The Forgotten Ways

Alan Hirsch’s seminal book, The Forgotten Ways (2006, 2016) is a prophetic call to the western church to come back to the movement DNA of the early church.

1. The center must be Jesus and the clear, simple message, “Jesus is Lord.”

2. From the Lordship of Christ, disciple-making naturally grows in obedience to our Lord.

3. As followers of Jesus, we imitate Him as those sent on mission (go out) who do so incarnationally (enter, embed, enflesh – go deep).

4. And as we move forward in bold, adventurous, risky faith we face liminality (the chaos of an ordeal that produces lasting change) and experience communitas (the relational bonding of a team that comes together through adversity on a shared mission).

5. To support disciples on mission an Eph. 4:11-12 culture that releases apostles (starters, missionaries), prophets (truth tellers, justice seekers), evangelists (gatherers, connectors), shepherds (caregivers) and teachers. 

6. All believers are naturally and relationally empowered and supported by the fivefold leadership expression of the church.

By contrast, most of us live with a lot of anti-movement DNA:

1. We’ve replaced the central message of the simple gospel with the church growth mantra: “Come to church.” This replaces the missional/incarnational impulse of the Spirit-led church with the bigger is better American idolatry of success fed by consumerism and the idolatry of safety, comfort and convenience. 

2. Instead of obedience based, faith-filled disciple-making we have created a knowledge-based, information heavy approach to Bible study and “Christian education.”

3. We still preach and teach “the gospel” but it is often a watered down, cheap grace “just believe” (meaning affirm a few basic truths that don’t necessarily have to change your life)

4. In order to keep people coming to church, feeling loved and cared for, we try to get everyone into a small group to experience “fellowship,” but this largely replaces the real communitas that only comes from liminality.

5. Instead of releasing APEST to equip the saints we consolidate leadership in ordained clergy and professional staff to do the work of ministry from cradle to the grave.

6. All we ask of the average church attender is to come, get comfortable, throw in some money (to pay for the staff and buildings) and think about volunteering once in a while. This replaces organic systems that involve all believers with church programs run by the 20% who help the paid staff.

You’ll notice this creates a “square,” institutional version of Christianity that cannot move or adapt much less reproduce. Other books that get into this are The Starfish and the Spirit by Wegner and Ford and our own Damian Gerke’s In the Way.

Here is an application of mDNA:

These steps line up with the Tampa Underground’s four phases of a Microchurch: 1) calling; 2) trying; 3) building and 4) multiplying.

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