This book is not designed to be a scholarly book, per se. Rather, it is a combination of personal reflection over a life of ministry, as well as, a “missional” reflection concerning culture and the church. Although Hirsch does implement outsider sources, they are sparsely implemented. A side note, there were a number of typos and grammatical errors throughout the book.
Hirsch tries to define “Apostolic Genius” of the early Church and the “missional DNA” that provided the building blocks for this movement. The current cultural milieu is surprisingly similar to the environment in which the early Church was birthed. The Gospel, according to Hirsch, has largely been co-opted by consumerism, the nation-state, and science as the authority on “truth.” The Church has continued to lose ground and impact society far less. Hirsch contends that continuing to do Church in the historically “institutional” manner leaves us open to the same failures and faults. Instead, we need to re-discover the holy fire that ignited the early Jesus movement. In other words, we need to move away from the “attractional” model to a more “missional-incarnational” model of ministry.
The seeds of Apostolic Genius and missional DNA are contained in several factors that must be present. First, we are a people gathered together under the declaration that “Jesus is Lord.” This challenges all other sources of authority in our lives and says that Jesus alone is Lord. The Church’s primary mission is to love God alone.
We are also a disciple-making Body. The Great Commission calls us to be a reproducing Body of believers. It is more than transferring information but engaging people in a way that brings life transformation. This also calls for a different type of engagement from the Church. No longer can we sit in the comfort of the “attractional” model of church that waits for people to come to us. Rather, we are called to be a “missional-incarnational” people that embody the mission of God in the world. We are a sent people, even as Jesus was sent to us.
Pastoral ministry itself must change. Maintaining through administration and pastoral care is no longer sufficient in our current cultural milieu. Instead, we must also embody for fullness of all God’s roles for the missional church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teaching ministries. We have focused on the preaching and teaching aspects to the detriment of the other roles and to the detriment of the Church.
The Church, in Hirsch’s estimation, is a living, organic system. It cannot be sustained or truly grown in mechanistic ways. Rather, Apostolic Genius and mDNA are latent properties that the Spirit gives birth to in new and unique ways in each context. A living organism is many parts operating together, rather than a hierarchy that tends to stabilize and die.
One way that helps the Church remain an organism rather than a mechanism is the concept of communitas. Living on the edge of chaos, at the end of our comfort zones, forces the Church to be creative and live in faithful dependence upon the Spirit for guidance. The Church is called to live in the liminality of life where the mess of life is most pronounced. Institutions tend to move in the other direction, desiring control and stability. Again, according to organic systems, the move toward equilibrium is a move toward death of the organism.