What is the future of the church? How is the church going to reach coming generations for Christ? And what does that mean for the congregations we see today?
These are the thoughts and questions that Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson attempt to address in their book On the Verge. Written in part as a missiological handbook for church planters of missional churches, the authors attempt to craft a guide for church leaders to help them establish and maintain an “apostolic” vision for their congregation. While created by and for church planters, this book has excellent insights to think about and ponder for pastors of established churches as well.
Alan Hirsch is one of the leading voices in the missional church movement. As he has grown in influence, he has become less of a practitioner of congregational ministry, and more of a scholar/leader/visionary for missional churches as a whole. This is why he writes with Dave Ferguson, who is a church planter and currently trying to lead his congregation to continue their thrust toward reaching and influencing their communities for the Kingdom of God. The blend of consultant and practitioner, theory and hands on ministry is ingenious, and a good reason why this book is not only inspirational, but has the possibility of presenting a vision that actually works.
At the heart of the book is a four-step system for establishing a continuing culture of innovation for churches that want to maintain their missional integrity within their ministry context (pp. 46-47). The first step involves imagining what could be. The next step is shifting one’s thinking to accommodate and understand the new vision and paradigm the imagining process discovers. After that, one needs to take action. Then, as the church takes the steps to reach out and take action, they need to move and grow to both accommodate the new world the missional community is living in, and to also repeat the process of innovating once again. This sounds pretty basic, but harder to actually create this momentum in a congregation one is leading.
The text is fun, and thought provoking. As a pastor of a more historic church, I think creating this kind of culture would be more difficult for me than for a church leader who is beginning a new congregation. Nevertheless, moving congregations from being institutionally-focused to mission-focused is something we all must do in our own way, and help our churches continue to do long after our ministry is through. On the Verge helps people like me think through ways we might do just that. – Clint Walker, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
The church is on the verge of massive, category shifting, change. Contemporary church growth, despite its many blessings, has failed to stem the decline of Christianity in the West. We are now facing the fact that more of the same will not produce different results. Our times require a different kind of church—an apostolic, reproducing, movement where every person is living a mission-sent life. Many of the best and brightest leaders in the contemporary church are now making the shift in the way they think, lead, and organize. Motivated partly by a vision of the church as ancient as it is new, and with a driving desire to see Biblical Christianity establish itself in Western cultural contexts, we are indeed seeing a new form of the church emerge in our day. Hirsch and Ferguson call this “apostolic movement” because it is more resonant with the form of church that we witness in the pages of the New Testament and in the great missional movements of history. In this book, Hirsch and Ferguson share a rich array of theology, theory, and best practices, along with inspiring stories about leaders who have rightly diagnosed their churches’ failure to embrace a biblical model of mission and have moved toward a fuller expression of the gospel. On the Verge will help church leaders discover how these forerunners and their insights are launching a new apostolic movement—and how any church can get involved.