Thursday, April 15, 2010
Responding to the Call of the Wild - Book Review of Alan and Deb Hirsch's book, Untamed
Book Review – Untamed-Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship, by Alan and Debra Hirsch (Published by Baker Books, 2010)
There is nothing like seeing something that is wild. Fact is, people will pay good money to see animals romp in an environment that mimics their natural setting simply because it looks wild (even though it is not, i.e. San Diego Wild Animal Park). There is something inherently exciting and dangerous about being “wild”…there is anticipation and uneasiness as well as the thrill of unpredictability. Yet, despite our fascination with the wild, we seem to be driven by our desire to cage, tame and domesticate anything that appears dangerous. Why? Because all the talk of excitement and unpredictability is so often trumped by our human and hidden need for safety, staidness, and certainty. As long as something that is wild can be caged up or fenced in we can marginalize and/or control it.
Alan and Deb Hirsch take a strong stance and make compelling arguments for regaining and remembering what it was like to be called to be “untamed” in their new book of the same title, Untamed-Reactivating a Missional form of Discipleship. When I was reading the book, it took me back to the feeling I got watching “Born Free” many years ago…now, I know that sounds absolutely childish, cliché-ish, and ridiculous…but hear me out. We were created by God, called by the Jesus Himself, empowered by the very Power of God through the Holy Spirit NOT SO THAT WE COULD BE domesticated, caged, clipped or tamed. As long as the culture can drive down streets and see churches that they assume house tamed Christians (complete with programs and activities that keep us “in” our cages, fed and satisfied) they will never know that we as followers of Jesus were not meant for domestication…and we will never realize our full potential as being inherently dangerous within our world for the Kingdom. Part of what is needed in our world from a Kingdom perspective is disciples who are invading and infiltrating the culture with the very power and presence of God. Tell you what – you get the “animals” out of the cages, convinced that being untamed is how God originally designed, saved and empowered them to be and you have a dynamic that leads to life and vibrancy. As a friend of mine has said, “unleash the disciple within”…now, that’s an adventure that many followers of Jesus really want to sign up for…many that I know, didn’t want to lay down their lives for the predictability of the cage…they don’t want to be tamed…they want to feel and experience the Kingdom thrill of being empowered by God for something that will not only change their lives, but the world!
Enough of me – the Hirsch’s take on the topic of discipleship in this new book and they do it with biblical astuteness and practical passion. Both have extensive histories in traditional and missional expressions of “Church”…so they write with a personal believability due to the fact that they have “been there, done that.” Both are committed to a historically-based, sound and orthodox Christology, as evidenced in the following:
“Jesus is the key not only because Christian discipleship is about becoming more like Jesus but also because it is only in and through Jesus that we can get the proper, truly Christ-ian understanding of God. In other words, Jesus gets defining rights in relation to life, discipleship, theology and everything in between.” (page. 35)
The Hirsch’s understand the biblical call to discipleship from a decidedly transformational perspective. They call on us to understand what it is to be “living versions of him – little Jesuses.” They warn about how easy it is to fall into lies that convince us to love, follow, and discover our identity in anything else but the true God. I loved the Hirsch’s “boldness” in discussing the Holy Spirit – taking risks of being labeled and pigeon-holed as “raving Pentecostalists”, both Alan and Deb encourage followers of Jesus in the awakening of the power of the Holy Spirit not only for life, but also for creativity, transformation, risky mission and community. This section inspired me,
“…the missional church movement in the West needs to seriously re-embrace the role of the Holy Spirit as part of the Christian experience. And if we really want to recover the lost ethos of authentic missional Christianity, we are going to have to take the risk of encountering the divine and personally experiencing god in wild and wonderful ways in order to bring the kingdom into this time and place. It’s going to take untamed disciples who, as lovers and pursuers of God, have no defenses and are willing to lay bare their hearts before him to make this happen. Amen, come Holy Spirit.” (p. 102).
All I can say is “preach it!” Discipleship is about change…and God is too much of a lover of our souls and a God of action to leave us as we are…to know God is to change (allow ourselves to be stripped of rebellion, stripped of rebellious religion, stripped of restrictive practices that prevent us from a true experience and love of God).
In addition to its theological explorations, ecclesiology and missiology are Untamed’s true call…at the “heart” of the book (literally, the center of the paperback that I have on my lap while I write this) is the pivot section on disciple-making as mission and mission as the definition of “Church”. In these sections, those of you who are familiar with Alan and his past work (Shaping of Things to Come, The Forgotten Ways, etc.) will not be surprised. The Hirsch’s make a passionate argument of the “untamedness” of the priesthood of all believers and for a recovery of understanding of the core message of the Great Commission – Discipleship and Disciple-making. They take on sacred cows…they take on old paradigms…they take on any and all comers…
“…all of us are called to disciple others-discipling is the task of every Christian….discipleship is not just for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior-it’s for everyone. We as believers are called to disciple everyone who comes into our orbit of influence-it’s that simple. If each believer understood discipleship in this way and then took their biblical mandate seriously, we would have lots of people growing and becoming more and more like Jesus – and hopefully at some point coming under His Lordship. It’s not our role to convert them, but to disciple them. Conversion is God’s business. How much better would the world be? And the fun thing is that in many cases those who haven’t accepted Jesus as Lord may have no idea that they are being discipled!” (p. 147)
That’s Untamed! Without a doubt and without apology, the Hirsch’s call for followers of Jesus to reclaim our disciple-making prowess and passion is at the heart of what it means to be “wild” for Christ. I could go on and on…as I already have for many of your tastes. My enthusiasm for this book is based on its readability, sound biblical exploration and praxis-orientation. It is inspiring and practical and is bound to help you think through how you are to be the Untamed follower of Jesus you have been called to be!