We had a friend who used to be a major sales rep for Encyclopedia Brittanica. Alas, the invasion of the internet “shelved” the old Brittanica ways and his job — to survive Brittanica went online. Alan Hirsch, in The Forgotten Ways, contends that the church either adapts by turning loose the Spirit of God in each age or it will go the way of the institutionalized Brittanica clothbound encyclopedias.
Hirsch’s main discovery is the mDNA of Apostolic Genius. That is, the “missional” DNA of how the apostles were led by God’s Spirit to unleash the gospel. What is your response to his six features (see below) as the characteristics of that original mDNA?
Here’s a chart he discusses in the remainder of the book:
He believes this mDNA is latent in every church and in every Christian. “So I come to believe,” he says on p. 77, “that every church, indeed every Christian, if truly birthed in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, has the full coding of mDNA and therefore has direct access to the power of Apostolic Genius. … Institutional systems tend to try and organize [bad grammar — omit “try and”] through external hierarchical command and control; organic missional movements organize through healthy mDNA coding embedded in each cell and then let go.”
And “missional” means: “a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world” (82).
What are the six key elements of Apostolic Genius?
1. Jesus is Lord
2. Disciple making
3. Missional-incarnational impulse
4. Apostolic environment
5. Organic systems
6. Communitas, not community [not just huddling, but active in mission together]
The first element is this: Jesus is Lord and this is the heart of it all. He begins with Rom 11:33-36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things.” Everything is about God, and God manifest in Christ. A simple Christology shapes missional DNA.
The Shema of Israel is more than a statement of God’s being but is a claim on all of life. Christianity restructured monotheism around Jesus as Lord. He calls it a christocentric monotheism. Dualistic spirituality is denied: no sacred/secular or Sunday/weekday dualisms.
Here’s a good observation: in seeking to be missional and incarnational, Hirsch is challenged by the boundary issue — how far is too far? When is the incarnational no longer Christian? Whenever it offends christocentric monotheism. He’s got that right!
He writes: “I have become absolutely convinced that it is Christology, and in particular, the primitive, unencumbered Christology of the NT church, that lies at the heart of the renewal of the church at all times and in every age” (99).