There is a new book out that I have been waiting for several months to read. It is co-written by Fuller Theological Seminary professors Eddie Gibbs, whom you many know from his
CT Award for his book Church Next,and Ryan Bolger.
The book is Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, and is a compilation of their five years of research on “emerging churches” in the United States and the UK.
I am not very far into the book at this point, but it is definitely the most comprehensive treatment that I have read on “emerging churches.” They have spent the last five years compiling data, doing research, visiting churches and speaking to those in ministry. So if you are looking for a book on “emerging churches” that is more than just someone’s thoughts or opionions, this is it, as it reads more like a Ph.D dissertation (though not dry like some of those can be). Though Gibbs and Bolger probably have their personal opinions on “emerging churches”, the book at this point is rather their unveiling of what their research has turned up, and what it is pointing to.
What I have found most interesting so far in my reading is that “emerging churches” are nothing new, but rather what we are seeing now is the fruition of conversation and movement that has been happening since the early 90’s, if not earlier. But most of that has gone undetected my those in mainstream churches. So why most of us are running around crying out “fad” or “trend”, or wondering what this is….well, it has been in process for years.
As I read through this book I will be commenting on some of the things that I come across, and I hope it will stir discussion.
I have a lot to say, but I will leave you with this extended quote from Chapter 2 of their book, concerning the dismantling or deconstruction of modern church structure:
Because of this essential dismantling work, some outside of the movement have said that those in emerging churches do not love the church or that they are full of negativity because of their propensity for dismantling church structures. This is to misread the movement entirely. What to some may appear to be pointless complaining is part of a larger process of dismantling ideas of church that simply are not viable in postmodern culture. Neither the gospel nor the culture demands these expressions of the faith. Emerging churches remove modern practices of Christianity, not the faith itself. Western Christianity has wed itself to a culture, the modern culture, which is now in decline. Many of us do not know what a postmodern or post-Christendom expression of faith looks like. Perhaps nobody does. But we need to give these leaders space to have this conversation, for this dismantling needs to occur if we are to see the gospel translated for and embodied in twenty-first-century Western culture. In many ways, this is a fragile movement that can be marginalized by denominational leaders and killed with criticism by theological power brokers. Whatever reservations people may have, these new voices need to be heard. Many of these innovative leaders are looking for mentors rather than critics. (pp.28-29)
Is not the current structure that you are part of, whether it be political, ecclesiastical, business, etc….are they not the fruition or the outcome of something that had been previously dismantled?
I wonder if denominational leaders or “theological power brokers” are interested in conversing or mentoring those in “emerging churches” or rather, they see them as a threat to their own sense of control and power?
We can discuss and question whether or not something can and should be dismantled….but I wonder if we ever reflect on our own theological traditions and ponder how much dismantling occured for us to be where we are….and then, are we at the right place, or does more dismantling need to occur in this process.