My earlier critique of Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Ways, was incomplete and imbalanced. Though there is too much self-coined jargon to wade through, making it a frustrating read, after the first half of the book there are some real gems. So while my earlier praise and critique stand, Hirsch is due more praise, especially from a church planter’s perspective.
The chapter on “Organic Systems” is very helpful. He nicely sets traditional churches in contrast to organic churches:
Planting a new church, or remissionalizing an existing one, in this approach isn’t primarily about buildings, worship services, size of congregations, and pastoral care, but rather about gearing the whole community around natural discipling friendships, worship as lifestyle, and mission in the context of everyday life. (p. 185)
Hirsch then proceeds to lay a theological foundation for why Organic, which is primarily rooted in allusions to the biblical doctrine of creation, especially as it pertains to the church. Noting organic metaphors such as living temples, vines, bodies, seeds, trees, etc. he argues that this imagery is not haphazard but latent with are intrinsically related to the essence of the church (180). Next, he rightly tethers this creation imagery to the triune Creator noting that “an organic image of church and mission is theologically richer by far than any mechanistic and institutional conceptions of church we might devise” (181).
After laying this foundation for Organic church, Hirsch develops insights based on his research and reflection on the nature and function of organic systems. I will briefly list them here: 1) Innate intelligence: trust the organic nature of the church 2) Life is interconnected: follow this impulse in community 3) Information brings change: free and guided information flow is vital to growth. 4) Adaptive change: constantly adapt and react to your environment.
In turn, he advocates building relational networks that have “viruslike growth.” More to come…