Saturday, November 11, 2006

Review: The Tide is Turning (Terry Virgo)

"It is evident that new churches are springing up everywhere. Why? Because God's purposes for His church will not be thwarted."

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The Tide is Turning: Terry Virgo (New Wine, 2006)

Let me say from the outset I'm a big fan of Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers. They have a passion and energy for God and for reformed doctrine that is rare. And this is a classic book from and for Newfrontiers.

I've read Terry Virgo's previous two books (on church and grace) and found them to be outstanding and so I approached this one with high expectation. This study of three Old Testament characters is miles ahead of similar books (the phrase "character study" is enough to make some of us shudder...)

This is a God-centred examination of the events of the lives of Joseph, Gideon and Nehemiah - calling us to take God at his word. I gather this book is a rework of Virgo's earlier book Men of Destiny.

The material on Gideon is probably the strongest and Virgo finds a great key to unlock the battle of Midian - from Isaiah 9 which tells us that the coming of God's kingdom will be like Midian. This strikes me as an overlooked interpretive key that opens up this story in a Biblical way.

The book has an energy to it which is like being in conversation with Virgo or sitting under his preaching. He enthuses to see the church be restored. He makes other books look frankly lifeless and theoretical as he pushes the boundaries for us. God's word requires change and this book wont let you avoid that.

Three minor weaknesses:

1. Virgo clearly writes from within the restorationist movement which can sometimes feel like there isn't much life beyond it. This feels a little strange when you read it from the outside and hear calls for unity alongside parts that feel like "serves you right if the charismatics leave" - I'm not sure this is intentional but that's how it felt!

2. I think there's a little lacking in appreciation of the wider story of salvation - particularly in Nehemiah, where the restoration post-exile is surely only ever meant to be a shadow that is fulfilled in Christ's coming. I'm wary of saying this because he's one of the strongest advocates of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series and that wider perspective isn't absent.

3. Weakness in doctrine of creation - by which I mean there are overtones that true commitment to God probably means leaving your workplace rather than remaining in it. And this is combined with a strong future-heavenly-focus which seems to emphasis the burning up of this world over it's being re-created. I may have felt this more strongly because I've just read Julian Hardyman's Glory Days which is the strongest book on all-of-life-for-Jesus that I've come across.

These three are minor critiques in an overall very good book that would be of benefit to any Christian. We need to be a generation who will take God's word seriously, boast in the Cross, love the church and pursue the work of the Holy Spirit. A church with these priorities will surely see change.

I think my lasting memory from this book is this: Virgo comments on the number of churches that have closed, noting that we're are now planting more UK churches than Starbucks is opening coffee houses... but then he comments that it isn't satan who shuts churches down. It is Jesus. He is sovereign over his church and if he decides to shut you down that's his business. Likewise a church that flourishes ought to credit Jesus with this.


  1. A very insightful review, Dave. I think your first criticism, which I agree with, stems in part from the fact that the book contains some old material from the days when many were leaving established churches to become part of the "new wineskins" of restorationism.

    But its still a book containing a lot of excellent teaching, and written in a very accessible way.

  2. Thanks. Yeah I think its one of the more affecting books I've read this year.