Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches

Well, here's my first post-seminary book review...

Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches - Five Perspectives is a book edited by Robert Webber that contains theological essays by five leaders of the emerging church. Those of you who have any familiarity with the emerging church know how difficult it is to pin down anything, so this book provides a little glimpse into the theology of a few successful emerging churches.

There are five essays, each followed by responses by the other four authors. The overwhelming tone of this book is one of friendship and respect. Even when there are radically different views the responses provide a glimpse of how I believe God intended us to work through these things. There is no shouting, no condemning, there is love and respect. It is wonderful to behold.

There were a few quotes from Dan Kimball that I thought were worth sharing about the beliefs of the emerging church:


If we are only trying to be "relevant" (a word churches love to use), by adding candles and coffee, using art in worship, and playing hip music, this is not good. Those are only surface fixes. If we merely tweak the surface level of things, we are missing the whole point of cultural change and what the emerging church is about. That is only a re-fluffing of the pillows. I believe true emerging churches must go deep within, and from the inside out, rethink, reshape, and revalue how we go about everything as culture changes. We must rethink leadership, church structure, the role of a pastor, spiritual formation, how community is lived out, how evangelism is done, how we express our worship etc.


But nevertheless, the emerging church needs to revere, teach, respect, discuss, and study the Bible. I think all the more in our emerging culture, do we need to create a culture of hungering for the Scriptures.


I really like what Dan Kimball had to say. I think he "nailed it" with regards to some of the common misconceptions about the emerging church (e.g. it's all about worship style). I also found this line from Webber's conclusion very intriguing:


First, these leaders remind us that we live in a new world. This assertion doesn't mean that emergents feel the old modern world is completely gone. They acknowledge we live in two worlds-the modern and postmodern. What they ask of us is to get ready for the new world, to recognize that we live in a time of transition, where the old Christendom is dying and the new postmodern world is emerging...the church is in a new missional setting.


I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in understanding the theology of the emerging church. Although I certainly disagree with some of the points these guys make (as do the other authors in the book), I found the overall tone and "feel" of this book to be very Christ-like and inspiring. God is doing great things with the emerging church. We need to praise Him for raising up leaders like the five essayists in this book and pray for more like them to lead the next generation of the church.



Carl said...

Interesting, Joel. As one who attends one of the highest of the "high church" Presbyterian mainline churches, this is not something I had come across.

Since I refuse to take Google #1 on principle, tell me if this article (Google #2) is a fair description of your understanding of emerging churches.

renewingmind said...


That's an excellent summary. The emerging church is always difficult to define, but that article does a very nice job of explaining some of the key differences. I wasn't even aware that emergent village was an official organization...


carl said...

Cool. Interestingly, our youth pastor and I were talking about this, and the fact that I had read your blog made me look really smart, for once-- he's an ABD doctoral student on theologies of providence in the Hebrew bible, but/and is doing all sorts of very interesting "emergent church" things (e.g., a blog) in his ministry here.