The Forgotten Ways Handbook: A Practical Guide for Developing Missional Churches
by Alan Hirsch with Darryn Altclass
For those of you needing guidance on implementing the theoretical aspects of Alan Hirsch’s popular 2007 publication, The Forgotten Ways, this follow-up handbook is for you.
Brazos Press, 6030 E. Fulton, Ada, MI 49301, 176 pages, 2009, $13.99.
—Reviewed by J. D. Payne, national missionary, North American Mission Board; associate professor of church planting and evangelism, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
For those of you needing guidance on implementing the theoretical aspects of Alan Hirsch’s popular 2007 publication, The Forgotten Ways, this follow-up handbook is for you. In this guide, Hirsch has teamed up with Darryn Altclass to assist the reader in thinking through the processes of applying the major concepts of the previous book. Hirsch is the founder and director of Forge Mission Training Network and co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come. Altclass serves as a missionary in Australia. While I originally thought this book would be a repetition of The Forgotten Ways, I discovered such was not the case. Although the authors necessarily repeat significant portions of the original book, their purpose is to challenge the reader to apply those original principles by offering practical examples, numerous small group discussion questions, reflection questions, action step guides, and opportunities for personal journaling.
The argument of both books is that the Church has largely forgotten the way of apostolic movements and needs to remember it. The authors note that they write this book to “make the forgotten ways, well…less forgotten” (p. 12). And the way to reactivate the missional church is to rediscover the “Apostolic Genius” (p. 11). This genius is the name given to “the unique energy and force that pulsates through the remarkable Jesus movements in history,” and consists of six elements known as missional DNA: Jesus is Lord, Disciple-Making, Missional-Incarnational Impulse, Apostolic Environment, Organic Systems, and Communitas (p. 34). For when all of these elements are present and working in relationship together, and “an adaptive challenge acts as a catalyst, then Apostolic Genius is activated” (p. 34), resulting in the spontaneous expansion of the Church.
After addressing the organization of the book, the authors provide a brief account to introduce the reader to the teachings originally contained in The Forgotten Ways. Each of the following chapters then contains a summary of each of the six missional DNA elements with suggested habits, practices, questions, and guidelines for reflection, group discussion, and implementation. The book also directs the reader to some helpful online resources and concludes with a glossary of the technical (and coined) terms and phrases found throughout the book. While the authors note the handbook is a standalone text (p. 16), I strongly suggest reading The Forgotten Ways first in order to obtain a better understanding of the argument and principles being taught. Hirsch and Altclass rightly call the Church back to her apostolic nature by providing this helpful practical guide. We need to read and heed their challenge. While I believe both The Forgotten Ways and this handbook lack the biblical/theological depth that should be present, especially when calling the Church back to something supposedly “forgotten,” I would still highly recommend this work (and also The Forgotten Ways). Read this book, digest its contents, and make application to your setting. This work challenges us regarding what it means to be missional as we long to see the spontaneous expansion of the Church.
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