Tag Archives: emerging church

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.

junior high pastors summit notes, part 5

each year, for the past 8 or so, about 20 middle school ministry specialists from around north america have gathered for a few days of fun and discussion. this year’s participants were: myself, Corrie Boyle (Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, MI), Kurt Brandemihl (Sunset Presbyterian Church, Portland OR), Jeff Buell (McKinney Memorial Bible Church, Fort Worth, TX), April Diaz (NewSong Church, Irvine, CA), Ken Elben (Christ United Methodist Church, Memphis TN), Heather Flies (Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, MN), Andy Jack (Christ Church of Oak Brook, Oak Brook, IL), Mark Janzen (Willingdon Church, Burnaby, BC), Kurt Johnston (Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA), Brooklyn Lindsey (Highland Park Church, Lakeland, FL), Sean Meade (Stuck in the Middle, Andover, KS), Alan Mercer (Christ Community Church, Leawood, KS), Jason Raitz (Willow Creek, S. Barrington, IL), Alan Ramsey (Fellowship Evangelical Free Church, Knoxville, TN), Ken Rawson (First United Methodist Church, Wichita, KS), Nate Rice (Forest Home Ministries, Forest Falls, CA), Christina Robertson (Journey Community Church, La Mesa, CA), Johnny Scott (Jr High Believe, Oronogo, MO), Nate Severson (Hillcrest Covenant Church, Prairie Village, KS), Phil Shinners (Mariners Church, Irvine, CA), and Scott Rubin (Willow Creek, S. Barrington, IL).

for the past few years, we’ve invited a guest to join us for a half day, to present some stuff that would become discussion fodder for the rest of our time. we’ve had chap clark, scot mcknight, an adolescent brain specialist, and christian smith.

this year, our guest was dave gibbons, pastor of newsong church in irvine, CA, and author of the monkey and the fish. we talked about third culture, adaptability, leadership, fringes and vortexes, and a variety of other stuff.

i’ll be posting edited notes from our discussions here in a series of posts. our hope is that these discussions will be helpful to others also…

part 5 is a loose and rambly discussion of what “education and exposure” to third-culture might look like in middle school ministry:


Education and exposure – what does this look like?

Define and clarify: Dave talked about this being the first step we can take to be more aware and sensitive (or help our students) to third-culture.

Part 1: How can we help expand our kids’ world view and see themselves as citizens of the world and the cultures that are right around them as well as those that are across the globe?

April: We do this with a lot of storytelling. What is happening in other places and what God is doing in other parts of the world? Email blasts, website articles, etc… That’s what the church is doing, but in MS we don’t really do a good job at this. It is hard work in the MS ministry. However, bringing people in and storytelling is still a big part of it. We’ll use our offering for mission and social justice type projects (things like sponsoring kids in Africa, praying for the kids we sponsor etc…. We just bought a cow in Africa). Our programs are regularly showing things that are happening in other parts of the world. At least one time a year we do a lesson series on third-culture topics.

Nate S: We support a missionary and we do mission trips with him and bring him in to talk with our students.

Scott: I wonder what lingo I would use with my students. At Newsong you might use the term third-culture because it’s part of the culture of the church. It might be really hard to communicate that concept with our students.

Alan R: Reach Global, Reach local

Phil: The best example we’ve heard of all this is Alan R’s adoption story and the integration of that process with the students and how much they have taken hold of and come around that story and project. My question is “where am I, outside of my responsibilities in the church, connecting with people very different from me?” If I am not doing this, how can what I teach be sustainable.

Alan M: We talk more about living the missional life and how our students and be thinking and living a life of mission that would include loving our neighbor. We just don’t do a good job of including the fact that our neighbor might be someone who is not like us or someone we don’t like, so it’s not really third-culture as we’ve talked about it today.

Phil: I just don’t like the fact that we tend to approach this as a program. That does not seem very real.

Christina: We have two guys come in from an African American church and talk about a rally that they were doing and invited our band to participate. They were the only white people at the event, but it was really cool.

Andy J: We’ve been doing all these things like the 30 hour famine and yet our kids wanted to know the people they were raising funds for, so we scrapped the projects that we were doing that were not relational and connected to us and we started focusing on the things that are right around us that our kids could really know.

Alan M: I’m not sure it can be a program because the program is so hard.

MarkO: One of the things I am hearing is when we consider junior high students and where they are developmentally there has to be a tangible or an ongoing reminder of what their involvement or money will bring. When we were doing 1Life Revolution stuff it was so-so, but when I came home with pictures and told them stories etc…We raised a ton more money than we anticipated because the kids were more involved and we put a real tangible face on it. We need to concretize these concepts with our students.

April: The practical stuff comes more naturally. We teach the theology of the practical and then give them a lot of examples that they can understand where they can apply this.

Ken R: Yet this is hard because most will not do the hard things that this might require.

MarkO: Remember that developmentally they are self-centered

Brook: A lot of this can be done in small groups and helping our small group leaders live this as well so that in smaller groups we can get the encouragement we need and challenge we need to get this done.

Corrie: The small group is a much better place for this because they can really get behind something together and really talk about it together. Each of our small groups have done projects that they came up with and have talked about and processed. The education of third-culture and the application can happen in a small group. They can walk together and learn together and experience it in a different way than the large group.

April: Margin has got to be a part of your life as well as the walking slowly so you have time and energy to put into the messiness of all this.

Alan R: Sometimes it seems like our girls and our female leaders get this better or are better prepared and equipped to do this more naturally. I struggle with how much we do this with our boys and why we don’t do this more often. Not sure why this is, if it’s a reflection of my personality or if it’s really a gender issue.

Brook: Even thinking about our volunteer team and the fact that we have so many more women than men on our team.

Kurt J: Going back to the program side. Just because something does not leak out of us does not mean it’s not valuable and/or I shouldn’t expose my kids to it. I may not be good at it, but I can still present a program opportunity to our kids even if I am not really excited about it. Programs can help us care when we can’t care on our own. For example, when we write a note to a kid who has not been at church, does the kid care how we know they were not at church, or do they only really care that we knew they were not there? How we know is a program, but they benefit from that program in a real way.

When kids hear about an opportunity in a large group, experience it in a small group, maybe one will grab onto it and do it without me. If that happens, it’s a win.

MarkO: Even for all the kids who don’t go back, there is still education and exposure and there might be a substantially greater chance for a student to see and meet needs in other contexts because they went to and were exposed to a place where they saw needs in other people.

Kurt J: If I were to quantify this a bit, I would say a LOT of exposure and a little bit of education. This stuff is caught.

Johnny: I think a part we need to consider is the follow up and the processing of these experiences after the event.

MarkO: One thing to think about is how we often times are very much stuck on the same experiences. Do we not really want to expose our kids to a whole bunch of different issues because our kids are different? Why do we constantly go to the same place every month when it might not connect with a bunch of our students?

Ken E:
Racism in Memphis: People are seen as projects. Our church has this thing called SOS and it’s fantastic, but our kids come in and then forget about the people they serve for the rest of the year. This is a church, family, and personal issue. We need to befriend these people through the rest of the year so we can really know how to better serve. Our youth staff is now going downtown to tutor so we can get to know them.

We are tired of the project mentality. People are people, not projects. There are a lot of cool things happening and our church is doing a lot of great things. Just this last month we had a network meeting with people from all over the area and all different races. It’s a start.

MarkO: One thing I’ve tried to do is to try and develop a friendship with people that we are different from. It feels like we are developing a friendship that is not based on the goals or agendas of either of us, but rather just a friendship.

Scott: I’m wondering if there is some way to get this done other than what we are currently describing. How/why are we doing something or educating something that we are not doing ourselves?

MarkO: I guess I push back on the thought that this may not need to be something we need to do. If we don’t value third-culture how can we ask students to do it?

Kurt J: I think you can value something without it flowing out of you. It does not have to flow, but it is way more effective and genuine when it does flow from within us.

MarkO: Am I willing to minister to people that are not like me? Am I doing things outside of my role as a MS pastor that helps me to do this more effectively as a MS pastor? Does the flow of my ministry come from my life, or is the only thing I am doing because of my role as a MS pastor?

When I do things outside of the MS ministry, it impacts my ministry with the student and how I talk about the Gospel and how I talk about difficult ministry opportunities.

If my heart is not formed toward that through trial and error, I don’t have a lot of ground to stand on in challenging them to live that way.

Nate R: We are leaders and when we are passionate about something, because we are leaders we impact people when we talk about what we are passionate about.

Jason R: The guys in my small group are ready to hear, but they are not ready to jump in partly because parents are not talking about this at home either, so how can we help parents learn this stuff too?

Jeff B: We’ve seen an increase in getting kids involved outside our ministry because we have invited parents to join our small groups in serving. When a parent serves alongside a student, sometimes it’s easier for the kids to get involved.

Ken E:
We are doing a parent/child mission trip this summer.

next up (in the last of this series): R&D, and ministry on/to the fringe…

meet the new emergent national coordinators

there’s a hilarious and wonderfully true little bit of subversive wackiness floating around blogland and youtubeland. since emergent village restructure recently to more toward a more grass-roots, organic future (part of which included the end of tony jones’ role as the ‘official’ national coordinator), a handful of people have been posting videos declaring themselves the new national coordinator. while this is all tongue-in-cheek, in a way, the message is: we are all the national coordinator, and nothing will happen if we don’t do it. it’s fantastic ownership, and awesomely fun.

here are a few of the videos:

joshua case, who i think got this whole thing going:

troy bronsink, who pulls it off even with a broken mic on his computer:

steve knight, short and sweet:

michael toy, who coins three fantastic new words, stringing them together to say “we are missiony in a jesish trajex”:

adam walker-cleaveland, who talks about “being in the ‘post-jonesian era'”:

john o-hara, who thanks adam walker-cleaveland for passing the torch:

i’m sure there will be more. i hope so!

my current blogroll

time for a blogroll update!

here’s what i’ve got in my bloglines these days. i try to keep it paired down — i just don’t have time to read hundreds of blogs every day. but these are the ones i look at at least once a day. there are dozens of others – particularly youth ministry blogs – that i check in on from time to time, but aren’t listed here.

the categories are somewhat arbitrary – they’re just what work for me!

emerging church
zach lind
jonny baker
lilly lewin
emergent village
steven shields / faithmaps
mark scandrette
doug pagitt
andrew jones
tony jones
dan kimball

junior high summit (these are the peeps i meet with once a year for the ‘jh pastors summit’ – they’re buddies of mine, and i welcome their thinking about young teen ministry to push and pull my own thoughts.)
christian dashiell
jason raitz
nate rice
kurt johnston
johnny scott
andy jack
sean meade
brooklyn lindsey

Youth ministry (this is a tough category for me, because there are SO many wonderful youth ministry blogs. i read dozens and dozens more than this on an occasional basis. but these are the handful i find the most thoughtful and challenging, or, frankly, are just friends of mine in youth ministry that i want to stay current with.)
blair bertrand
chris folmsbee
tash mcgill
mark riddle
mike king
sam harvey
martin saunders
will penner
ypulse (ypulse isn’t a youth ministry blog, actually. it’s the blog of anastasia goodstein, who has her finger on the pulse of youth culture and marketing like no other. i have this in my ‘youth ministry’ category because i always find things that make me think about youth ministry.)

Journey (my church)
brian berry (the high school pastor, and CORE team member)
josh treece (the former middle school guy)
todd tolson (the community guy, and long-ago middle school pastor)
ian and christina robertson (christina is our middle school pastor, ian is a co-worker of mine at ys)
riptide blog (the middle school ministry, of which i am a volunteer)
ed noble (teaching pastor, and friend of 20 years)
rod kaya (worship dude)
encounter blog (high school ministry blog, more important to me now that my daughter is in the group)

scot mcknight
seth barnes
think christian
naked pastor
asbo jesus

ys staff
renee altson (former ys staffer — but still part of the ys staff family)
mindi godfrey
jen and jay howver
alex roller (alex hasn’t actually worked at ys for a while — but i still think of him as part of us.)
adam mclane
ys open book
ys blog

dave barry
the wittenburg blog
stuff christians like

Music & media (this is an absurd category. how can i lump together david crowder and dwight schrute’s ficticious blog? sorry, david.)
david crowder
dwight schrute
matt maher

bob carlton
mark dowds
paul chambers
indexed (the pithy little 3×5 thoughts of jessica hagy)
max (max, my son, isn’t posting often, but they’re fun when he does.)

the great emergence

The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, by phyllis tickle.

in a recent video post by doug pagitt, he talks about the relationship between the terms “emergence”, “emerging church”, and “emergent” (or emergent village). the emerging church, as many have come to use the term, is a subset of a greater shift that has been happening in our culture for the last couple hundred years. the emerging church is, one might say, the ecclesiological implications (or at least the discussion of those implications) of the grander shift taking place in our broader mindset, both in academia and in the popular conscience.

phyllis tickle engages this discussion at both levels — giving us much of the historical reasons for, and milemarkers of, this greater emergence. she weaves a discussion of the emerging church throughout. but this is not a book about emergent village; and, to be fair, tickle writes about the emerging church in the broadest terms possible, including vineyard churches and calvary chapels as indicative of the shift.

i heard phyllis give a talk on this content at one of our national youth workers conventions last fall. it was stunning. it blew people away, to the extent that she received a long and loud standing ovation that showed a level of respect for both who she is and what she said. of course, she really ticked a few people off also, which one should expect from any hearty discussion of change in front of a large and diverse audience. but for me, and many others present, it was one of the most memorable talks i’ve heard in years, and has shaped my thinking and discussions since. knowing that this book was coming, i’ve been extremely eager to read it, and was thrilled to get my hands on a pre-pub copy of the manuscript (the book releases in october, though amazon seems to have it in stock already).

tickle is a recovering academic, and this is no lightweight book of observations and anecdotes: it’s a sweeping analysis of sociological, cultural and religious shifts. tickle contends that the church seems to transition through massive changes about every 500 years, as a result of changing worldviews in the culture at large. she posits that we’re a good ways into one of these epochal hinge-points; and following the language of “the great schism” and “the great reformation” for the last two hinge-points, uses “the great emergence” for this shift (though the term is not, as she acknowledges, hers).

because the book is a cultural analysis, and not a theological treatise, there’s not much to anger anti-emergent people in this book. they might not agree with the cultural analysis, i suppose; and tickle’s pro-emergence leaning (clearly, she sees this shift as positive, not neutral or negative) isn’t masked. so some might choose to be dismissive on that count (we all have our biases). but the case is well made — we’re clearly not a part of the same worldviews that existed prior to darwin, scientific discoveries of relativity, postmodern language deconstruction, and a variety of other factors that have (in tickles language) so severely pocked the cable of meaning that connects our religious thought and practice to its mooring.

truly, the great emergence is one of the most important books written, to date, on the shifts happening in the american (and worldwide) church — particularly protestantism, but all of christianity also. it’s must-reading for anyone who desires to be an active participant in the shaping of the church today, whether at a local level, or at broader levels of discussion and practice.

i’m smarter because of this book. i understand more. i am better equipped to both enter into dialogue about the church today, as well as to live out my calling as a practitioner of the church of jesus christ in the real world.

related posts:
reaction to phyllis tickle’s talk at the nywc
terry mattingly writes about phyllis tickle’s nywc talk