deep church

deepchurch1Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, by Jim Belcher

15 years ago, i started working at lake avenue church in pasadena. and after a few years there, i was part of a team of people (including kara powell and jim belcher) who started an alternative worship service called “the warehouse“, which is — amazingly — still happening at that church. jim was the pastor of the young adult ministry at the church. man, we used to have the best arguments. i mean (at least in hindsight), the kind of arguments where both people are better for having had them. jim played a big role in shaping my thinking about preaching, and my practice. and we went at it on various theological issues also (jim was certainly the token calvinist on that team).

now, all these years later, jim is the senior pastor of a presbyterian church in newport beach, california. we’ve gotten together a few times in the past few years, and i’ve really enjoyed the connection. he really is an interesting guy (and deeply thoughtful, with a seminary degree from fuller, and a ph.d. in politics from georgetown). and now that he’s a senior pastor in the presby world, he often finds he’s “too emerging” for the presbys, and “too reformed” for many in the emerging church world.

in that space, jim set out to write a book that would be a “third way” between emerging and reformed (he says between emerging and traditional). i had a chance to read the manuscript — the book is scheduled to come out this fall — and was skeptical, as much as i like jim and know how smart he is, that it was going to be another unfair slam on the emerging church.

but i was wrong. jim has written the most fair and affectionate critique of the emerging church yet published (especially from someone with a reformed theological perspective). he’s honest about how he approaches his inquiry; he really did his homework (including conversations — it’s frustrating how many critical authors never even speak to those they’re critiquing); and he really does like many of the values and practices of the emerging church. so, with one foot in reformed history, and one foot in emerging church world, deep church is a great read. it’s a great read for non-reformed types in the emerging church, because it’s a fair and thoughtful critique. and it’s a great read for more traditional or reformed types, because it doesn’t construct straw men to make its case.

here’s the official endorsement i wrote for the book:

Many have written critiques of the emerging church; and some have attempted “third way” books that have attempted to describe a possible best-of-both path between traditional and emerging mindsets and practices. But I think Jim Belcher’s book is the first to be truly gracious to both of these oft contentious perspectives, suggesting a fair and honest critique of both. Belcher has clearly done his homework, and lives — as a lead pastor of a church plant — with one foot in the reformed, traditional camp, and one foot in the emerging church. This is a great read for any who are tired of straw man arguments and polarization.

4 thoughts on “deep church”

  1. Your first paragraph had me thinking back to the early 80s. I went to high school with Jim and some of my most memorable times were arguing about religion with him at lunch….except in the long run I probably was more affected by his faith and passion than he was by my somewhat misguided positions.

    I just hope my 13 year old son has the chance to be friends with someone like Jim.

  2. Interesting that the ‘Emerging Church’ is even seen as a ‘second way’ since (on paper) they claim to support the church universal.


    “We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Anabaptist. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential.”

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