Monday, July 11, 2011

The Apostolic Future of the Church

There are times that your read a book with great anticipation, only to be disappointed in the end, On the Verge is not that book. The authors, Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson, are very clear from the first page of the introduction that their reason for writing the book is for the church to embrace the call to recover its most beautiful form, the apostolic movement.

Hirsch and Ferguson assert that if an apostolic movement is not recovered and the church continues on the trajectory path that it is on now, particularly in the Western context, then it will lose its influence and fade into non-existence. This is perhaps observed the most in my current context of the Southeastern part of the US where you have a place that is saturated with institutional churches that are on the decline, many even closing its doors for good.

Although this decline of churches is happening, the authors point out that it does not have to continue as there is a paradigm shift of missional churches taking place that they refer to as Verge Churches. The problem that is brought up with the current, institutional model of church is that it is only being influential to a certain point. Though there is no hard evidence for the numbers, the majority of these can only reach about 40% of the population, which creates two problems. One, churches start to compete with each other for those 40% and second, churches tend to leave out their missionary role and ignore the other 60% of the people.

Hirsch and Ferguson point out that what makes Verge churches different is that they see the church more as a movement than an institution. In order to see Verge churches planted and developed it will require the institutional paradigm to be dislodged. Some take a statement like this and Verge churches to being a new way to doing church, which is not it at all. Rather it is returning to what Jesus designed the church to be, a movement not an institution like we see of the early church in Acts 2.

Hirsch refers to this new paradigm as "Apostolic Genius", which encompasses six elements of mDNA:
    1. Jesus is Lord
    2. Disciple-Making
    3. Apostolic environment
    4. Missional-incarnational impulse
    5. Organic systems
    6. Communitas

I appreciate that as early as the first chapter the authors take the time to answer one of the most obvious questions being, "How do I begin an apostolic movement in my church?" Their answer is referred to as movementum and encompasses four parts that are elaborated on throughout the entire book. These four parts are made up of the following: imagine, shift, innovate, and move. A shorter way this is described in the book is, "Multiplication Church planting + the Mission of all people everywhere = Apostolic Movement."

These four parts make up the major sections of the book. Hirsch wrote chapters 2-6 dealing with the imagine and shift sections as his background is a missiologist and apostolic theologian. Ferguson wrote chapters 7-10 dealing with innovate and move coming from his background as a church planter and starter of missional movements.

I believe that most people in the church will find this book to be a challenging one, but hopefully a necessary one. It is time for the church to get a way from an institutional model of doing things and quit making it about the "professional clergy" and equip everyday people to be engaged and on mission, where all people are ordained for the work of ministry.

After reading this book, I highly recommend it as Hirsch and Ferguson leave me with a hope for the church in the West. On the Verge is a game changer within the life of the church and it will help shift your paradigm to where it needs to be to assist your church as it transitions into the future.


  1. Good summary, Matthew. Thanks for being a part of the blog tour. Alan and I will be checking your blog to see if your readers have any questions - we would like for this to be interactive.

  2. Comments Q's for Alan and Dave -

    According to the Kindle on Android app, I'm only 22% through your book but it's message so far has been creative, bold and helpful.

    1) The fact that the first 1-3 centuries of the church was an apostolic movement is almost assumed. What / where is the best evidence for that? What are the passages in Acts and elsewhere that best illustrate this?

    2) 2 Thessalonians 3:4 speaks of apostolic authority: "And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you." Who carries such authority to command others in the new church forms that you propose? How do they obtain such authority? What is their accountability?

    3) Those who speak prophetically are going to receive a backlash from a world (and a church) that doesn't want to hear the message. Where does this get acknowledged? Yes, it would helpful to have the support of a community when this happens.

  3. Agree or disagree?

    Coming from a home schooling background...Every marriage and family and Christian home is a small church with hospitality and outreach potential. The Fathers are the leaders of these churches.

  4. I personally would not agree that every home is a small church, but they definitely do and should have outreach potential. Especially if it is a family made up of followers of Christ who are all engaged and on mission, the missional family. These homes definitely can and should serve as ministry centers in their communities.

  5. On authority...

    * Our willingness and ability to live lives like Jesus's life, what I called "embodiment of the message" is the basis of the spiritual authority we have as disciples, individually and corporately .

    - On The Verge, Amazon Kindle version, Location 1943

    Matthew, thank for hosting this discussion.

  6. Matt, I am currently reading this book. Good blog post!

  7. Chad, it is an excellent book and resource. Read it, underline it, and do what you can to implement it at Northside. The apostolic future of the church is what will change cities, states, and nations around the world.