Don’t ask me, ask Bob Whitesel. Why? His new book, Inside the Organic Church, is a journey into the emerging church movement, which he calls the “organic” church, and the singular highlight — part from a pleasing and fair style of writing — is that he lists what all churches can learn from 12 organic churches. This brief, accessible book might be the bridge-book we need to help all churches learn from the emerging movement. You’ll need to read the chps to get the full flavor.
Overall, what do you think? Is this [below] what emerging is primarily doing — that is, innovatingly addressing issues and innovatingly creating new forms and styles and missional strategies? What looks interesting to you? Here I think is a great example of what the emerging movement is all about: “doing church in new ways”. He finds much less of an issue with orthodoxy and truth-denials than he was led to expect. A book like this makes me glad to be part of this emerging movement. I don’t agree with everything, but I like the creative element of these young organic churches.
Whitesel finds four “harmonies” in the organic church movement:
1. They are almost entirely orthodox in theology.
2. They are concerned deeply with authenticity.
3. They are committed to engaging both socially and spiritually.
4. They are involved in missional church growth.
What can we learn? Here are the three lessons from each church he visited.
St. Thomas, Sheffield England
1. Maximize effectiveness by clustering small groups.
2. Encourage retention by using symbols and icons.
3. Use unity events if your church is more than 125 people.
sol cafe, Edmonton, Alberta
1. Let worship emerge from your ambience.
2. Use self-sustaining venues. This has to do with profitability of cafes and the like.
3. Face your mission field.
Mars Hill, Grandville, Michigan (ie Rob Bell)
1. Encourage small group participation.
2. Think about underutilized malls for facilities.
3. Use technologically up-to-date tools.
The Bridge, Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale, AZ
1. Balance cultural and evangelistic mandates.
2. The cultural mandate needs careful thought and study.
3. Takes effort to keep the two in balance.
Vintage Faith, Santa Cruz (Dan Kimball)
1. Let sacred spaces support your mission.
2. Engage artists of various media.
3. Create multi-generational communities.
Freeway, Baton Rouge
1. Investigate elements of a culture.
2. Sift elements of a culture.
3. Reject/affirm elements of a culture.
Church of the Apostles, Seattle (Karen Ward)
1. Balance the ancient-future approach.
2. Use organic involvement to create liturgy.
3. Persuade through proclamation and presence.
One Place, Phoenix
1. Create interactive stations to enhance your truth delivery.
2. Don’t permit spoken word to monopolize teaching.
3. Create an indigenous value statement.
Scum of the Earth, Denver
1. Recognize that your space can shape you.
2. Feed stomachs before souls.
3. Discover if you are reaching into hard- or soft-core postmodernists.
1. Marginalized churches can grow into organic congregations.
2. Be flexibile on place and style.
3. Let music paint mental images for spiritual encounter.
1. Develop interactivity in sermons.
2. Use natural theology for supplementing spiritual truth.
3. Live among the people serve.
Solomon’s Porch, Minneapolis (Doug Pagitt)
1. Distinguish between effectiveness and efficiency.
2. Learn to “improv”.
3. Release your innovation gene.