The DNA Of The Church And Me: What I've Been Learning From Alan Hirsch's New Book

No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible, until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.
— J. S. Mill

Over the last few weeks I have been working through Alan Hirsch’s newest book, entitled 5Q: Reactivating The Original Intelligence And Capacity Of The Body Of Christ.

The premise of the book? Hirsch takes a deep dive into Ephesians 4:1-16 and how it provides the core DNA of Jesus Christ’s Church – and how we have strayed from our “genetic code” as the Body of Christ.

But Hirsch doesn’t stop with simply a critique of the Church, his analysis of the weaknesses of the Church (and, by extension, the weaknesses in the life of individual Christians) moves into how we can reclaim our identity or “reactivate” our DNA at the Church.

This book, which in many ways is the summation of years of research and wrestling for Alan, has left me with a number of thoughts running through my mind. As I continue to discover my calling as a follower of Christ – and my role within the Church – this book has been a transformative read for me.

Here are a few of my key takeaways from the book:

  • We’re not in Kansas anymore! The world has changed a lot in the last several centuries but the Church has not kept up with the changing world nor have we stayed grounded in our core DNA. Alan put it this way: “We are trying to negotiate the post-Christian, postmodern, late capitalist challenges of the twenty-first century with a pre-modern, pre-Enlightenment, European template of the church. It’s like we are trying to negotiate New York City using a map of Los Angeles.”    
  • Our Genetic Code. The core DNA of the Church, as advocated by Alan, is fivefold. The Church is called (Ephesians 4) to be: Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic, Shepherding, and Teaching. All five of these elements are essential to the health of individual churches as well as larger denominations and organizations.  Alan calls this the 5Q.
  • The Model 5Q. The perfect model for us into how these five elements interact with each other is, you guessed it, Jesus. Jesus exemplifies for us a perfect balance of being an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher. He is the “pioneer and perfector of our faith” and he sets the bar for how individuals and organizations should live out 5Q.
  • Our Turn. So if Jesus lived out the ideal APEST ministry, why is it important to the Church now? Because, when Jesus ascended back into heaven, He unleashed the Church to be the Body of Christ. We as the Church are called to continue to live out the type of life that Jesus Himself lives. In Alan’s own words, “The Body of Christ exists to extend both the logic and impact of the ministry of Christ in the world.”

What about you?

Another key element to Alan’s thesis in this book is that the core DNA of the Church is actually built into ALL of God’s Creation. So the APEST elements can be seen both inside and outside the Church, it is the core of all of the beauty, truth, and goodness in the world.

And if that is true, then you have certain strengths from the APEST list that God has gifted you with. Discovering what that is in your life is vitally important to learning what you are best at, what you need to strengthen, and where you need to partner with others in order to live out the life of Christ in your world.

This is also true in our churches. Each of our churches needs a balance of the entire fivefold list. When certain elements disproportionately outweigh others, our churches are unable to fully live out Christ’s mission nor can the churches be healthy, empowering, and unleashing families. In short, they are unhealthy bodies of Christ.

How you can learn more about 5Q and how God has gifted you:

  • Go to 5Qcentral.com and go through the tests, assessments, and material on the website.
  • If you find elements of what I’ve mentioned, and the information you learned on their website, pick up the 5Q book and dive into this discussion for your yourself.
  • Live out the APEST-elements God has gifted you with, surround yourself with others who compliment your fivefold gifting, and nurture churches (and church-type ministries) that become full, healthy bodies of Christ with strong elements of the entire APEST calling of the Church.

As I’m preparing to transition in ministry (which is a conversation for a different day), I am wrestling with how I can better understand my APEST strengths and weaknesses and how I can help do the same in my local church and ministries.

Rediscovering our APEST calling as a Church may just prove to be the key to the Church making a difference in the new, rapidly-changing world we find ourselves in.

I’ll wrap up with this quote from Alan Hirsch. I think it sums up his new book beautifully:

If Jesus expressed his ministry in terms of the fivefold, then the church as the primary agency of the ministry of Jesus must correspondingly also have all the fivefold functions [APEST] operative to do what Jesus did and to attain to the fullness of Christ. When we put it all together we can sense the wonderful symmetry that Jesus has built into the Body.
— Alan Hirsch

Have you heard of APEST before? What thoughts and questions do you have? If you’ve read this book already, what was your top takeaway from Alan’s work? Comment below and let’s continue the conversation on living out the compassion of Jesus!