was lifted some estimated the Christian population in China to be near 60 million. Moreover, the number of Christians in China today are around 80 million. Once again, how did this kind of growth happen?

Hirsch states some qualifications:

1. They were an illegal religion throughout this period.

2. They didn't have church buildings as we know them.

3. They didn't have scriptures as we know them.

4. They didn't have an institution or professional forms of leadership.

5. They didn't have seeker-sensitive services, youth groups, worship bands, seminaries, etc.

6. They actually made it hard to join the church.

In chapter one, titled "Setting the Scene" and subtitled "Confessions of a Frustrated Missionary" Hirsch tells a bit of his own story as leader of South Melbourne Restoration Community. Hirsch shares how he and his wife were brought to the church as a kind of last ditch effort to revive a church that had experienced birth, growth and decline in its 140 year history. Through the process the Hirschs came to the conclusion that they wanted to be involved in a church that was highly participatory (much more than the 20:80 rule) and missional.
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful By C. Stephans VINE VOICE on August 31, 2009
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Alan Hirsch offers a critique of Western Christianity and encourages Christian leaders to return to the ways of the early church in order to reach the missional field of the West. Hirsch has fifteen years of experience pastoring churches and leading ministries in Australia. During that time, he has moved from working within a traditional denominational structure to helping develop more outreach oriented ministries that go to the unchurched with the gospel. His focus throughout the book is on identifying the "Apostolic Genius" of the early church and showing how Christians can discover it within themselves and apply it to their contexts. His assertion is that the established church must become a missional one that lives on the edge of chaos and has only the necessary organizational structures.

I think Hirsch conveys some insights that are crucial for readers to take away from this book and instill in their own ministries; however, I also think that Hirsh's critique and way forward must be tempered by a perspective that takes into consideration a larger picture of church history, theology, the human condition, ecclesiology and spiritual warfare. My honest response to this book is that it is poorly written and seemingly unedited; I think its narrow scope neglects important issues to bear in mind when considering that Hirsch seems more than once to suggest the jettisoning of the ordained priesthood, liturgy and institutional churches. Although Hirsch might respond that this is not what he meant; his book certainly seems to suggest that this is what he is saying.

For me, Hirsch's positive message is summarized in a quote from Hans Kung that Hirsch uses to introduce one of his chapters.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Hopler on October 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Hirsch dose a masterful job in showing how the church of the western world has forgotten the way to be a Christ follower. As Hirsch puts it, "... all God's people carry within themselves the same potencies that energized the early Christian movement and that are currently manifest in the underground Chinese church." (Hirsch, 2006, p. 22) Hirsh then introduces the term: Apostolic Genius which the primary missional strength of the gospel and God's people. He expresses that this strength lies dormant in each Christian and local church that seeks to follow Jesus faithfully in any time. The problem, he rightly recognizes is that today's Christian culture has forgotten how to access and trigger it. Hirsh writes this book to help reactivate it so Christians can transform the world by living transformed lives.

Hirsch identifies in the book six simple but interrelating elements of missional DNA, forming a complex and living structure. They are: 1) Jesus Is Lord: At the center and circumference of every significant Jesus movement there exists this very simple confession. 2) Disciple Making: This is the life-long task of becoming like Jesus by embodying his message. Hirsch believes that this is perhaps where many of our efforts fail. Disciple making is an irreplaceable core task of the church and needs to be structured into every church's basic formula. 3) Missional-Incarnational Impulse: Hirsch examines missional movements that seed and embed the gospel into different cultures and people groups. 4) Apostolic Environment: This relates to the type of leadership and ministry required to sustain metabolic growth and impact. 5) Organic Systems: Determining appropriate structures for metabolic growth.
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