Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tally Ho The Fox, by Herb Hodges (Book Review)

© Melinda Nagy | Dreamstime Stock Photos
There is no shortage today of books on missions, and I have certainly read my share. Aside from individual missionary biographies, there are three books that I have read in recent years which stand out in my mind as some of the most challenging books I have ever read. I recently reviewed "Nothing To Win But The World", and now I would like to review another one of this trio of outstanding books, "Tally Ho The Fox".

The author is Herb Hodges, a long-time pastor and evangelist. His main premise in the book is that modern-day churches are failing miserably to obey the Great Commission. One of the things I like most about this book is not so much that he says new things (although there are certainly some fresh ideas in the book) but the fact that he says things we already know in such a straightforward and powerful way that you cannot help but be challenged and convicted. He uses outstanding illustrations (many of which I had never heard), and he also has a sharp wit, a dry sense of humor, and a very effective use of sarcasm.

To see the main premise of the book and his engaging style, one must only read a few sentences into the introduction.
"...the typical church (in America) is jammed with "pew potatoes" whose only intent is to come to church, listen to a sermon, and go away, hoping that this course will help to privately smuggle their souls to heaven and help them to have a reasonably comfortable life on the way. Any resemblance between this lifestyle and the Christian life pictured in the New Testament is purely coincidental."
The book opens with an excellent chapter on vision. He analyzes the concept of vision from every angle and presents a compelling case that the reason we are failing to fulfill the Great Commission is because we fail to see the world and our God-give task through God's eyes. 
"Why do church members get much more excited about a thousand other things than about God, spiritual things, heaven, hell, and eternity? The answer? No vision, thus no motivation, because motivation arises out of vision."
And I love this quote from Dawson Trotman:
"Vision is getting on your heart what God has on His."
The next couple of chapters present a unique and detailed dissection of the methods, scope, and participants of the Great Commission. He breaks the Great Commission down into 7 parts (as an added bonus, much of this material is wonderfully alliterated), and in each part he shows not only God's plan (the Savior's strategy) but also how Satan attempts to mess it up (Satan's substitute). Here are several excellent quotes from Hodges' section on the Great Commission.
Regarding total participation: "When the church won its greatest victories in the early days of the Roman Empire, it did so not by teachers or preachers or apostles, but by amateur, informal missionaries."
Regarding God's command to reach out with the Gospel (as opposed to just opening our doors and expect the people to come to us): "Satan is a master manipulator and twister of words. He induced a slow perversion in the Church from "go and tell" to "come and hear."
Regarding the inward focus of many churches: "We have developed a kind of "holy huddle" inside the Church. The team never seems to get "into the trenches" at the line of scrimmage, where the game must be played if victory is to be the result. And some like the coziness and safety of this arrangement. After all, did you ever hear of a football player getting hurt in the huddle?"
After presenting his case for total involvement and total commitment to the Great Commission, Hodges then spends the rest of the book exhorting the reader to be equally involved and committed to investing in new believers, so that they too might give their lives fully to the cause.

In order to make the transition from evangelization to discipleship, he highlights the biblical author, Luke. Hodges asserts that Luke's authorship of the books of Luke and Acts are the key to understanding how God intended for believers to win the world. He says that the Gospel of Luke is essentially a Gospel tract written by Luke for the express purpose of leading his intellectual and educated friend, Theophilus, to the Lord. Acts was then written by Luke to teach the young convert to do his part in impacting the world for Christ. Some of the evidence that he cited was merely circumstantial in my opinion, and certainly not airtight; nevertheless, the whole concept was very thought-provoking and worthy of consideration. Without a doubt, he raises many excellent points regarding the necessity of investing time (both quality and quality) into the training of the ones we lead to Christ.

As with most books, there were some things in Tally Ho The Fox that I didn't agree with. Oftentimes, I let those issues go when reviewing a book or when telling someone about the book; however, this time I feel compelled to bring up two philosophical problems that I had with this book since I have praised the book highly. I simply want to be clear to those who read my review and those who may read this book based upon my recommendation that I do not hold to these positions.

1. He used a couple of illustrations in the book that de-emphasized the importance and validity of preaching. 

For example, he said that preaching is like taking a bucket of water and throwing it at a bunch of small-mouth milk bottles that are twenty feet away. He claims that "the efficiency of such a technique is fairly predictable: not much water will get into the bottles. And even if it does, it will evaporate in time if there is not a practical purpose for its use. Disciple-making by comparison, is like taking the bucket of water to each milk bottle and pouring the water into it until the bottle is full. There is little question where the greater efficiency lies." 

I believe that preaching is one of God's most highly sanctioned methods (if not the highest) for delivering his Word to mankind. While I don't see any evidence in this book that Hodges believes the following, there are many in our modern times who do indeed believe that preaching is an ineffective and outdated tool. But why does one have to be put down for the other to be commended? There is no reason that preaching and one-on-one discipleship cannot take place in tandem. They are not (at least they should not be) in competition, but should complement each other. My suspicion is that Hodges would agree (because he did speak highly of preaching in other places in the book), but the apparent denigration of the effectiveness of preaching in these illustrations was offsetting to me.

2. He used an illustration which sounded much like the modern-day notion that the majority of missionaries should be sent to the fields that are yielding the most fruit.

He asked the reader to imagine a scenario where a farmer had three orchards which yielded varying amounts of fruit. Field A could be harvested at the rate of five bushels an hour. Field B took five hours to harvest one bushel. And Field C could not be harvested at all, because the fruit was not yet ripe. If the farmer had 30 workers, according to Hodges, he would send 29 to Field A and send one worker to Field B to do whatever he could. The one worker in field B would also be given the responsibility of keeping his eye on Field C and letting the farmer know when the fruit was ripe.

Rather than addressing this line of reasoning in this book review, I will write a later blog post about why I disagree with it strongly.

Over all, I give this book an A+ for its content, readability, and fresh approach to an old topic. I was incredibly challenged by Mr. Hodges' intensity and obvious love for the Lord. His book is available for $7.95 here. Also, he provides free downloads of the book in Chinese, German, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili. By the way, if you were wondering about the title, read the book! He explains the title in the final chapter of the book, and it is an awesome illustration!

I conclude this book review with a great statement from an equally great book.
"At the North Pole there is a huge cap of ice on which the snow keeps building up. Scientists tell us that if it were ever to melt much of the world would be covered with water. Laymen might be called "God's frozen assets." If they were all melted before God and warmed to His vision, His purpose, His goal, His strategy, "the earth would be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."


  1. Ron figured out the problem and fixed it! So now I can leave comments on your blog again.

  2. Great! What would be your thoughts about passing this book out to church members to read? I have really been focusing on persuading our church folks that they each have a responsibility to actively spread the Gospel wherever they go.

  3. Sounds like a great book filled with truth. Truth that we as Christians don't like to hear but it's truth that we need to hear! Thanks for the review!

  4. I´m reading the book, I went to a conference with Rev. Herb, This book will change you and your church once you start doing what he teaches. All this is in the Bible. But, how we missed this for so many years. You can find the book in his website. I call you blessed.

  5. I just ordered the book online... Looking forward to getting my hands on it.

    As a side note... a friend of mine will be doing an internship in Cambodia in Feb & March... He is a student at FIRE School of Ministry Chicago. He will be working with a brother named Keith Lawler that has been a missionary our there for a few years. Are there a lot of American missionaries in Cambodia? Do you know brother Keith?

    Would love to hear back from you -

  6. The illustration of the bucket of water and the milk bottles came from the famous preacher Charles Spurgeon!!!

  7. I don't thing that the author is saying that there is something wrong with preaching. It all goes back to the book of Acts. (There was no pulpit in the book of Acts so preaching was more of a town herald than someone standing in front of a crowd) I think what he is saying is that one on one life transference disciple making over a lifetime has more impact than preaching to crowds. Preaching has its place and is definitely necessary but the church as a whole has gotten away from Jesus model of training small groups one on one.