As Promised – Book Review of “Untamed”, by Alan and Deb Hirsch

Responding to the Call of the Wild


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!

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