On the Verge: a journey into the apostolic future of the church

The other week I received a copy of "On the Verge" by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson from the Speakeasy blog program that I am a part of. I received the book so that I could read it and then blog my thoughts regarding the book. I was excited to read the book because it had formed and given structure to the framework of the Exponential Conference back in April that my wife and I went to in Orlando, Florida. As I began to leaf through it, I realized a few things. First, it is a rather thick book with a lot of information in it. Secondly, I realized that this book will be one that I need to chew on, reflect on, and probably reread a few times to really allow it to sink into my thoughts, practices, and into the way we are doinging and being church together. And Lastly, I realized that probably the thing that could help me most in reading the book was others to read it with and then talk about how to put the various insights into practice. (I know of 2 others within the COB who are reading the book right now).

Hirsch and Ferguson (I so wanted to write Hirsch and Frost as I am so used to doing) divide the book into 4 main parts that make up the "Model for Apostolic Movement" and then spend significant time unpacking the 4 main points. The 4 parts of the model for apostolic movement are:

1. Imagine. "We will begin with the importance of missional imagination in helping us rethink what we mean by ecclesia, and move on to imagining new possibilities." 2. Shift. "This second section forms the paradigm-shifting heart of the book. Here we describe how churches can activate apostolic movement vision and philosophy at the heart of the church." 3. Innovate. "We then look into the dynamics of genuine innovation (as opposed to simple creativity) without which we are doomed to simply repeat what we already know." 4. Move. "In the final section, we explore what it takes to practically generate and maintain actual movement, or this movementum, throughout the church and become a Verge church."

Hirsch also spends significant time walking through what he calls mDNA (or missional DNA) which is needed if we are to be a missional movement. These six elements of mDNA are: 1. Jesus is Lord. 2. Disciple Making. 3. Apostolic environment 4. Missional-incarnational impulse. 5. Organic systems. 6. Communitas

Probably the thing that has stuck out the most to me, and has stayed with me the longest is the idea of the 60:40. The 60:40 is the percentages of people involved or open to the church as it stands now. The authors put it this way, "It is our opinion, and that of the Future Travelers group, that the prevailing, contemporary church-growth approach to church will have significant cultural appeal- marketability, if you will- to about 40 percent of the American population." Which, for all you math majors out there, leaves 60% who are not part of, involved with, or even open to the church as it stands now. How do we connect the church with those 60 percent? That is the question that continues to swim around in my head, and the chapters dealing with Imagining and Innovating have, and I believe, will come in handy as Veritas moves into the future.

The only "negative" (and it is a small negative) that I have with the book revolves around a quote found near the end of the book. In a part of the book labeled "8 Movement Rules" they list 8 rules for missional movements. The 2nd rules is "The Small Rules." And here is what they say about the Small Rules, "Jesus started this apostolic movement with a single small group. Jesus used the parable of leaven to show how small things can make a big impact. He also referred to the smallest of seeds as having massive potential for earthshaking results. In Church 3.0 Neil Cole champions the power of small things: 'Why is small so big? Small does not cost a lot. Small is easy to reproduce. Small is easily changed and exchanged. Small is mobile. Small is harder to stop. Small is intimate. Small is simple. Small infiltrates easier. Small is something people think they can do. Big doesn't do any of these things. We can change the world more quickly by becoming much smaller.' Big can be good, but in a movement, the small rules!" So why do i quote the entire section? Because I believe the others believe this with all their heart, but then throughout the entire book when it comes to telling stories of churches who are making the missional shift, they only tell the big church stories. There is no little missional community of 30 people slowly impacting the community around them one person at a time. There is no stories about small churches turning outward and blessing their communities. No every church that is listed in the back of the book are rather large churches, ranging from 700 people to 12,000 people. For someone like me, who has a small missional community, who sometimes feels like a dreadful failure, it wasn't a great way to end the book.

With that being said, I still believe there is much to be learned, mined, and put into practice in this book. I will continue to ruminate on it. I will hope to read this book in a community setting with other leaders in order to be able to put things in perspective and to give insights on how and what to put into place in my context. Thanks again to the Speakeasy blog program for the honor of reading and blogging about this book.