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The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church Paperback – April 1, 2009
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“Alan Hirsch has been a major influence in the way I think about the mission of the church and more importantly, the way I live church. The Forgotten Ways must be remembered, must be read, must be integrated into your life, leadership, and local church context.” —Greg Nettle, president, Stadia “An amazing work of analysis, synthesis, and application. Hirsch provides a timely, well-informed overview of the range of current thinking and writing on movemental Christianity and draws rich insights that, if ignited by the Holy Spirit, can revolutionize many churches today.” —Howard A. Snyder, author of The Problem of Wineskins; visiting director, Manchester Wesley Research Centre “Only a handful of books have set the stage for God to have a conversation with the whole church about his mission. The Forgotten Ways is one of those books, now available with critical updates. Hirsch has placed before the church a timeless conversation about the future, the mission, the people, and the practices of a God-breathed movement.” —Hugh Halter, author, church planter, and director of Forge America “In this fresh, reworked edition of The Forgotten Ways, Hirsch continues to engage, challenge, and inspire us as we explore what it means to fully be God’s church in an ever-changing cultural landscape. Hirsch holds tightly to the deep truth that in order to move forward we must renew our commitment to journey down an ancient path—the rugged, narrow way found in the life of Jesus Christ. This book is a must-read.” —Jo Saxton, chair of the board, 3dmovements; church planter, author, and speaker “The Forgotten Ways has been a road map for missional movements. The map is now updated with even more insight and ten more years of learning.” —Neil Cole, Movement Catalyst; author of Organic Church, Church 3.0, and Primal Fire “I referred to the first edition of this book as a ‘full-blooded and comprehensive call for the complete orientation of the church around mission,’ and that is no less true for this updated version. With the benefit of ten years of experience in teaching these concepts around the world, Hirsch has freshened his groundbreaking work for a new generation of readers. The Forgotten Ways is as relevant and as powerful as ever.” —Michael Frost, author of Road to Missional and Surprise the World “I heartily recommend The Forgotten Ways to church planters and ministry leaders around the world. This significant text’s fresh recovery of and call to a dynamic missional movement paradigm has shaped my thinking and practice.” —Mark Reynolds, vice president of leadership programs, Redeemer City to City “The Forgotten Ways was a catalytic force of God in my own life, and it remains on my must-read list for anyone interested in the church and mission. In the new edition, Hirsch ignites our imaginations with deep hope and raw honesty and convinces us that the church’s finest hour is ahead of us. Prophet, priest, teacher, and leader, Hirsch is an essential voice to our generation.” —Danielle Strickland, speaker, author, and Salvation Army officer “Hirsch’s prophetic voice and unique passion beckons the church to rediscover the ancient path and follow where it leads. The Forgotten Ways is a navigational chart for pastors and churches willing to brave a journey of faith, courage, and sacrifice beyond the safety of comfortable shores for the sake of the gospel.” —Mark DeYmaz, directional leader, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas; author of Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church “In this rebel camp we call the church planting community, The Forgotten Ways has long been one of the great fires around which we have gathered to dream. Now, with fresh and important fuel for a radical rethinking of church, this fire is spreading a new hope for apostolic movement within every part of the church.” —Graham Singh, executive director, Church Planting Canada; pastor, St. James Montréal “Reading The Forgotten Ways when it was first published revolutionized the way I understood God’s mission, the essence of the church, and my participation in both. I didn’t think it was possible, but with this second edition, Hirsch provides even greater clarity and challenge. If you are serious about the future of the church, then read every page and allow it to activate a movement within you and throughout the life of the church.” —Brad Brisco, coauthor of Missional Essentials and Next Door as It Is in Heaven “Hirsch revisits The Forgotten Ways like a jackhammer revisits concrete. This book shatters our narrow vistas, revealing the broad panorama of Jesus’s mission. It assails imagination and redefines an apostolic approach to a culture evermore scornful of current Christian ministry and thought.” —Ralph Moore, author of Starting a New Church and Making Disciples “Hirsch has gone on a quest with this latest work. There is nothing more important than seeking to rediscover our identity and purpose as established by the Lord of the church; it truly is a journey, but one that is essential and well worth it.” —Tammy Dunahoo, Foursquare Church “Many people have been helped by The Forgotten Ways. For those of us in the institutional churches, the book has been bracing and challenging with parts we disagree with, but also many lessons to learn. Hirsch’s book is a call to reimagine the church, and this call applies as much to the new types of church increasingly emerging in the global North as to the older ones. The church, even new versions, needs to be constantly re-formed. Hirsch offers a comprehensive and illuminating guide for the task.” —Michael Moynagh, author of Church for Every Context; Wycliffe Hall, Oxford “In this second edition, Hirsch does what he does best: he helps us remember our past so that we can reimagine our future. It’s time for the church to become a movement again. Read the book and become part of this emerging future; too much is at stake to settle for anything less.” —Dave Rhodes, pastor of discipleship and movement initiatives, Grace Fellowship Church; lead team director, 100 Movements “Alan puts forth his ideas for a new generation longing to rediscover the church’s missional nature and reactivate anew its forgotten ways. When I read Alan’s words, I want to drop what I’m doing and focus my attention again on God’s mission. After reading this book, I imagine you will as well.” —Ed Stetzer (from the foreword) “I am thankful for how Alan . . . calls us back to what is true of God’s people and prophetically catalyzes us toward a vision for what life looks like when we remember who we are. . . . May our memories be jogged, as our hearts are stirred, to live in the forgotten ways of our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ!” —Jeff Vanderstelt (from the afterword) “It is refreshing to read a book related to the missional church that provides theological depth coupled with creative thinking. Hirsch reestablishes the essential links between Christology, missiology, and ecclesiology. 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 “A fascinating and unique examination of two of the greatest apostolic movements in history and their potential impact on the Western church. Hirsch identifies and describes the primal energies of apostolic movements and describes the components that make for catalytic, spontaneous expansion. The book may well become a primary reference book for the emerging missional church.” —Bill Easum, Easum, Bandy & Associates “It is AD 30 all over again. While many church leaders are trying desperately to retrofit institutional expressions of Christianity in hopes of achieving better results, Hirsch helps us understand the necessity for us to reengage the movement in its primal missional form. This volume identifies a missional, not a methodological, fix if we want to experience first-century Christianity.” —Reggie McNeal, author of The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church “This book clearly demonstrates Alan’s original and creative thinking. There are few books that one can describe as markers in the field of mission—this is one such book. It is essential reading for all those who are grappling with the key issue of what the church can and must become.” —Martin Robinson, author of Planting Mission-Shaped Churches Today
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 (easumbandy.com)
"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
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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.
Hirsch provides a good contrast between the typical church growth principles that are used today to grow a contemporary church and the essential components that best describes the nature of the church. Hirsch states "if you wish to grow a contemporary church following good church growth principles, there are several things you must do and constantly improve upon:
1. Expand the building for growth.
2. Ensure excellent preaching that relates to the life of the hearers.
3. Develop an inspiring worship service with an excellent band.
4. Make certain you have excellent parking facilities.
5. Ensure excellent programs for children and youth.
6. Develop a program of cell groups rooted in a Christian ed model.
7. Make sure that next week is better than last week.
In contrast to the above, Hirsch discusses the nature of, or innate purpose of the church according to scriptures:
1. A covenanted community
2. Centered on Jesus Christ ("Jesus is Lord").
3. Worship, defined as offering our lives back to God through Jesus.
4. Discipleship, defined as following Jesus & becoming like him.
5. Mission, defined as extending the mission of God through the activities of the covenanted community.
In the last section of the chapter, and my favorite, Hirsch discribes the practices that their faith community "came up with" as:
1. The basic ecclesial (church) unit was to become much smaller so as to transform from the active:passive ratio from 20:80 to 80:20.
2. They would not devleop a philosophy of ministry per se, but rather a covenant and core practices.
3. Each group had to be engaged in a healthy diet of spiritual disciplines, following the TEMPT model:
T: Together we follow -- community focused.
E: Engage Scripture -- integrating Bible into life.
M: Mission -- missional activities bring cohesion.
P: Passion for Jesus -- worship and prayer.
T: Transformation -- character development & accountability.
4. They would organize the movement in three basic rhythms: a weekly cycle of TEMPT groups, a monthly regional meeting of TEMPT groups, and a biannual gathering of all the groups in a movement-wide network.
5. Each TEMPT group would covenant to multiply itself as soon as it is organically feasible and possible.
In chapter two of "The Forgotten Ways" author Alan Hirsch proposes that the decline of the church in Western culture can be attributed to defaulting to a Christendom mode of thinking. Moreover, because of our Christendom default mode we don't even know that there is a better alternative.
Quoting Bono from U2, "we are stuck in a moment and now we can't get out of it." Or from one with few more academic credentials; David Bosch in Transforming Mission states: "Strictly speaking one ought to say that the Church is always in a state of crisis and that its greatest shortcoming is that it is only occasionally aware of it."
For Hirsch the root of the problem is Christendom and our inability to adequately deal with the very assumptions on which Christendom is built and maintains itself. Relying partially on Stuart Murray's excellent Post-Christendom: Church and Mission in a Strange New World, Hirsch provides a convincing summary of the significance of Constantine's decisions. Just a few of the Christendom shifts include:
1. The movement of the church from the margins of society to its center.
2. The assumption that all citizens were Christian by birth.
3. Sunday as an official day of rest and obligatory church attendance.
4. A generic distinction between clergy and laity, and the relegation of the laity to a largely passive role.
5. The defense of Christianity by legal sanctions to restrain heresy, immorality, and schism.
6. The division of the globe into "Christendom" or "heathendom" and the waging of war in the name of Christ and the church.
7. A hierarchical ecclesiastical system, based on a diocesan and parish arrangement, which was analogous to the state hierarchy and was buttressed by state support.
Hirsch states: "This shift to Christendom was thoroughly paradigmatic, and the implications were absolutely disastrous for the Jesus movement that was incrementally transforming the Roman world from the bottom up."
He follows this up with a fantastic quote from church historian Rodney Stark: "Far too long, historians have accepted the claim that the conversion of the Emperor Constantine (ca. 285-337) caused the triumph of Christianity. To the contrary, he destroyed its most attractive and dynamic aspects, turning a high-intensity, grassroots movement into an arrogant institution controlled by an elite who often managed to be both brutal and lax."
On page 64 Hirsch offers an excellent comparison table (which was previously published in "The Shaping of Things to Come" p. 9) between three "church modes." He compares the "Aposotolic & Post-Apostolic Mode" (AD 32 to 313), the "Christendom Mode" (313 to present) and the "Emerging Missional Mode" (past 10 years) in six different categories.
The characteristics of the Christendom mode include:
1. Locus of gathering: Buildings become central to "church."
2. Leadership: Institutionally ordained clergy/professional guild.
3. Organizational structure: Top-down.
4. Means of grace: Sacraments experienced only "in church."
5. Position in society: Church is perceived to be central to society.
6. Missional mode: Attractional and extractional.
The characteristics of the Emerging Missional mode (and in most cases parallels the Apostolic mode):
1. Locus of gathering: Rejects need for "church" buildings.
2. Leadership: Pioneering-innovative, 5-fold ministry.
3. Organizational structure: Grassroots, decentralized movement.
4. Means of grace: Redeems/ritualizes new symbols, including Lord's Supper.
5. Position in society: Church is once again on the fringes.
6. Missional mode: Incarnational-sending and missional.
Hirsch offers (p. 75) a short introduction to the second section, in which he presents the core piece for the rest of the book - mDNA (missional DNA). He states on p. 76:
"With this concept/metaphor I hope to explain why the presence of a simple, intrinsic, reproducible, central guiding mechanism is necessary for the reproduction and sustainability of genuine missional movements. As an organism holds together, and each cell understands its function in relation to its DNA, so the church finds its reference point in its built-in mDNA. As DNA carries the genetic coding, and therefore the life, of a particualr organism, so too mDNA codes Apostolic Genius (the life force that pulsated through the New Testament church and in other expressions of apostolic Jesus movements throughout history)."
So what are the key elements of Apostolic Genius? The six distinctives identified by Hirsch (and illustrated more extensively in the diagram above which you can click on for a larger view) are:
1. Jesus is Lord
2. Disciple Making
3. Missional-incarnational Impulse
4. Apostolic Environment
5. Organic Systems
6. Communitas, Not Community
After introducing these six elements Hirsch then moves in chapter 3 to the heart of Apostolic Genius (and the reason it is at the core of the diagram) - "Jesus is Lord." I found much to like about this chapter. I enjoyed Hirsch's insights on how the early church, in order to survive in the context of persecution, had to "jettison all unnecessary impediments" such as an institutional conception of the church. Additionally, in the midst of persecution Hirsch maintains that the church had to "travel light" in regards to a simple Christology (essential conceptions of who Jesus is and what he does).
I also appreciated Hirsch's discussion on the Shema and the consistency that is to be found between it and Christ. Moreover, the implication that "christocentric monotheism" has for bringing to an end the false dualism of things sacred/secular. However, for sake of brevity I thought the best summary of Hirsch's overall purpose for this chapter was in the following paragraph from page 94:
"At its very heart, Christianity is therefore a messianic movement, one that seeks to consistently embody the life, spirituality, and mission of its Founder. We have made it so many other things, but this is its utter simplicity. Discipleship, becoming like Jesus our Lord and Founder, lies at the epicenter of the church's task. It means that Christology must define all that we do and say. It also means that in order to recover the ethos of authentic Christianity, we need to refocus our attention back to the Root of it all, to recalibrate ourselves and our organizations around the person and work of Jesus the Lord. It will mean taking the Gospels seriously as the primary texts that define us. It will mean acting like Jesus in relation to people outside of the faith."
I think in this book, Hirsch is speaking from an outsiders perspective (outsider to America). Since he is from Australia, I'm not sure how adapted he was to understanding just how engrained Americans' consumer culture was. (In more recent works, and speakings, he seems to acknowledge some benefits).
The writing itself is flooded with adjectives that really come across as "I'm using fancy technical terms to sound smart". If you can read with a mental sharpie and strike through the descriptors and really just focus on what he is saying, it's a much easier read. I do recommend that you read this with the intent of discussing it with others. It's a philosophical shift in thinking for the much of the modern church, and that requires discussion.
Through his study of past Jesus movements that have shaken or rocked the world, or parts of it, he has come up with guidance and a tool in establishing a body of believers centered on Jesus and His call to be on mission no matter the context or culture you find yourself in. It is a clarion call of sorts for the church to re-awaken itself, to find itself once again, and to engage in a world that has undergone change after change. And until the church does this, it will continue to find itself on the brink of becoming a mausoleum to what once was.
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