Resources on Emerging Church

Books

Peter Ward: Liquid Church. Looking at how the people of God need to be responsive in the same way that liquid flows to the low point. There is also a good critique of some other approaches that are more ‘aqua’ than ‘liquid’. Pete considers that they float more on the surface than flow into the community.

James Thwaites: The Church beyond the Congregation and Renegotiating the Church Contract. These two books are theologically and philosophically foundational. Theologically in that they establish the church as planted in creation, with the people of God working through the ‘thorns and thistles’ to bring the goodness out of creation. Philosophically foundational as they expose the dualism that came into Christian thinking through Plato.

Neil Cole: Organic Church. This is an enormous challenge and can be summed up two ways: in the words of the subtitle ‘Growing faith where life happens’ ; and in his plea that we have raised the bar of church so that it becomes professional but have lowered the bar of discipleship. We have to reverse the two.

Alan Hirsch: The Forgotten Ways. A call to missional emerging church. He is quite critical of simply new styles of doing church, such as more relevant worship. He asks for a return to the Apostolic ways of mission. (Note the ‘missional’ adjective.)

Not a book on church but very relevant: The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations by Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom. Read this to understand why Al Quaeda is not threatened by the might of the West… why command and control is not the way forward. A highly instructive book, but also very realistic as the authors explain that we need to find the point on the continuum that works best at any given time.

Articles

Scott McKnight has five streams that flows into ‘the lake’ that is Emerging Church [article]. He suggests we have the following

  • prophetic / provocative stream
  • postmodern stream
  • praxis-oriented
  • post-evangelical stream
  • political

Ed Stetzer has given three broad categories to bring definition to the various strands within the emerging church world [article]. Here are the categories

  • relevants
    The churches of the “relevants” are not filled with the angry white children of evangelical megachurches. They are, instead, intentionally reaching into their communities (which are different than where most Southern Baptists live) and proclaiming a faithful biblically-centered Gospel there. I know some of their churches – they are doctrinally sound, growing and impacting lostness. (Quote.)

reconstructionists
The reconstructionists think that the current form of church is frequently irrelevant and the structure is unhelpful. Yet, they typically hold to a more orthodox view of the Gospel and Scripture. Therefore, we see an increase in models of church that reject certain organizational models, embracing what are often called “incarnational” or “house” models. (Quote; NB: his use of this category is not to be confused by the theological stream of Reconstructionism, as per Gary North, Rousas John Rushdoony, et al.)*

  • revisionists
    Much of the concern has been addressed at those I call revisionists. Right now, many of those who are revisionists are being read by younger leaders and perceived as evangelicals. They are not – at least according to our evangelical understanding of Scripture. We significantly differ from them regarding what the Bible is, what it teaches and how we should live it in our churches. (Quote.)

An [article] by Mark Driscoll expands on these categories, and he also uses the terms:

Church 1.0 describing it as “traditional, institutional, and generally marked by the following traits:”

  • The cultural context is modern.
  • The church holds a privileged place in the larger culture.
  • Pastors are teachers who lead people by virtue of their spiritual authority.
  • Church services are marked by choirs, robes, hymnals, and organs.
  • Missions involves sending Americans and dollars overseas through denominations and mission agencies.

Church 2.0 model describing it as “contemporary, with the following traits:”

  • The cultural context is in transition from modern to postmodern.
  • A culture war is being fought to regain a lost position of privilege in culture.
  • Pastors are CEOs running businesses that market spiritual goods and services to customers.
  • Church services use 1980s and 1990s pop culture such as acoustic guitars and drama in an effort to attract non-Christian seekers.
  • Missions is a church department organizing overseas trips and funding.

Church 3.0 model describing it as “emerging, missional, and bound together by the following traits:”

  • The cultural context is postmodern and pluralistic.
  • The church accepts that it is marginalized in culture.
  • Pastors are local missionaries.
  • Church services blend ancient forms and current local styles.
  • Missions is “glocal” (global and local).

Driscoll describes relevants as being characterised by people such as Dan Kimball, Donald Miller, and Rob Bell. He distances himself from this category and speaks about Reformed Relevants. This narrower stream within the relevants draws theologically from people like John Piper, Tim Keller, and D. A. Carson.

Reconstructionists tend to be more informal, incarnational, proposing organic church forms such as house churches. Although they are influenced by mainline Christian traditions, terms such as “new monastic communities” will also be used. In this category, Driscoll, places people such as Neil Cole and Australians Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch. This category draws together, he suggests, disgruntled Christians who are reacting against the megachurch trend while they themselves are not seeing significant conversion growth.

Revisionists, Driscoll, suggests are “theologically liberal and question key evangelical doctrines, critiquing their appropriateness for the emerging postmodern world.” Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt are two names he suggests are influential within this manifestation of emerging church. This stream is critiqued as “recycling the doctrinal debates of a previous generation” and again, Driscoll says, that they, like the Reconstructionists, also are not seeing significant conversion growth.

Driscoll is certainly accurate when he says that what is in common is a missional conversation about what a faithful church should believe and what it should do in order to be effective. He then suggests that there is little unity on what counts as faithful doctrine and practice.

A final quote:

If both doctrine and practice are constant, the result is dead orthodoxy, which the Relevants, Reconstructionists, and Revisionists are each reacting to in varying degrees. If both doctrine and practice are constantly changing, the result is living heresy, which is where I fear the Revisionist Emergent tribe of the Emerging church is heading. But, if doctrine is constant and practice is always changing, the result is living orthodoxy which I propose is the faithful third way of the Relevants, which I pray remains the predominant way of the Reconstructionists. Another helpful set of definitions come from Darrin Patrick (accessed at the Tallskinnykiwi blog). Patrick uses the following terms:

  1. Emerging Conversational, concerned with theological revision and Missio Dei. Emergent Village, bloggers, bi-vocational pastors, Seminary students. (Includes Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, etc)

  2. Emerging Attractional, concerned with revising methods of church and in particular, the large group worship. This includes two groups:

a) neo-reformed (Mark Driscoll, Patrick, etc) who preach expositionally, and

b) non-reformed, neo-seeker (Erwin McManus, Andy Stanley, John Burke) who preach topically.

Both groups are risktakers and creative.

  1. Emerging Incarnational, concerned with structural revision within the church. Downplay large group worship and like house church. Alan Hirsch, Lance Ford, Bob Hyatt, Neil Cole, Johnathon Cambell.

As Andrew Jones notes there are others who might well belong in this last group who carry an incarnational DNA. Jones suggests groups such as: ‘the cyberchurch/Church 2.0 folk, the neo-monastic movement, intentional community/justice based structures, and some others off the map but who still have the incarnational DNA.’

The web site: [Emergent Village] is a good point for discovery about some aspects of the emerging church world. This has to be understood, though, that it is not representative of the whole movement known as emerging church.

Also check out the articles EMC (Emerging Missional Church) by Stuart Lindsell at this site.