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Interview with Alan Hirsch about his new book “On the Verge”

July 18, 2011

Recently Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson released a new book, On the Verge. Now I’m good friends with Dave and Alan and they graciously allowed me to ask them a few questions about their book. I’ve included that interview as well as a brief review of their book at the end.

  • How did you and Dave get together to write this book?

We were on a plane together and Todd Wilson said that if we would write it up, then he would make it the theme of the following Exponential conference.  Kinda like a bribe! 🙂  Actually it was a good opportunity arising out of our desire to help frame the Future Travelers conversation which we were all leading together.

  • Why do you think this book is critical to where the Western church finds itself?

Drucker said that whom the gods would destroy, they give forty years of success.  Well, if he’s right, then times up for the business-as-usual methodology associated with the church growth paradigm.  We really have come to some sort of impasse.  We are also at the juncture where best thinking church growth is meeting and engaging with best thinking in terms of mission.  Add to that commitment to exponential type growth and you have a good recipe for apostolic movement.  Yes, that its.  Its the time to return to the apostolic movement form.

  • In what ways does On the Verge serve as a continuation/fruition of your previous work?

It forced me to think more in terms of process.  I was forced to view the material I wrote (especially The Forgotten Ways) from the perspective of the innovative leadership of large and complex systems.  This actually started happening when people were kinda saying to me “Alan, I more or less agree with what you are saying, no need to shout any longer, now what do I do?”  Its a good question and it certainly deserves a well thought out response.  On The Verge is that response. It is very much for guiding practice built on deep theology and sound sociology and leadership theory.

  • What do you think this book has that other books in this space may not have?

The distinctive is in the meaningful interface between missional theology, grassroots methodology, multi-site savvy, and multiplication church planting.  It also emphasizes how we can get everyone in the church into the game, and not just the professionals.  Its all about people-movement.  Using a both/and approach, its about how to use the current church as a platform to launch people into ministries in every sphere and domain of society.  Very exciting.

  • Ok. Someone has just finished reading On the Verge. What do you want them to go and do next?

Give it a go.  Lean into it.  if you are leading the church to be what Jesus originally intended, you are on the side of the angels.  But don’t go off half-cocked.…Make sure you get your paradigm stuff right first, because if you don’t all attempts to change will simply snap back to default once pressure for change is alleviated.  Its all in the paradigm.  Of course you could join a Future Travelers cohort or go through a 3DM Learning Community.  The important thing is to do it with others!

Here are some of my thoughts on the book itself:

I think there is an important shift happening here that we need to pay attention to: The idea that while some of the structures for the church and methods we’ve used aren’t where we want it to be, perhaps we can transition churches rather than blowing them up. While it’s never exactly put this way in the book, it’s implicitly stated as you have Hirsch, a brilliant theoretical mind who is able to explain the origin of movements (while envisioning new ones within Christian orthodoxy) partnered with Ferguson, who is one of the most accomplished practitioners you’ll meet. The two of them working together on this project is fascinating, from the way they think, to the way they write to the way they process. You can see how each is challenging the other on the page. It’s quite a fun read.

Perhaps one of my favorite pieces was re-understanding church as a type of missional organization rather than a religious social club. What might this mean for the church? This is what they say on page 73: “If we persist with the current status quo, we are in effect asking the nonbeliever to do all the cross-cultural work in coming to church! Remember, we are the sent ones–not them.”

I won’t go on and on. Needless to say it’s a wonderful and fascinating read. One last thing I’d throw out that isn’t a criticism but a caveat: Be prepared to take a few notes as you go and write down some definitions they spell out because they will reference them again. You’ll want to have access to their vocabulary as you go.

Alan and Dave, if you’re reading this review, thanks so much for your hard work and dedication to this and for what you’re giving the people of God. Love being partners with you guys. Cheers!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Alan Hirsch permalink
    July 18, 2011 3:20 pm

    Thanks a ton Mike. Love yer werk! 🙂

  2. July 18, 2011 5:55 pm

    Sounds like a good book – I like that it might be a “fun read”! Hirsch seems to write faster than I can read!

  3. July 19, 2011 2:34 am

    Mike, thanks so much! You are very kind. It is great to partner with you on the greatest cause – the mission of Jesus!

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