We have been conversing on this blog for weeks about Alan Hirsch’s fine book, The Forgotten Ways. Today’s topic for conversation is his 5th element of apostolic genius or “missional DNA” (mDNA). As with previous chapters, I think this chp will generate a healthy and needed conversation about what makes a missional movement tick. I begin with reminding us of what the first four elements are:
1. Jesus as Lord.
2. Disciple-making focus.
3. A missional-incarnational impulse, and
4. Developing an apostolic kind of leadership environment.
Today’s topic: #5: Creating an organic system instead of an institutional system. This book is deeply suspicious of the problem of institutions; the emerging movement shares this suspicion. The book believes in the sufficiency of local churches, small groups, to get the job done — to let the mDNA do its gospel work. It’s about networks, not institutionalizing structures that maintain what has happened or try to manufacture what the Spirit generates without the system.
Hirsch has gathered way too much into this chapter — there are lists for all kinds of images of how an organic system works (there is some humor to this, surely not lost on Hirsch: he’s got a highly-efficient and organized set of lists about an organic, adaptable system). But, the chart on p. 196 says it all, and I will reproduce it here in shorter form.
Is the following accurate? Is this a revelation to you? Is the organic model desirable? What can we do to create more organic missional movements? (Here’s the rule: no comments that accuse this of “false dichotomies” — it’s fair to say it; I’ve said it; now let’s discuss if these overall trends are emphases instead of absolute alternatives.) Have you had experiences with the institutionalization problem? What can be done about it? What did you do?
Thesis foundation for this chp: “gospel freedom … is very difficult to maintain over the long haul.” Understatement of the year.
Organic missional movements vs. Institutional religions
1. Pioneering missional leadership is central vs. one that avoids leadership rooted in personality and prefers one that comes from aristocratic class rooted in loyalty.
2. Seeks to embody the way of the Founder vs. represents a more codified belief system.
3. Based on internal operational principles (mDNA) vs. based increasingly on external legislating policies and governance.
4. Has a cause vs. is “the cause”.
5. The mission is to change the future vs. the mission is to preserve the past.
6. Tends to be mobile and dynamic vs. tends to be more static and fixed.
7. Decentralized network based on relationships vs. centralized organization based on loyalty.
8. Appeals to the common person vs. Tends to become more and more elitist and exclusive.
9. Inspirational/transformational leadership; spiritual authority tends to be basis of influence vs. transactional leadership dominant; institutional authorizing process is dominant.
10. People of the Way vs. People of the Book.
11. Centered-set dynamic vs. Closed-set dynamic.