Alan Hirsch on Incarnational Mission

Mission is the "what" but incarnation is the "how."

Too much talk about the centrality of mission to ecclesiology and discipleship comes off as imperialistic and colonizing because it fails to reflect the fact that, as Alan Hirsch points out, when God's mission landed on planet earth in Jesus Christ, he stayed incognito for thirty years.  What if churches were as committed to incarnational missiology as they are to missional ecclesiology?


  1. Hmm. Something about this strikes me as off. A) God's mission didn't arrive in Jesus, it just "climaxed" there. B) The dichotomy drawn b/t missional ecclesiology and incarnational missiology seems arbitrary, as if they're not essentially the same thing. We need to learn presence for sure, but I'm not going to tell my neighbor who's broken and ensnared, "sorry, I'm not here to help or do anything, just trying to me incarnational by being present." This is taking it to an extreme, but it's how Alan sounds here.

  2. JR- Of course, you're right about God's mission not beginning with Jesus. Although I do think it is fair to say it "arrived" in a truly new way in the incarnation. You're also right that to dichotomize missional ecclesiology and incarnational missiology is a mistake, but that is precisely what I (and I think Alan) was hoping to highlight. My point is that there are too many folks who are talking missional church but who go about that mission in a way that is at odds with the incarnation. Colonizing mission is a historical example but the same mission-w/o-incarnation strain is alive and well within the missional movement. I can see, though, that putting the stress on how Jesus spent 30 years incarnate before beginning his ministry, could draw two hard a division between incarnation and mission. Indeed, Jesus mission--restoring all of creation to God--began before his formal ministry did, just by the simple acts of him breathing our air and walking on our dirt. BTW, a few bright folks commented on all this on my Facebook page: