On the Verge: An Important New Book from Hirsch and Ferguson

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Worked my way through a great book over the last 30 days.  On the Verge: a journey into the apostolic future of the church (affiliate link) by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson is well worth the time.  A great combination effort by one of the leading missional writers and theorists of our time and one of the most seasoned practitioners around; On the Verge is extremely meaty.

If you’ve read any of Hirsch’s previous work (particularly The Forgotten Ways) and you’re familiar with Exponential (Ferguson’s 2010 offering)…just imagine a mashup of the best aspects of both.

On the Verge was written to answer a very practical question: How do I begin apostolic movement in my church?  Something the authors refer to as “movementum.”  To describe movementum they use a four stage approach:

  • Imagine: focusing on helping us see the mission as Jesus sees it; the goal of the section is to help both the individual and the community to “see it.”
  • Shift: describes the “paradigm-shifting” process that enables the mission to be understood as Jesus understood it; the goal being that every individual and community would “get it.”
  • Innovate: develops a deeper understanding of innovation (as opposed to creativity), intended to encourage doing mission as Jesus does it; the goal being that every individual and every community would “do it.”
  • Move: explores what it takes to generate and maintain movementum; continuously taking the church through the previous three stages: imagine, shift, and innovate.

One of the great features of On the Verge is the teamwork approach in the writing.  With four main components in the paradigm (imagine, shift, innovate and move), Hirsch wrote the sections for two and Ferguson wrote for two as well.  There is also a response at the end of each chapter.  For example, at the end of the very dense chapter on apostolic genius (you’ll remember this idea from The Shaping of Things to Come), is a very practical three page response by Ferguson that really brings clarity.  The combination brings to mind a great conversation that we get to be part of.

Although there are very compelling concepts throughout, I found Ferguson’s sections particularly helpful.  Great stories combined with the keen sense that he’s lived out the complexity make these chapters a great read; a much quicker read, as well.  Additionally, the Hirsch responses are very concise and to the point.

As you’re reading, be on the lookout for ideas you can use.  I know it is desirable to not just copy what is here, but there are some seriously good ideas in On the Verge (p. 106) if you’ve got eyes to see.  For example, the Community Loop concept being developed by Journey Church in the St. Louis area is a fantastic idea.  I’ll have more on this concept early next week.

Another very beneficial component are the questions for discussion that follow every chapter.  Along with some very challenging content comes the prospect for an extremely stimulating discussion about becoming a church that is equipped and motivated to reach beyond its walls into the community.

Finally, I think you’ll find the appendix to be an interesting resource.  A profile on each of the future traveler churches referred to in the book will encourage further exploration and research into the ways movementum is being generated in churches across the United States.

I found On the Verge to be both challenging and encouraging.  It prompted me to reconsider some concepts and examine closely some ideas about reaching the widening 60% that will not be reached with the attractional model that we know.  While not a quick read, it’s an important read and one you should give the time to work your way through.

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  1. Anonymous on June 3, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I just finished reading the book as well. Thought it was very innovative and practical in changing the paradigm norm. But your review was so much more “meaty” than I could ever do. 

    Good sum-up bro. 

  2. Anonymous on June 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Thanks Artie!  It’s not a book for Vegans…is it.  I rarely use that word, but it seemed appropriate on this one.  There’s a lot there and it’s definitely not a breeze kind of read.


  3. Anonymous on June 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Alan Hirsch has also written a new book with Michael Frost called The Faith of Leap, on learning how to embrace a theology of risk and adventure: 


  4. Anonymous on June 3, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Yes! Have you already read it? It’s up soon for me!


  5. Alan Hirsch on July 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the review Mark.  Much appreciated.  🙂  I’d be interested in your take on The Faith of Leap.  I’ve been a busy boy eh?

  6. Anonymous on July 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    Great book Alan! And The Faith of Leap is next up on the stack!


  7. Dave Ferguson on July 13, 2011 at 12:38 am

    Thanks again for the review, Mark. If your readers have any questions
    about On The Verge I would be happy to interact with them here. Dave

  8. Anonymous on July 13, 2011 at 2:48 am

    Thanks Dave! I appreciate your willingness to interact with us!


  9. Lawyatt on July 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm