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.
I’m getting rocked on discipleship these days. From my positive experiences in the pub, in the projects or in God’s presence to a deepening desire for more disciples, more discipleship, more life sharing on mission. God is using the Hirsch’s book to call me into deeper missional discipleship—making disciples while on mission.
As I share in Fight Clubs: gospel-centered discipleship, for years I approached discipleship as a program, as a meeting, and as a professional/novice relationship. Progress has been made. I moved from the top of the stairs to floor of the living room, where I can sit in the circle of my City Group, staff, or neighborhood friends. I am grateful that I have been inconvenienced by actually sharing my life instead of simply sharing my insight.
I’m also on mission. I’m trying, very imperfectly, to share my life, my struggles, my hopes, and my dreams with those around me. I’m also trying to listen to others struggles, hopes, and dreams so we can all make progress together, some of in the faith, others toward the faith. Dinner with the neighbors. Outings with the City Group. Breakfast with leaders. Evenings in the projects and pubs. A lot has changed in my life, but not enough.
If missional defines our being sent out into the world, then incarnational must define the way in which we engage the world.
The Hirsch’s put a point on mission when the say: “If missional defines our being sent out into the world, then incarnational must define the way in which we engage the world” (Untamed, 234). The proof of our mission is our incarnation of Jesus into un-Christian communities and lives. It doesn’t matter how much you know about culture, missiology, or urbanism if you aren’t actually engaging real people in context (I want names!).
So many church planters ask me what to do in the “Core Team Phase”. They ask: “How do I build my core?” I ask them: “Do you know your neighbors? Have you had them all for dinner or a party?” Inevitably the answer is “No” or “Wow.” Church planters, disciples of Jesus, if we aren’t circumscribed into others’ lives, we are not on mission. Stop waving the flag and join the race. Jump in with people now. This was Jesus’ whole agenda. Let’s make it our agenda–incarnating the hope of the gospel in relationship.
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!