Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Review - On the Verge

This week heralds the blog tour of a new book by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson called "On the Verge: A Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church." It's part of the Exponential Series at Zondervan.

On the Verge is a book that combines some rather deep and strategic thinking on the church of the future along with content of great interest to practitioners as well. This is due in part to the passions of the two authors. Alan is a missiologist encouraging the church to return to its roots and create a high-impact apostolic Jesus movement. Dave has roots as a church planter and is now the pastor of Community Christian Church, a mega-church in Chicago.

The authors lay out a model for apostolic movement which they refer to as movementum: imagine - shift - innovate - move. They attempt to "reimagine the church in apostolic perspective". A key discussion is that of the missional DNA called "The Apostolic Genius. Verge churches combine exponential thinking, church-growth practices, and incarnational mission approaches. Throughout the book a 'both-and' approach is taken.

The core mDNA, or the Apostolic Genius, is a their paradigmatic center comprised of:
  1. Jesus is Lord
  2. Disciple-making
  3. Missional-incarnational impulse
  4. Apostolic environment
  5. Organic systems
  6. Communitas
Confused yet? I still am. To be honest I found On the Verge a very difficult book to read, very though-provoking at times, while simply annoying at others. They place such a strong emphasis on criticizing (deconstructing) current views of the church that they're constantly inventing new words to describe things. Apostolic Genius? Movemental? Verging the church? Communitas instead of community? I imagine they think this helps makes things clearer, but not for this reader. It's not clear if this book succeeds in its hopes to be highly practical.

I don't want to sound too negative - there really is some excellent material, and church planters and thought leaders in the church would do well to struggle through it. And Ferguson and others in these kinds of movements are seeing fruit. If you were a fan of Alan's "Forgotten Ways," embrace postmodern paradigms and long to see fresh apostolic reexpressions of church, chances are very good you will love On the Verge. Modern thinkers, church leaders wondering how to help their congregation take first steps towards more missional living, and those who eschew neologisms are not likely to connect well with this book.

Check out an excerpt of On the Verge for yourself, or get a copy at Amazon or other retailers.


Mason Slater said...

Thanks for posting this review Larry!

Larry Baxter said...

You're welcome Mason! I'll need to revisit the book later after I've become a little more acquainted with the authors vision and writing style.

Paul A. Nierengarten said...

Your observation about deconstruction made me smile. There's an inherent impass in convincing others of the truthfulness of the side that is deconstructing because they are practising the very thing they are challenging. Shatter the molds, but don't shatter OUR molds.

Thanks for posting your thoughts. Blessings to you.

Larry Baxter said...

Good point Paul :) Here's my analogy - in some circles there seems to be chasm in thought and practice (eg emerging vs traditional church). Deconstruction alone, even when points are true, is like lobbing fireballs over the chasm. At some point, somebody needs to build a bridge across the chasm. I loved the book "Deep Church" for its attempt to do just that, respecting whatever good is found on each side.

Thanks for dropping by!

Paul A. Nierengarten said...

Excellent analogy, Larry.

I do get the sense that the authors mean well in the book. They intend to influence the church to think more missionally, which is biblical and it is needed. However, as you've elegantly pointed out, they see a divide where I see a blending.

Larry Baxter said...

Absolutely! These guys have a great heart and are rather smart. There is definitely a divide in understanding which leads to significant differences in practice. Like you I'm hopeful for more of a blend solution that can be reached when both sides better understand the other - and the advantages the others bring. I appreciate the "Both-And" mentality in the book. It's actually pretty rare for someone to strongly favor both missional/relational organic planting and megachurch church growth proponents at the same time. A Venn diagram on pg 43 shows these two working together, along with exponential systems - these three together is the secret sauce of the "Verge church" :)