Alan Hirsch is an experienced church planter and the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network. His most recent book, The Forgotten Ways, represents an contemporary interpretation of the missional explosion of the early church and the recent house-church movement in China.
What does the term missional mean to you?
Well, that's one of those very difficult terms because it's so widely used. But for me, it primarily refers to a church that organizes itself around the mission of God, or the misseo dei, which refers to God's involvement in the world—his redeeming it to himself. In The Forgotten Ways, I say that it's not so much that the church has a mission, but that the mission has a church. So when I think of the term "missional church," it's in that order—that a church has somehow bonded itself or identified itself as a primary agent of the mission of God in the world.
What about the term organic?
Of course that one has been made famous by Neil Cole, but organic for me is the idea that human organizations—just like living systems—are made up of very complex structures, and they have a life of their own. It's a term that's in contrast to a more mechanistic view of organization. So when I refer to organic systems, I'm thinking of a type of leadership and organization that is closer to the rhythms and structures of life itself.
An organic church goes with the natural flow of things. It doesn't try to perpetuate its life beyond what it's meant to be, which is different than most organizations. Most organizations tend to assume that once they've been started, they need to be perpetuated continually.