Book Review: Untamed Alan Hirsch

“There are two kinds of people in the world: those who live the adventure, and those who only read about others living the adventure.”

Alan Hirsch lives the adventure of being a follower of Jesus.  His experiences and learnings show clearly in his writings, and even more so in this book written with his wife, Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship, released in February 2010.

In 9 packed chapters, he and his wife Debra look at church and culture and cast a vision for living a missional life that makes a difference.

I found myself repeatedly saying “Preach it!” as I read through this book.  Each chapter ends with suggestions and study questions that will push groups to engage the culture around them.

The Holy Spirit’s role in being Untamed

For me, the biggest contribution this book makes to the missional discussion is the chapter on the Holy Spirit.  Between the emotional excesses of certain  Pentecostal expressionism, and the dry intellectual and theological control of fundamentalism, Hirsch paints a picture of his own discovery of growing in understanding the person and work of the the Holy Spirit.

Even moreso, Hirsch shares what a Spirit inspired missionaly theology might look like (which chapter 3 teases out):

  1. Some creativity
  2. Risky mission
  3. Community
  4. Personal Transformation (2 Cor 3.18)
  5. A growing love (Romans 5.5)
  6. Learning community
  7. Some miracles
  8. Spiritual community
  9. A lot more discernment
  10. Unity around Jesus.
  11. Ecstasy and Intimacy
  12. Liberation and Transformation

Untamed is a book on missional theology and mission discipleship: what might this look like, what do these terms mean for Christians as we seek to call others into a relationship with Christ.

Following Christ is more than just an intellectual agreement with a set of propositional truths. Following Christ impacts all of our life and our calling as we seek to be centered around the life, death, resurrection, and mission of Jesus.

The incarnation is a foundation for ministry and the authors encourages readers to really refresh their own personal study of the Gospel to see how Jesus treated people.  As you learn more from Jesus, you’ll learn to engage your own spirituality and how that plays out in your life of making a difference.

As you grow in your understanding of discipleship, this will impact how you call others to discipleship.  Studying the incarnation will impact not only who we are, but what we do in the community. Throughout the book, they tell their own personal stories of what that looked like, and what principles we might be able to apply to our own contexts.

If you are tired of boring Sunday only Christianity, this book will hopefully light the fires of change.  If you want to awaken a passion in your discipleship, this book can help you get started.

Favorite quote from Untamed:

On Passion

We have called this an incarnation of the heart, and believe it is essential if we are to embody what it is to be like Jesus and to offer this gift to the rest of humanity.

Identification on the level of the heart implies a certain intimacy with the people you are trying to reach.

Identification, as we’ve said before, is understanding their stories, their heroes, their books, their take on things.

To incarnate on the level of the heart means we begin to feel their stories, their lives, their pains. Our hearts and compassion are thereby activated (p. 246)

On Mission

Following the logic of the incarnation itself, our message is heard properly only when we have gone through the process of identifying with people, hearing them, understanding the issues they face, humbly living with them, and knowing how they experience and express their search for meaning.

If we do this, we will have earned the right to address the hearts of the people and bring salvation to them. (p. 248)

Get your copy from Amazon (affiliate link:) Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship.

Guest Article Getting beyond the walls

Today’s Guest Article is from my friend who has served as our translator during our Nicaragua mission trips.

Earl and his family have been serving as church planters in Nicaragua for years, and he shares with us some reflections on getting out of the church walls.

Here you go. . . . . . . .

Source: Ramblings on “taking God’s love out of the four walls”

These are totally random and have no real order. They’re just a bunch of thoughts and you must determine their value. You must allow the Holy Spirit to show you how to apply them to your life.

Why be light in dark places?

Why get dirty? …because He shined so I could see his love; He got dirty so I could be cleansed.

For those reasons I love him, I want shine in the darkness and get “dirty”. I want others to see his love and receive his cleansing and forgiveness.

How can I get dirty?  (Getting dirty has reference to previous thoughts shared and internet conversations with a few college students. Jesus, perfect and holy God, came and lived in the world, among the dirt and the dirty. We should do likewise. This is the reason for the question, “how can I get dirty?” Philippians 2:5-8)

  1. Pray – Jesus spent hours in intimate relation with Father God. John 8:38 “I am telling you the things I have seen while with the Father; as for you, practice the things you have heard from the Father!” NET (New English Translation)
  2. Go where the Father says go and do what the Father says do – Jesus did only what He saw the Father do. John 5:19 “So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” NET
  3. Shine at all times – where ever Jesus went people saw the light.
  4. Speak God’s truth and demonstrate God’s love where ever you go – Jesus ministered to Nicodemus, the woman at the well, the tax collectors, the prostitute and the rich young ruler there was no condemnation, just forgiveness and the charge to change.
  5. Jesus the Christ and his life, death and resurrection are the good news, nothing else (1 Cor. 15:1-9). Never allow theology and being right or wrong to be the center and focus. I’m not saying correct theology isn’t important, but Jesus’ sacrificial love for us is the focus.
  6. Share the love of God; shine the light of Jesus; show (demonstrate) the power of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Do all for the glory and honor of the Father.

We can never merit God’s love, but we can show him our sincere love and genuine appreciation by obeying him, sharing the good news and making disciples of all nations.

Faith without corresponding action is dead.

I came to you in the power of the Holy Spirit, not with fancy, convincing words.

Some of the darkest, dirtiest places in the world are clean, well lit offices.

Getting dirty is…

  • being generous,
  • not letting the right hand know what the left is doing (what you do, do it for God’s glory, not for personal recognition, gratification or merit),
  • caring for a friend,
  • helping the helpless,
  • encouraging the hopeless.

Getting dirty is being Jesus where ever you are.

Posted by Earl

The Prayer Station at Faith in Action Sunday

Pastors Allenn and Debbie Kemp recently led their church into a Faith in Action Sunday, following a program that has been developed by World Vision.

They chose to take their regular Sunday service and move it to the front lawn of the their church — going to the streets, so to speak.

Their church has done several short term mission trips, and this idea came out of wondering why can’t they do some of that same compassionate work in their local neighborhood.

The Prayer Station

One additional feature of their missional event was the prayer station (Follow the link to see how to do a prayer station).

Prayer Booth Prayer Station

Staffed with elders trained in compassionate prayer, this was a place where people could unload their burdens and have someone pray with them.

People self-selected to sit at the table.

This is a place where evangelism conversations can happen normally, as people express their spiritual thirst. (See What is Spiritual Thirst?)

This is also a place to hear about community needs that might be under the radar.

Listen to How to Setup a Prayer Station

Alan and I did a phone conversation about how to setup the prayer station.  Listen here:

How to Setup a Prayer Station

One way that you can discover your community need is through setting up prayer stations at your outreach events.

For example, we did one at a dental fair where we partnered with the local dental school to give free cleanings to kids (Photos below).

Making this prayer station service available allows people who want prayer to sit and visit with your volunteers.

Praying together gives God an open door to touch a person’s life as an expression of your church’s love.

Many churches have started this practice and others want to try it, so here is a simple step by step layout of how to setup a prayer station.

As people visit the station, they will often share some kind of spiritual need.  They will stay as long as they want or feel comfortable doing.  You might be able to hear their spiritual thirst.  (What is Spiritual Thirst?)

It’s an opportunity for evangelism that is not aggressive, as your guests expect to talk a little about their spiritual need while visiting your prayer station.

What is a Prayer Station or Prayer Booth?

A Prayer Station is a simple place designated for free prayer to those who want it.

It’s an area clearly designated and staffed with trained volunteers from your church.

It could be a table with a sign, perhaps under a tent if it’s outdoors.  Or maybe just a collection of chairs.  Many groups have found a table helpful, as they can have a place for writing notes or displaying literature.

Nothing elaborate, just a designated place in the same area where your outreach is occurring.

For example, if you are doing your outreach on the lawn of your church, the prayer station should be outside in the same area.  I don’t recommend setting up inside the church, as that is out of the traffic pattern of the people who attend your outreach.

Where can you use a Prayer Booth or Prayer Station?

Prayer Station on the church grounds.

The amazing versatility of this prayer station is that it can be used wherever you are doing an outreach on your church property.

For example,

  • Church block parties
  • Church yard sales / rummage sales
  • Any kind of festival or outreach that you have on your property.

We did a dental fair as an outreach and setup a prayer station in the same area where the free dental cleanings were happening.

Prayer Station at Dental fair

Prayer Station in the community.

Some other churches may choose to setup a prayer station at a more public setting, such as renting a tent at a public food festival, or just out on the street in an area of high foot traffic.

As people pass by, some will stop in to pray, others will be curious, and some will likely wish you weren’t there.

In one town where I lived, they had an annual tomato festival that was very similar to a county fair.  Vendors would rent tents to see their arts and crafts, food items, and advertise their services.  Some churches would rent a tent and simply staff it as a prayer station.

Not all churches would be comfortable doing something like this at a location that is not their property.

Some will do this on a regular basis, like the 1st Saturday of the month at a park or with a business.

How do we staff the Prayer Station or Booth?

Recruit volunteers who are skilled at praying with other people.

In our prayer stations, we use people are filled with the Holy Spirit and able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifts.  They also have the gentleness to know how to express those gifts without being perceived as weird, combative, or loony.  That’s part of my ministry ethos.

You’ll want volunteers who are comfortable listening to the stories of other people and who have gifts of compassion and mercy.  This is not the place for the overly aggressive evangelist or the constant talker who doesn’t listen.

What do we do at the Prayer Station?

Prayer Station OutreachWhen a visitor comes to your prayer station, a simple welcome greeting is appropriate.

Then, a question like, “How can we pray for you?” will often be sufficient to get the conversation going.

You might want to confirm that prayer is not “Rub the lamp and find the genie” or any kind of magic.

Listen for the need and then take the time to pray with the person right there at that prayer station.

You can expect that God will open up your heart as well as theirs and that the Holy Spirit would touch their lives.

After praying, there are a variety of other things you might want to do

  • Give some literature about other community services that might help like food banks, shelter, medical clinics, etc.
  • Talk more about the person’s spiritual journey and what they might want to do to grow.
  • Give some literature about your church and your worship services.
  • Gather contact information for follow up,  if appropriate.
  • Give out tracts, bibles, etc.

I recommend that your team keep a notebook where they can put topics for prayer.  After a while, you might see some themes that God might be calling your church to meet.

Let me ask you this?

How would you use this in your context?

If you like this idea, put it on your calendar, do it, and let me know how it goes.

The Reciprocal Church

PuzzleConnectionAssimilationDr. Kevin Yoho,General Presbyter Newark Presbytery has put together a presentation called The Reciprocal Church.

I like what he’s done in calling “the church” back into the nieghborhood, using the idea of reciprocity.

Does the church give benefit to the community in exchange for the investment that the community makes in the church?

Or put another way, how is the church engaging its community to both demonstrate and advance the kingdom of God?

Check this out.

View more presentations from Kevin Yoho.
Dr. Kevin Yoho,
General Presbyter
Newark PresbyteryDr. Kevin Yoho,General Presbyter Newark Presbytery