Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: On the Verge

This week is the blog tour for On the Verge: a Journey into the Apostolic Future of the Church by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson.  You can find the list of everyone else's reviews on the Engaging Church blog.

On the Verge was a very hard read for me.  I believe that the church's primary function is to glorify God and to do the work of Christ, no matter what that means for growth and numbers.  When I cracked the book open and began to read, I realized this book wasn't really about that at all.

I felt like the mission of this book (and I could be wrong) was to teach small churches how to become mega churches or get on board with the mega church movement.  I'm sure people like me are the ones they are talking about who can't see the real future of the church and where it is going.  I tried to.  I spent 5 years in a super giant mega church.  There were some really great things about it.  But overall, we truly missed being at a church where people would ask if everything's ok if we were AWOL for a couple of weeks.  We were searching for quality of community, not quantity of ministries and people.  It only takes two or three people, why do we feel the need to make it two or three thousand?

It is, in essence, a business manual for churches.  It's complete with all the popular Christianese that is starting to sound more and more like the stuff you see on the bottoms of those posters in business offices.  You know: these ones. I am sure that if you have a very large church or a church you would like to grow into a very large church, this book would have some very helpful information for you.  I'm just not sure making all of our churches very large is an appropriate use of our energy and resources, nor do I believe it's where God wants the church headed.  I am not sure this movement is something I want to be "on the verge" of (again, they mention people like me in the book).

As always, I appreciate Zondervan affording the opportunity to review this book for free and for asking for honest reviews.


  1. Hi Squirrel Factor.
    You really didn't like the book :) Well, I guess we are not going to please everyone, but I do want to let you know that it was written with the idea of trying to make small churches into megachurches. Actually, in some ways it was to help large churches embrace the smaller and so become more like the people movement we see in the Bible. Yes, it is written with the large church in mind, but the aim is to win their hearts and minds to seeing the church beyond their buildings and programs.


  2. Shoot. I just typed a big long comment and my computer ate it.

    Take 2:

    Thanks for being so gracious! I always hate when I'm not too excited about a book I review because I know how much work goes into writing a book and I really want to love them all. Especially one like this that includes so much time and research.

    I deeply appreciate that there are people out there exploring what the modern church as an institution is doing both right and wrong. What works, what doesn't, etc.

    Perhaps I've just been disenchanted with the megachurch movement because of my personal experiences. I do know that I'd grieve the day that my 60 member church grew to 600 or more. I think my husband would as well. But I hope that we can continually find ways to connect to the other churches around us and work together in a powerful way.

    As a new seminary student, (provided I am called to pastoring a church when I'm ordained), I think it would be one of those, "And God did laugh at her" moments if I were ever called to a very large church! :) When I began my undergrad in ministry I said I was going to do "anything but youth ministry" and I've been in youth ministry for nearly a decade now. Never say never!

    I have a deep respect for authors who both read all the reviews about their books in fairness and grace and take the time to respond with such kindness. Thanks!

  3. Hi Squirrel Factor,

    Whether it is in teaching or writing I always feel like the burden is on the communicator and for that reason I'm disappointed to think that somehow we communicated to you that the purpose of OTV was to "teach small churches how to become mega churches." The intention of bringing Alan and myself together to write this book was to bring one of the best missiologist (Alan) who has championed the small missional-incarnational church with me, mega-church multi-site pastor to challenge all churches in the North American context to be more missional and to behave like movements for Jesus sake. I could say more; but it's in the book. Just to be clear, neither of us have any interest in championing large for large sake. I hope this clarifies our intention.



  4. Dave and Alan, thank you both again for your kind responses. The very business like language was probably my biggest hang up. Your responses both help shed some important light for me. And I certainly agree that being "missional" is vital. Or church is a tiny, ten year old urban church that aims to be a light in a hurting community. I'm just very wary of formulas.

    If either of you are ever in Pittsburgh, we'd love you to join us at Mosaic Community and I'd be happy to give a tour of our beautiful city.

  5. hey- stumbled upon your blog as another participant in the blog tour. Good reads! I enjoyed the book- perhaps because I've heard Alan teach on more of these ideas and was able to frame the book in the other experiences I've had with his ideas. Always brave to post your thoughts though & bravo for that.