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Alan Hirsch (1959-) is a missiologist, author, and a leader in the missional church movement. He was born into a Jewish Family. Although his family was not particularly religious, he was very much influenced by his Jewish heritage as his writings make clear. Although he was not around many Christians in his childhood, he recounts having deeply religious experiences and being fascinated with Jesus as a teenager. After having moved to Australia, he had a life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit that has deeply affected him. Soon after moving, he married Debra who was living on "the margins of society" like Alan. They have been married and in Christian ministry together for over twenty years.
During his first year of seminary at Australian College of Theology, he led a small group of newly converted Christians that included "gays, lesbians, Goths, drug addicts, prostitutes, and some relatively ordinary people." He maintained involvement with this group throughout his Seminary education.
After graduating, he and his wife were called to go to South Melbourne Church of Christ in 1989. This group was later renamed "South Melbourne Restoration Community". Hirsch spent the next fifteen years leading this community (with wife Debra). Five years after having begun ministry at South, he became the director of the Department of Mission, Education and Development for the Churches of Christ in Australia (Victoria and Tasmania Conference). During these years, he and his wife planted two churches on the edges of society for the marginalized and urban poor in Melbourne, Australia. It was here that he learned about being missional and incarnational first-hand. Hirsch calls this the "missional-incarnational impulse" in his book The Forgotten Ways. This paradigm has become central to his life and writings. During this time Hirsch pioneered the missional training system called Forge Mission Training Network. Forge became possibly the major voice and agency for rediscovering missional forms of Christianity in Australia, although is now closed yet its influence has spread to North America.
After fifteen years of ministry at South Melbourne Restoration Community, Alan and Debra considered a broader role in the church. They maintain that the church in North America will be a major determinant for the continued sustenance and future vitality of the church in the West. Hirsch currently doing PhD studies at Radboud University in the Netherlands on the Phenomenology of Apostolic Movements.
Probably Hirsch’s most distinctive contribution was to articulate what can be called a phenomenology of apostolic movements. By probing the question of what comes together to create exponential, high impact, multiplication movements, he came up with the concept of he calls 'Apostolic Genius' which is defined as "a unique energy and force saturating phenomenal Jesus movements." Hirsch defines it elsewhere as "the built-in life force and guiding mechanism of God’s people." As to its phenomenology, it is made up of the symphonious interplay between six core elements, or "mDNA". These six are explained as follows:
- Jesus is Lord—a confession made by Christians that Jesus is the ruler over every aspect of life. This is the most central element, around which the other five orbit. By locating this at the center, Hirsch asserts the Christology (the whole phenomenon of Jesus’s incarnation, life, teachings, role model, saving and redeeming work in cross and resurrection and return) must be the central defining theology of all Christian movements.
- Disciple making—a practice of becoming like Jesus and leading others to do the same. This follows directly from the statement that Jesus is Lord and in essence is the calling of disciples to live in Christ and allowing him to live through them.
- Missional-incarnational impulse—the dual-element of mission and incarnation by which a disciple goes into the surrounding world missionally and embodies the actions of Jesus incarnationally. This forms the basis of how a Jesus movement extends itself into the world.
- Apostolic environment—which highlights the catalytic role that the apostolic person plays in both generating and sustaining movemental ecclesiology. Hirsch then highlights the role of Ephesians 4 in movements. He maintains that missional church requires a missional ministry to generate and sustain it. The prevailing Pastor-Teacher combination is not generative enough for movemental forms of Christianity, he asserts.
- Organic systems—in contrast with a centralized institution, missional movements are structured more like an interconnected organism than through hierarchical organization.
- Communitas, not community—in contrast with an inward-focused group, communitas is an outward-focused group, who by engaging in various forms of risk and liminality, begin to relate to each other on a significantly deeper level.
Hirsch maintains that all six elements are needed to create highly transformative, exponetially growing, missional movements. In his book, he displays that it is critical to think in a systemic way about Apostolic Genius and not see each mDNA as a silver bullet. Rather it takes the whole (Apostolic Genius) to create the kind of movement he is describing.
Hirsch has been directly involved in four organizations in various countries around the world and has spoken at five colleges. He is:
- The founding director of Forge Mission Training Network International (“Forge") 1996, a missional training center that exists to help "birth and nurture the missional church". This organization exists to train leaders in the USA, Canada and Australia.
- The co-founder of Shapevine.com, a ministry of Leadership Journal and Christianity Today that focuses on providing people with missional resources, training and networking opportunities.
- The co-founder and director of Future Travelers, a learning system that helps mega-churches become missional.
- Increasingly involved in 3 Dimensional Ministries, a company that trains churches and leaders how to do discipleship and mission in an increasingly post-Christian world. weare3dm.com
- A past ladjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, George Fox University, Southeastern University,Western Seminary, Wheaton College and Tabor College.
- The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church with Michael Frost (2003). Having concluded that Christians in the West are going through a "second reformation", they describe how the church is moving away from being institutional and towards being missional.
- The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church (2006). The most foundational of Hirsch’s published writing to date.
- The Forgotten Ways Handbook: A Practical Guide for Developing Missional Churches with Darryn Altclass (2009)
- ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church with Michael Frost (2009)
- Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship with Debra Hirsch (2010)
- Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People with Lance Ford (2011)
- On the Verge: The Future of the Church as Apostolic Movement with Dave Ferguson (2011)
- The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage with Mike Frost (2011)
- The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church with Tim Catchim and Mike Breen (2012) A Leadership Network Publication.
- The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (2013) with Michael Frost back cover endorsed by Leonard Sweet and Dan Kimball,
- Fast Forward to Mission: Frameworks for a Life of Impact (2012)
- The Permanent Revolution Playbook: APEST for the People of God: A Six Week Exploration (2014) with Tim Catchim
- The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements (2016)
- Alan Hirsch endorsed Reimagening Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, by Frank Viola
- Erwin McManus wrote the foreword in Fast Forward to Mission: Frameworks for a Life of Impact (2012)
- The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (2013) is backcover endorsed by
Leonard Sweet and
- Leonard Sweet wrote the foreword in The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.
Back cover endorsements by Leonard Sweet,
Michael Frost and Eddie Gibbs.
- Leonard Sweet and Brian McLaren endorsed The Forgotten Ways Handbook: A Practical Guide for Developing Missional Churches
- Rick Warren wrote the foreword in Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship.
- Erwin Raphael McManus wrote the foreword in Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People.
- Dan Kimball and Leonard Sweet endorsed Right Here Right Now: Everyday Mission for Everyday People.
- Tony Jones endorsed ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church
- Scot McKnight and Leonard Sweet endorsed The Faith of Leap: Embracing a Theology of Risk, Adventure & Courage
- In the Additional Resources section of The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church is listed:
- Catch the Wind: The Shape of the Church to Come, by Charles Ringma
- Soul Tsunami: Sink or Swim in New Millenium Culture, by Leonard Sweet
- The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, by Dallas Willard
- The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is, by N. T. Wright
- The Open Church: Invitation to a Messianic Lifestyle, by Jürgen Moltmann
- Natural Church Development: A Guide to Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches, by
- The Purpose-Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message and Mission, by Rick Warren
- Reinventing Your Church, by Brian McLaren
- Postmodern Pilgrims: First-Century Passion for the Twenty-First-Century Church, by Leonard Sweet
- Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups, by Richard J. Foster
- The Wounded Healer, by Henri Nouwen
- Working the Angels: The Work of Pastoral Integrity, by Eugene H. Peterson
- The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey
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