on the way to and from ireland i read alan hirsch's latest book the forgotten ways. it's his follow up to the shaping of things to come. the question he explores is what the components of a missional dna look like and comes up with 6. it's a book that will be on the reading list of lots of missions courses i am sure because it's quite focused on strategy...
the 6 components are:
jesus is lord
missional incarnational impulse
communitas not community
alan sets his stall out by suggesting that the dominant model of church has become a stumbling block. it has become outmoded because of drastically changed conditions.
we have the somewhat farcical situation of 95 percent of evangelical churches tussling with each other to reach 12 per cent of the population . and this becomes a significant missional problem because it raises the question 'what about the vast majority of the population (in aus 85%, in the us 65%) that report alienation from precisely that form of church? how do they access the gospel if they reject this form of church?
his argument reminded me of pete ward's critique of youth ministry that is based upon attraction - like attracts like. this can be a strength but it can also be a big weakness. if we are going to reach groups of people not like those already in churches or youth groups we need people who will take a more cross cultural missions approach. as ever alan without meaning to i suspect comes across negatively about institutional forms of church. i think this will put off some readers. but it's simply because alan's passion and gifts are elsewhere.
i was very interested in his statistics about church leavers. he quotes barrett and johnson who suggest that there are 111 million christians worldwide without a local church. and there are 20000 movements and networks with 394 million members that are outside of denominational structures - what he calls independants. but if we look at church through the older ways of measuring it nearly all this activity is invisible.
hirsch suggests that the vital issue for emerging churches is their capacity to be genuinely missional otherwise they will be a new fad and nothing more.
i always like reading alan's stuff and meeting him if he's passing through london. he has given me plenty of challenge about being missional. the sections of the book i think are the most interesting are the sections on missional incarnational impulse and organic systems.
there are a couple of spots in the book where he has a bit of a pop at alt worship and in both instances i felt his comments misguided or responding to a bygone stereotype (setting up a straw man) - i found that a bit of a shame seeing as he has helped nudge alt worship in good directions and is appreciated on the uk scene.
i feel i owe the book or alan or both a more comprehensive review but the way my diary is that isn't going to happen for a while so i thought it better to go for something short rather than nothing for a while.