Book Review: On the Verge

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Hirsch and Ferguson together have written a book aimed primarily at current pastors and church leaders. In it they seek to share their view for a new sustainable Jesus movement for the West. They seek to show a way forward for churches of any size or structure by looking back to the early church and to the times of the Methodist circuit riders and the current and growing Chinese house church movement.

If you’ve read Hirsch before, especially his inaugural text The Forgotten Ways, you will hear a lot of the same themes. What this book brings that is significantly different is Ferguson’s insight and increased years of study by Hirsch. This book offers real hope and instruction for established churches to join in what God is doing to reach His people.

“The task of this book is nothing less than to call the Church to recover her most ancient, her most potent, and also her most beautiful form, that of the apostolic movement.” (On The Verge)

“Verge thinking” means that the Church is going to have to adopt a massive paradigm shift. At its most basic, this requires viewing the West as a mission field and dropping preconceived notions and deeply ingrained practices of how we do church.

“The majority of churches in the U.S. are using a model of church designed to reach 40 percent (and declining) of the American population. This leaves around 60 percent (and climbing) of the American population outside the reach of the local church. ” (On The Verge)

Hirsch directly addresses several “deeply entrenched myths” and names them:

  • Build it and they will come.
  • The church is the bastion of family values.
  • The church is the guardian of society’s morals.
  • We need clergy, buildings and Sunday services to be a real church.
  • We are a Bible-teaching church.

The writers acknowledge that little will happen with leaders or in a congregation until the church knows we are already in crisis.

The Big Idea

“Every believer a church planter, every church a church-planting church.” (On The Verge)

On the Verge makes the focused and relentless argument that every single Christian is called to reach people for the Christ and form community.  To be missional, they argue, is not a descriptor for a kind of church, but a descriptor instead for faithful believers.

Little Idea #1

Christ, Mission and Church

“Simply reaching across cultures, even in our own neighborhoods, doesn’t mean we are missional. Rather, a truly missional understanding of the church arises from the fundamental recognition that mission is the catalyzing principle, that it actually forms and informs the church. The church takes its cue from the mission of God in the world, not the other way around. Mission shapes the church; church takes it cultural cues from mission.” (On The Verge)

Little Idea #2

Mobilize All People For Mission

“When someone becomes a follower of Jesus, they are commissioned into the ministry. ” (On The Verge)

Fergusson shines as he not only speaks from his experience but also brings in experiences from those of churches like Austin Stone Community Church in Texas and Granger Community Church in Indiana.  He shares real and concrete examples of how current churches are helping their members embrace the universal Christian call to mission.

Additionally, both make clear their belief that discipleship = apprenticeship.  The point of religious leaders should be to create more people like them.

“Because the church Jesus designed is meant to be a disciple-making system, it should be expected that everyone in the movement has an active role to play. No one who claims faith in Jesus is exempt from the call to follow him. ” (On The Verge)

The Take Home

Multiplication Church Planting + the Mission of All People Everywhere = Apostolic Movement

“What we are saying is that we can all do it a whole lot better, and with more theological integrity, by activating an apostolic imagination and by developing movemental forms of the church.” (On The Verge)

 

 

 

 

Later this week on the Feed, Seedbed will feature a thought-provoking interview with Alan Hirsch and Sean Gladding. Check back for it!

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John Wesley Leek serves the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church as a Commissioned Elder. He is appointed as associate pastor to Natchez, Misssissippi’s Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. Jesus wrecked his life and he likes it. He probably likes you.

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