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Emerging’s Banner Year

posted by xscot mcknight

2007 may become Emerging’s banner year in books. 2008 will see Tony JonesThe New Christians but that book is being set up by three significant books this year: Pagitt and Jones, The Emergent Manifesto, Dan Kimball’s They Love Jesus But not the Church and Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. These books have been given plenty of attention, so I want to call your attention to two more books that, if you are studying the movement or just interested, will give you plenty of insight into this vibrant and growing movement. [Ah, I forgot: Tim Keel’s book Intuitive Leadership deserved to be mentioned; I apologize to Tim.]
Comments on books about emerging you are finding especially helpful? interesting? provocative?
Here’s how I want to put it: What we need most, alongside books that “tell us what emerging is about,” are books that break into new ground, that open up new vistas, and that move the conversation constructively into new areas. Brian’s book moved us into an emerging social vision. Here are two constructive proposals:
First, Graham Buxton, director of postgraduate studies in ministry and theology at Tabor College in Adelaide Australia, has a book called Celebrating Life. This book is from Paternoster’s important Faith in an Emerging Culture series. Buxton explores how we can get beyond the sacred-secular divide, and many of us know that this divide is a significant concern for emerging.
So, Buxton explores the gospel and culture and exposes dualisms at work among too much of the Christian faith. Then chps on creation, literature’s power to enhance humanity, the creative arts, science and faith, politics, and capitalism. He offers then nine theses — and I like each of them.
Brian Sanders, in Life after Church, brings into words what many readers of this blog want to hear:
“This book is for those who have contemplated leaving church because they believe it should be more. This book is for those who have moved from thinking about it to doing, and now they find themselves isolated, ineffective or alone.” There are many out there like this. This book is for you. Here’s why.
This is the only book I know of that is about leaving church, not in the sense of tossing in the towel, but of thoughtful, deliberate, wise leaving because one’s heart burns for the kingdom more than one’s local church does. This book is not crazy or angry; it’s thoughtful, judicious, and programmatic for those who want to pick up stakes and do church differently, more radically.
Brian Sanders is in Tampa; is the founder and director of Tampa Underground, a missional network of microchurches in urban Tampa. He’s launched more than 15 house churches.



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Nathanael

posted November 28, 2007 at 9:31 am


Gregory Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation” may not necessarily fall into emerging theology. But it definitely fits into your description of “books that break into new ground, that open up new vistas, and that move the conversation constructively into new areas” for me.
It was very eye-opening to me to see the difference in what Mr. Boyd calls a “power-over kingdom” (kingdoms of this world) and a “power-under kingdom” (the kingdom that Jesus established). I thoroughly enjoyed it.



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Nathanael

posted November 28, 2007 at 9:34 am


Strike that comment from the minutes!
I just discovered that it was published in 2006.



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Derek

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:21 am


Even though it was published in 2006 I was wondering what you thought of Ray S. Anderson’s Emergent theology for the emerging church? Is there anything on this blog about it?
Thanks



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David

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:41 am


I’m reading Brian Sanders’ book right now. To me this book is almost as much for those who would never think of leaving but aren’t doing much of anything for the kingdom of God as it is for those who feel stuck in a church full of such people. It’s been a very encouraging book to me, as someone who has been in both places. He mentions a few other books on the topic throughout but this is definitely a topic that is not often approached.
Another that I would add to the list would be Bruxy Cavey’s The End of Religion. Bruxy’s faith community is ‘emerging’ in the context of the brethern in christ denomination.



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Rick

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:54 am


I am surprised you did not mention R. Webber’s:
Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches.



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John

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:20 pm


I think that “Exiles” by Michael Frost does an awesome job moving from conversation to action. I feel that he is one of the most practical writers of the missional/emerging movement. I love Pagitt and Jones because they are amazing visionaries for the church. Frost is a bit more focused on critiquing the church and “christian” culture while providing a way to “fix the problem.”



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Mike

posted November 28, 2007 at 1:15 pm


If anyone within the “parachurch” milieu could write about this, Brian would be the one of the very few. Yet, he can hardly be called “parachurch.” Along with him, I am among the growing number of campus ministry staff that reject the notion of “churchmen” and “parachurch staff.” Please forgive the dated use of the term “churchmen” for its failure to acknowledge women, but also forgive those who still rely upon it for supposing that the only social grouping of Christian mission is one that has property and is transgenerational!
Now, while Brian does not take up this false dichotomy, he does recognize how a failure to embrace the reign of God has created the kind of communities that have lost their kingdom/missional identity. Readers of Scot’s blog and I know how this has contributed toward those who leave congregations.
Bringing this up with my “pastoral” colleagues is dodgy stuff. A few get it, and don’t flinch when I propose that a failure to summon folks to something greater than giving to a capital campaign for improved bathrooms turns off most of the university students to their particular community. But for those who don’t get it, in large part, property can be a ball-and-chain keeping them from an incarnational mission.
One community really wanted to host some new I-students I just met: in their brand-new recreation facility. I proposed that before they host this, we head over to campus and meet up with these students. Naww…”our brand-new facility yada-yada-yada…” OK. So, I do all of the PR-alone-and when the day comes, many people from the church come: to the recreation facility. Of the hundred or so new I-Students I press the flesh with on campus: only 5 come. Ugh. So, all of these church folks are commenting, “If they only knew about our new facility…” and on and on. One of them, though, was a former I-Student, who was also a PhD from here. She asked me, do you think this event might have worked better if we had gone to campus? Subtle, but of course: she’s right.
Will she leave that community? I hope not, but I won’t be surprised if she does. Meanwhile, everyone is wondering still “what’s up that the students don’t want to come to our recreation facility?” And the pastoral staff just cringes when these questions come up…they don’t want to talk about it with them or with me. I feel for them, but such elements as “property first, and then some ministry, and maybe relationships” repels lots university students from local congregations.



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josenmiami

posted November 28, 2007 at 2:31 pm


Brian Sander’s book sounds like it addresses where I am living currently. Thanks for bringing these to our attention. We are trying to do something similar here in Miami, but there are not many guideposts along the way. I just ordered it.



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Jeff Gissing

posted November 28, 2007 at 3:37 pm


I am disturbed by some of the comments made by Mike #7. Mike’s comments seem to indicate what I believe is a real theological weakness of some parts of the emerging conversation: ecclesiology.
It is also a place in which, I think, the emerging church is at odds with the Ancient-Future movement. The former seems to have almost abandoned ecclesiology and the latter seems to have a much more historically-informed doctrine of the church.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 28, 2007 at 3:43 pm


Jeff,
Yep, that’s a major issue.
Leads me to this question I’d like to see some response to:
When does radical ecclesiology stop being ecclesiology?



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T

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:27 pm


Scot,
Could you elaborate on your ecclesiology question?



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Mark E

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:40 pm


Ahh, when does radical ecclesiology stop being ecclesiology? Now that is the question that I and many others have been wrestling with? To over simplify and put in terms that I ask some of my homeless friends, “How do we define what a church is? And when does a church stop being a church?” Usually someone quotes “when two or three or more are gathered together” as a way of defining “church.” But then we wrestle with whether Jesus was referring to church or himself. (the latter is my conclusion).
Other questions “emerge.” Frequency of meeting? Purpose and intention of meeting together? Worship and what is it and how do we know when we have worshipped?
I haven’t yet found a definitive answer as context has a lot to do with our judgment (perhaps discernment) on whether a group is functioning as a church.
Good question. Looking forward to hearing what others think as well.
In Christ,
Mark E



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T

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:45 pm


Also,
I think it’s important to recognize the voices that few, if any, would identify as “emerging”, but are continuing to have significant impact on the movement. N.T. Wright (not just his take on justification), Dallas Willard, Darrell Guder & crew, & even Barna’s statistics, as well as the historic Anabaptist tradition all seem to have added substantial fuel to the emerging fire without being ‘within’ the movement.



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josenmiami

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:59 pm


yes, I echo the question about ecclesiology. I would like to hear more of your thoughts on that subject. Also, in the amazing “pesky” thread, you mentioned that Calvin was more about ecclesiology … than soteriology (if I remember correctly). Not to re-open that discussion, I am interested in hearing more about the ecclesiology issue.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 28, 2007 at 5:05 pm


T,
Sorry.
Many in the emerging movement are shedding church, as it has traditionally been, and reshaping church and giving new expressions of church and doing the “no church” kind of church.
For some, church has become “service” — so when one is “doing church” one is doing acts of compassion.
When, I am asking, does such activity cease being church and become something else?
What are the “marks” of a church? When is one “doing church”? That sort of question.



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Michael R. Cline

posted November 28, 2007 at 5:20 pm


Scot,
The question “marks” has been on my mind this last week. Does (1)proclamation of the Word, (2) sacraments administered, plus (3) community order = “Church?”
My hesitancy in many emerging expressions of the church deals with missing mark #2. In many ways, the new forms of “doing” (function) church forgets what it means to “be” (ontology) the Church. So we get really pumped to form new communities with new order…and we realize that the Word is more than just private tickets on the glory train…but what about the sacred spaces and divine avenues of grace? Where are the sacraments?
This is where the ancient-future dialogue is a much needed expression in the emerging church, and I for one am way more comfortable in that water than I am with many of the other streams.



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Jeff Gissing

posted November 28, 2007 at 5:20 pm


A church (I prefer the word congregation or parish to distinguish from the universal church) gathers. The purposes of its gatherings may be many, but at least one purpose for one regular gathering is the worship of God.
The public worship of God has historically entailed common prayer, preaching, and Eucharist (additionally baptism). These elements are, I think, essential to a gathering being a church and bind the community to one another under God. With the routine omission of worship, a gathering ceases to be a church.
A church also connects to others in a broader community. While I’m not sure that this has been defined as an essential mark of a church. Wisdom, I think, dictates the prudence of mutual submission and shared discernment. The traditional “broader community” has been a denomination. The issue here is the mutual submission and shared discerning. That is what makes the PCUSA a church and the Willow Creek Association not a church.
[Full disclosure: I’m associated with both]



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Michelle Van Loon

posted November 28, 2007 at 5:42 pm


I work part-time in a sem bookstore, which gives me the privilege of being able to grab compelling books as they come into the store. Brian Sanders book was one such read. The title caught my attention, and I kind of half-expected a book with a rant-against-the-institutional-church tone.
This book is a love letter to those who truly care about being the church. I read long passages out loud to my husband; it brought me to tears in a couple of spots – Sanders words were thoughtful as well as shaped by big doses of prayer and humility. He is telling the story of many of us, and he does it well.



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Greg Drummond

posted November 28, 2007 at 8:12 pm


#6 John… I completely agree with you about the Frost book “Exiles”. Even though it’s a few years before, his collaboration with Alan Hirsch in “The Shaping of Things to Come” also was very helpful. I especially like his work because he deals with cultures other than the US. Being from Canada, I’ve seen some more similarities with Australia than with the US as of late.



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Mike H

posted November 29, 2007 at 12:00 am


well, I am not trying to suck up, but I would add, “A Community Called Atonement.” The issues of atonement theories are central to a lot of debates. Also, it is not a book that anti-emerging types can easily dismiss (or at least they should not). I would almost expect an anti-emerging person to read it and say, ‘well that is basically what we are saying too, but…’



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Jeff Gissing

posted November 29, 2007 at 8:09 am


David Neff addresses this issue over at Ancient Evangelical Future:
http://ancientevangelicalfuture.blogspot.com/2007/11/church-next-to-godiva-chocolate-shop.html



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Howard Walters

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:22 am


If its not to late to add to this strand: one category of books that I don’t think is mentioned yet, but is an important sub-theme in emergent conversation is economics. An excellent 2006 title that I at least read in 2007 is Shane Claiborne’s Irresistable Revolution. It is profoundly personal and “story driven”–with thought-provoking biblical context.



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Matt Stone

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:54 am


Marks of the church? Shouldn’t one, holy, catholic and apostolic come into the conversation at some point?
Questions from another Aussie (for Greg Drummond’s benefit)



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tony jones

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:03 am


Scot:
1) I prefer “Jones’s” to “Jones'” I thought that only ancient names (like Jesus’) don’t add an “s.” Your thoughts?
2) You know how you score so high in the google rankings? Because lots of people link to you! So, don’t be afraid to link to http://tonyj.net when you mention me in your blog!



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josenmiami

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:04 am


this is the question I find myself wrestling with constantly as a former church planter. what exactly is the church? None of the answers I have heard satisfy me yet … but I don’t have a better answer.
I do like Neil Cole’s definition in the Organic Church: “two or three people gathered around the presence of Jesus” although I understand it leaves itself open to a lot of subjectivity.
I like Acts 2:42 and 1 Corithians 14:26 (hope I have the right versus…don’t have my bible program handy).
It seems to me that in this digital age our understanding of the church must move beyond the sacraments, the platform, the preaching, obviously the building to something more fundamental… something to do with the agape love of God and learning, and observing the commands of Christ… a life of discipleship brought into community. The presence of Jesus, and a commitment to follow him and his teachings seems like a good starting place to me. Nevertheless, I realize there are problems with this.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:12 am


Tony,
Sorry man … I just got lazy not giving links. But, with apostrophe for the possessive, you’ve got Bill Walsh at the Washington Post on your side, but most of the others today don’t both … it seems forced to most. There’s an elegance in one “s.” My Oxford guide uses only one “s” and you don’t want to get the English cross.



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Mark Pike

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:46 am


Scot,
When I read this statement in your post: ?This book [Life After Church] is for those who have contemplated leaving church because they believe it should be more.” I immediately thought of the following quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together (Harper & Row, 1954. page 26).
“That dismisses once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not want Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere; he is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian Brotherhood.”
When I first read Life Together I was convicted about how often I was guilty of doing just that. My desire for more and my vision for the church was destructive of Christian fellowship and community. It was a hard pill to swallow. Bonhoeffer’s book has led me to seek living by grace toward myself and the church as I encounter it. To recognize that the kingdom of God will not be fully realized until God does so. The “that” at the beginning of Bonhoeffer’s statement is recognizing Christ is the bond of Christian fellowship rather than our dreams or visions of community.



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Mike

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:30 pm


Scot,& Jeff (9 & 17):
Hey, I just ducked in and noticed all of the activity! I’m reading your replies and questions, and will return…



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Mike

posted November 29, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Well, you go away for a day, and look what happens! :) Although I am not certain why my comments might elicit a description of ?theological weakness?, I?ll await some further elaboration from Jeff and Scot: and I?ll pick up the above phrase for a moment here.
I would apply the same phrase to the community I cited in (7.), as well as respond to Jeff?s reply to Scot, viz., what are the marks of the church? Jeff rightly includes worship as well as ecumenical relations. I totally agree: in case there is any doubt, go back and read my original reply: I was collaborating with another Christian community. I share in the community life of the students who also collaborate with the church. And there is no routine omission of worship in either community. (Full disclosure I: No, I have not baptized any of my students: yet.) (Full disclosure II: Besides serving in campus ministry, I, too, am PCUSA.)
But, you might ask, where is the theological weakness to the church I cited? It is in the (relative?) absence of missional identity of the community. Their identity is a function of a particular zip code. That is not to say that they do not care about the poor or students or justice: they do in a variety of expressions. It is to say: out of their present identity, they aim to perform their mission-almost by default- from the church building. Property is not a mark of the church.
?Of course!?, you say. I want to affirm a ?both-and? here, so as to not be misunderstood as some kind of radical dualist. We do have bodies, and we benefit from physical structures, such a sanctuaries, for how our entire lives (including our bodies) perform worship, as well as some mission. To insist, though, upon having property in order to perform mission, let alone worship, is to erroneously maintain that our bodies can only be in communion with Christ and each other as long as we have buildings.
Although I am delighted to be included within the emerging conversation, I?d suggest that my ?ecclesiology? (definitely lower case!) is a historically informed doctrine in that I would vigorously affirm that mission is the one of marks of the church. Now, I could start adding all kinds of adjectives and nouns and verbs and gerunds to the noun ?church,? but some reading this would say: ?Oh, he left out [fill-in-the-blank]! He?s not historically-informed!? OK: I give. You?re right. To be sure, I would?ve left out someone?s favorite descriptor of the church. Please: no offense, but I just decided to stick to what I wrote: some people are departing from the church for lack of missional identity, and perhaps, even in a perceived yet under-informed way: they leave because the church omits an important mark of the historically-informed doctrine of the church: mission.
Let me conclude with an attempt to ?turn the corner?, so to speak. It?s easy to pile on any local community, whether it is students, retirees, or some other collection of Jesus-followers: please forgive me. But, where I think and pray for strength, wisdom, and humility is for Christ to cultivate tenacity to stick together and for openness for reflection, conversation, and service in anticipation that Christ will be worshipped, waited on, and loved. Because (another ?both/and? coming): it is far too easy to bolt (not remain in community), and once we think we?ve figured out something in ministry and/or theology, we rarely go back to ask, ?Is God in this??



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Josh K.

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:17 pm


Scot,
I didn’t get to read all the entries, but did you also include Tim Keel’s book that came out this year?
Thanks for your good work.
Peace.



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Jeff Gissing

posted November 30, 2007 at 11:22 am


Mike,
I think that a group can have missional identity without being a church. I serve as a campus minister and my graduate fellowships have some sense of “missional identity,” without being churches. Of course, a parish without any missional identity (by which I mean identity rooted in the mission of God in the world) is still a parish, just not a very good, effective one, or faithful one. I’m wary of making “missional identity” the sine qua non for the existence of a parish or church. Additionally, very people (me included) would make property ownership essential either. I do, however, contend that a church ought to be trans-generational. As Calvin noted, the church is our mother and part of the parental function of the church is to nurture us from baptism to grave. It is very difficult to do this in the absence of the wisdom that often accompanies age.



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josenmiami

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:14 pm


#31 Mike:
Good points! I tend to agree with you. Something you might want to look at is the idea or concept of the “mobile church” as constrasted to the local church. Watchman Nee developes this thought in his 1936 book, “The Normal Christian CHURCH Life” … heavily using the books of Acts, particularly chapter 13, and Paul’s epistles. He refers to the mobile church as the “work.”
Another resource that arrives at similar conclusions through a slightly different path is Ralph Winters’ paper on “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission” which he presented in 1973 at a mission conference in Seoul Korea. He uses the word “mobile” church to describe soldalities such as you were describing, having a missional identity. In Winter’s view, this IS part of the church…just not the LOCAL church or the sodality.
You can find Winters address through Google. He takes a more historical approach compared to Nee’s exegetical approach.
Both, however, arrives at the conclusion that the mission agency, soldality, the “work”, or an apostolic community is a valid, and very necessary form of the Universal Church.
I might add that the Catholic Church (I am not Catholic) has almost always understood this and has made room for both the “lay apostolate” and the “apostolic” mendicant orders.



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Jeff Gissing

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:51 pm


again, the issue of connection arises. the apostolate and the orders of the Roman Catholic Church are connected to something bigger than themselves



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Mike

posted November 30, 2007 at 5:45 pm


Jeff & Jose et al,
Thanks for the replies.
Jeff: What would you make as a mark that is the/a sine qua non of parish that is very good, effective, or faithful? And, while Calvin’s comment appears as a good suggestion…I think that best describes it: a good suggestion. Why stop there, though? Why not promote multi-ethnicity as a mark of the church? That kind of wisdom received endorsement at Pentecost. Thanks!



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Jeff Gissing

posted November 30, 2007 at 6:02 pm


A mark means something without which a gathering can be a church. A church can be a church while it is ethnically homogenous and while it has none to little missional identity. However, in the absence of word and sacrament a gathering is not a church.
Calvin may not be authoritative but I tend to ascribe more authority to the Ancients, the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, and the Reformers than to contemporaries.



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