At our inaugural PlantR Microconference, we are hosting Alan Hirsch on the topic of Missional Discipleship. Session 2 is on Incarnational Mission (how to make disciples).
Incarnation As Mission
- We are sent like the Father sent the Son–incarnation.
- Jesus is in the neighborhood for 30 years and nobody knew.
- This way of incarnating the gospel is the most profound way God has ever engaged the world.
- If the incarnation is the way God sends, then we must become incarnational.
- The apostles worked with the message Jesus is Lord and that was enough.
- You don’t commute to your mission.
Incarnating the Gospel via Discipleship (6 Ps)
- Presence – God is with you on mission not just for you.
- Proximity – Context is everything. Take your “small group” and put it out in public.
The Resurgence posted on my talks at the Missional Living Conference. Several people have contacted me about the broken or incorrect links there. I sent the corrections to Resurgence but also wanted to provided the correct ones here. Hope they are helpful!
- The Gospel & American Christianity: This message deconstructs the dualism of American Christianity in order to reconstruct a whole Gospel around Jesus Christ as Lord.
- Community in American Christianity: This message demonstrates the communal character of the Gospel, unpacking very practical ways to cultivate “steady state community.”
- Everyday Mission in America: This message shows how mission is not optional but essential, spending considerable time on how to live “everyday life with gospel intentionality.”
- How a Church Renews a City: This message shows how Gospel communities on mission is God’s design to renew cities.
This is part two of my book review of Alan and Deb Hirsch’s book Untamed: reactivating missional discipleship. See part one.
Given the age of programs, systems, and missional techniques, it was very refreshing to see the Hirsch’s start off with a profound theological focus. Chapter Two lays a God-centered foundation for discipleship by explaining the difference between a healthy and a sick disciple. The Hirsches set the tone by saying: “A book on missional discipleship must first get the basics right in relation to God.” They make it clear that missional discipleship isn’t about being trendy or socially active; it’s fundamentally about worshiping God. They write:“If we are going to be missional disciples then we need to put our best efforts into knowing God, into the pursuit of the Holy.”
Shema Spirituality (holistic discipleship)
The problem with every disciple is that we worship things and persons other than God. Drawing on Lewis’ distinction between ordinate and inordinate love, they point out that the sick disciple is one who inordinately loves anything other than God (very Augustinian). A distinction is made between idol worship and worship of the one, true God, what they call Shema Spirituality. No, it’s not Eastern mysticism, it’s based on the Great Shema of Deuteronomy 6 which tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. “Discipleship is loving God first and foremost, and then loving everything else in light of that love.”
True discipleship involves a right knowing of God, and right knowing includes feeling, thinking, and acting. Mature disciples grow in all three areas. They note that these ways of loving God are more natural to some than others. In fact, each way of Shema spirituality tends to align with certain spiritual leaders: Pastor (feeling), Activist (acting), and Theologian (thinking). Each of these types of leaders need to spend time with one another for mature discipleship to come about. And all disciples need all three types of people in their lives.
Reflect on your Discipleship
We do well to pause and consider where we need to grow as disciples—as theologians, pastors, or activists? Are there other Christians in your life that can “round you out” to foster a God-centered knowing and maturity in your discipleship? If so, ask them to lunch and explore ways you can grow together as disciples of Jesus. As with every chapter, the Hirsches provide helpful application points and questions for discussion.
If Alan Hirsch wasn’t a household name among the mission-minded before the VERGE conference, he certainly is now. Alan was kind enough to lend his 6 Elements of missional DNA as the architecture of the VERGE missional community conference. Add to that the outstanding introductory videos that explain each of the 6 Elements, and you’ve got a quite Hirschian splash. As if that wasn’t enough, Alan & his wife Deb drop a new book called Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship.
Structure of Book
Those familiar with The Forgotten Ways will immediately recognize that Untamed is an expansion of one of the 6 Elements of mDNA—missional discipleship. However, the book does not assume this familiarity.
The Introduction is extremely helpful in laying out a map for reading the book. There are four main sections (Theology, Culture, Psychology, Mission), each containing four Signature Themes (Jesus-shaped discipleship, Shema Spirituality, No Mission, No Discipleship, & Of Idols and Prophets).
Recovering the Incarnational Jesus
Chapter One is a cultural exorcism of distorted American Christology, a calling out of moralistic and hypermasculine (read=Mark Driscoll critique) views of Jesus. Could Hirsch be more Jesus-centered than Driscoll?! He levels an irenic but incisive critique. Speaking of men more effeminate than Driscoll’s “caricature of Jesus,” he writes: “they are unacceptable to Jesus as they are…but this strikes a blow against the gospel itself.” Before we start defending and accusing missional leaders, let’s be sure to make this about about Jesus, not personalities, something both Driscoll and Hirsch would want.
Hirsch keeps centering on Jesus. Warning us of cultural stereotypes of Jesus, he says that Jesus must be freed to relate to all people. Hirsch doesn’t simply exorcize the demons, he replaces them with an incarnational Jesus, a Jesus who enters our humanity and empathizes with our condition as the basis and example of mission. On this incarnational note, a couple quotes are worthy of reflection:
- “It is true that Jesus is like God, but the greater truth…is that God is like Jesus!” (36)
- “Jesus holiness was compelling. Sinners flocked to him.” (46)
- “For Jesus, acceptance must precede repentance.” (48)
I love the first two quotes but have some pause on the third. I’m sincerely grateful for this book, chapters one and nine in particular, which underscore and unpack an incarnational way of following Jesus. I’ve been provoked, challenged, and encouraged. Thanks, Alan & Deb!