I picked up a copy of The Forgotten Ways by Emerging Missional Church (EMC) thinker Alan Hirsch. So far, it stands out as one of the best missions reads I have picked up in quite some time. It’s right up there with Stetzer’s Planting Missional Churches. Yes, it’s a stand out, and unarguably so. Hirsch’s work is both readable and seriously focused upon detail(s). Basically, the book is an accessible but scholarly read/analysis of the state of contemporary missions. It makes one think, to say the least.
Hirsch begins by asking the following questions (to call them thought-provoking would be a serious understatement!):
“How did the number of Christians in the world grow from as few as 25,000 one hundred years after Christ’s death to up to 20 million in AD 310?”
“How did the Chinese underground church grow from 2 million to over 100 million in sixty years despite considerable opposition?”
Christians - all Christians - interested in evangelism and missions should read this book. The heart of it all, as Hirsch says in the third chapter, is “Jesus as Lord.” Jesus is Lord of all, indeed.
READ UPDATE: I just stumbled upon incredibly profound snippets of analysis in the “Addendum and Glossary.” Ponder these thoughts:
“By and large, churches are very conservative organizations, and after they have been around just a few years they can quickly become institutional, largely because of the Christendom mode and assumptions underlying it, but also because of the leadership style and influence. on the whole, churches seek to conserve the past, and particularly in the historical denominations (e.g. Anglicanism and Presbyterianism) their primary orientation is often backward to an idealized past rather than forward to a new vision of the future. As such they are classic, often inflexible, institutions that enshrine an inherited tradition. Hence, the historical churches are leading the decline of the church in the West. For instance, in some areas, the Uniting Church of Australia is losing members at 20 percent exponentially per annum! This would be similar for many liberal mainline denominations and is due almost entirely to the fact that they are closed systems built squarely on institutional systems story with a liberal theological base a classic sign of institutionalism” (261).
“Theological liberalism is an indicator of institutional decline not only because it tries to minimize the necessary tension between gospel and culture by eliminating the culturally offending bits, but because it is basically a parasitical ideology. I don’t mean this to be offensive to my liberal brothers and sisters; I wish merely to point out that theological liberalism rarely creates new forms of church or extends Christianity in any significant way, but rather exists and ‘feeds off’ what the more orthodox and missional movements started. Theological liberalism always comes later in the history of a movement, and it is normally associated with its decline” (262).
Wow! True, so true. I have been personally involved with liberal religious organizations during my ten years of study; I can attest to a nearly identical appropriation of orthodox forms, practices and methods, that simultaneously exist and are practiced alongside of liberal theological expressions. So, the end result is an obviously convoluted liberal institution that staunchly proclaims a non-Christian and/or post-Christian identity, in spite of active member participation in things like Sunday morning “Religious Education,” “Harvest Communion (the bread and wine are replaced by corn bread and cider),” or even M.Div programs! I understand what Hirsch is pointing toward. Too, I understand his desire not to offend liberal brothers and sisters. True is true, however. Theological liberalism is not the future of Christianity, I promise. I tried it, wholeheartedly.
At any rate, do pick up this book. It is well worth the price, especially for those of us seriously interested in missions and the Church of Jesus Christ.
Work Cited: Hirsch, Alan. “The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.” Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2006.