Brief Reviews, Midweek Edition, VOLUME 2

Midweek Edition: Brief Review: Alan Hirsch’s THE FORGOTTEN WAYS HANDBOOK.

A Brief Review of

The Forgotten Ways Handbook.
Alan Hirsch with Darren Altclass.
Paperback: Brazos Press, 2009.
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By Chris Smith.

The Forgotten Ways Handbook is a praxis-oriented companion to Alan Hirsch’s excellent 2008 book The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church.  The purpose of this handbook is “to provide frameworks and offer suggestions as a means to inspire God’s people into mission” (11).  This guide consists of an introduction and six chapters – one on each of the elements of what Hirsch calls mDNA (the ‘m’ is for missional, i.e., mDNA is the defining essence of a missional church).  These elements are:

•    Jesus is Lord
•    Disciple Making
•    Missional-Incarnational Impulse
•    Apostolic Environment
•    Organic Systems
•    Communitas, not Community

Each chapter explores a particular element, offering suggestions to help us more fully embody that element in our churches and concluding with three sets of questions intended to be discussed corporately in the church context.  The first set of questions is focused on exploration and the second one is designed to spur deeper reflection.  The third and final set of questions is oriented toward action.  The authors also provide frameworks for action plans, which will assist in the implementation of these ideas.

    The Forgotten Ways Handbook certainly offers much for churches to consider and to discuss.  Hirsch, and his co-author Darryn Altclass, do set a high bar, and I imagine that a church conversation that would proceed through this book from beginning to end would be quite grueling.  However, I also imagine that discussing the topics here at a more leisurely pace – perhaps interspersed with other conversations – might bear some excellent fruit.  The best use of this book, I suspect, would be for church planters as their church communities discern their missional identity together in the early stages of the plant.

    If your church is headed in the missional direction, or at least is intrigued by missional ideas, read Hirsch’s The Forgotten Ways first and then if you want to share or discuss his ideas throughout your church, this handbook is an excellent way to spark conversation, and Lord willing, also “to stir innovative missional action for Jesus in this post-Christian world” (11).

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at:

Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith

"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior

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