(inspired by Alan Hirsch’s mDNA)
What does it look like to make disciples of Jesus who actually go and reproduce more disciples? We need to think about the big picture, plant small seeds that can sprout trees and in turn create forests. Plant from the beginning with the end in mind. We see this in the parables of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven.
A number of missional practitioners and theologians have noted certain elements that occur when the Holy Spirit does expansive works. These elements show up in (1) the early church, (2) church planting movements, (3) disciple making movements, and (4) situations where the Holy Spirit unleashed His power resulting in renewal and ecclesial growth.
What follows is a summary of Alan Hirsch’s mDNA from “The Forgotten Ways,” although I add the “Trinitarian” point and some notes from my study of over 100 missiologists/theologians and from also having personally observed a few expansive movements globally over the last 20 years. These elements are often present in movements of the Holy Spirit :
- Jesus is Lord: The church reorients around the person, work, and Kingship of Jesus Christ. This is unquestionably essential: the message of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord over all creation has always and will always be at the center of His movement. Examine: Colossians 1-2, John 1, John 14:6, Philippians 2.
- Trinitarian: Historically, this idea of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, three and one, has been one of the key teachings that makes true Christianity separate from all other religions. As we unpack the nature and work of the Trinity we see the gospel of grace unfolding within the Divine Community (Tri-unity). Without Trinitarianism the gospel narrative and teaching deteriorates. Examine: Matthew 4 (Jesus’ Baptism), Matthew 28, Revelation 1, Ephesians 1, John 14-16.
- Disciple-making: Every Kingdom movement spawns new followers of Jesus. As Hirsch says, disciple-making helps people do the things Jesus did, for the same reasons that Jesus did them. We help people follow His practices, but also be filled with His heart motivations. Dallas Willard emphasizes, we help people have the sort of heart that would do Jesus’s commands out of pure joy and love. Examine: Jesus’s methods in Luke.
- Missiological + Incarnational: Christ modeled for us two essential elements of ministry: mission (going out into the world and serving/loving others), and incarnation (being lovingly present among others, doing all in the sanctity of His love). In expansive Kingdom movements people operate in the missional thrust of love (for God and for our neighbors), and proclaim hope to the hopeless, they also abide amongst others in order to incarnate (make real) Christ’s love as a long-term embodiment of His Kingdom. Examine: Jesus in the gospel of John for the incarnational aspect, consider the book of Acts for the missional aspect.
- Movemental Orientation: When all members of the Body are able to function appropriately, Kingdom power is revealed. People live into their callings/giftings. Ephesians 4 gives us the only purpose statement in all of scripture regarding the spiritual gifts. “And God has given some to be Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Shepherds, Teachers, for the equipping of the saints, to do the work of ministry [so that the body may be built up].” Wherever expansive movements have happened, those five gifts have been active in unique ways. Now, people differ on the definition of those gifts, but think those gifts respectively as pioneers, challenger/activists, recruiters/deliverers of hope, caretakers/guardians, and conveyors of transformative informational systems, all inspired by the work of the Lord. Even in movements that didn’t use these terms from Ephesians 4, there was still the activation of each one of those five gifts in terms of “skill sets” that enabled the Body of Christ to move forward. Examine: Ephesians 4 (seriously), but read it in context of the whole book. Ephesians is a constitutional document for the church. If this point is difficult, see “The Permanent Revolution” by Tim Catchim and Hirsch, for a brilliant exegetical explanation.
- Organic Reproducible Structures: The Kingdom thrives within people! Jesus built relationships so they became a living breathing active priesthood (1 Peter 2:5). When two or three gather in His name, it is simple and easy to reproduce. Acts and early church centered around relationships and households. This doesn’t mean we don’t need large churches, rather, large churches can contribute to the movement by strategically and structurally empowering people to go as missionaries into their everyday environments. Spiritual, relational, incarnational movements can spread through any human structure or system and impact the entire globe. Examine: The book of Acts.
- Deep Community (by faith, taking on risk): Tribe, family, Body, household of faith, royal priesthood: these metaphors demonstrate that we have so much more in community than simply a weekly gathering. We take on risk together and by faith take bold steps that require us to depend on more than our individual efforts. When we follow Him on mission together we go to places we never imagined and find unique difficulties and unique blessings we never imagined. Where there is a Kingdom movement, there is deep loving community. Try it out: Name one friend that needs some sort of demonstration of love, think of one way to show love to them, bring one additional friend who can come along and make the experience sweeter and deeper. Examine: Acts demonstrates this beautifully. In the face of immense danger, the early followers of Jesus found great value in community with one another. Examine Paul’s writings. Consider how Paul envisioned community and encouraged the people to treat one another.
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