"There is a time for 'in-your-face' approaches to mission, but there is also a time to simply become part of the very fabric of a community and to engage in the humanity of it all…. If relationship is the key means in the transfer of the gospel, then it simply means we are going to have to be directly present to the people in our circle." (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 133)
My wife and I read Alan Hirsch's book together. In the margin next to the above quote she asks "Is relationship the key or is proclamation?" Her question is a good one that started me pondering. Here Hirsch falls into a false dichotomy of incarnation and proclamation. When we look at the example of Jesus, we see a seemless movement of incarnation and proclamation combined. The radical otherness of the way of Jesus cannot be effectively shown only by becoming "part of the very fabric of a community." The way of Jesus challenges us to act and speak in an alternative manner that betrays a reign-of-God worldview.
There is a weariness with proclamation because it has been equated with an "in-your-face" approach that conjures up images of men in clothing from another era yelling in English (also from another era) armed with a signboard with flames on it. Proclamation of the great news of Jesus does not have to be so angry (nor should it be). But it does beckon us to say and do things that don't mesh so easily with the fabric of the community. In order to urge people away from false and temporary allegiances, uncomfortable things need to be proclaimed. But the manner of our proclamation should always be overwhelmingly characterized by our love. Part of demonstrating our love is to live incarnationally. On the next page, Hirsch offers us a glimpse of how an Incarnational posture can communicate God's love:
"But one of the profound implications of our presence as representatives of Jesus is that Jesus actually likes to hang out with the people we hang out with. They get the implied message that God actually likes them." (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 134)