listening to the beliefs of emerging churches

emergingchurches.jpglistening to the beliefs of emerging churches: five perspectives, robert webber, gen. ed.

i read this book a few weeks ago, and have been meaning to post about it. but i haven’t had enough time to write the post i really want to post: something wonderful and beautiful and worthy of this great book. but now i’m leaving the country, and i’m trying to get a few posts ready to go live while i’m disconnected. and i don’t want to wait to recommend this book any longer. so, scrap the wonderful and beautiful post. let’s go with this:

this is a freakin’ fantastic book. really, one of the best books i’ve read on the emerging church. personally, i LOVE multi-author books like this. i know, as a publisher, that they don’t tend to sell as well. but i love the dialogue and tension and questions. i find, most often in my life, that i discover truth in the tension between two semi-opposing opinions or ideas. which means, a book like this rocks my world.

mark driscoll’s chapter ticked me off. i didn’t think it belonged in the book. it wasn’t even apples to oranges with the rest of the book; it was apples to… i don’t know… like, dachsunds. something completely and utterly “other.” i actually got a bit frustrated with the dev editor, that they allowed him to do that. HOWEVER, i really thought it was worthwhile to have mark’s responses to the other chapters, as well as the other authors’ responses to mark. so… i guess it’s one of those “you have to eat your brussel sprouts” things (although i like brussel sprouts, and did even as a kid, so that analogy doesn’t quite work).

when i picked up the book, i was thinking that john burke, the pastor of gateway church in austin, tx, wouldn’t really fit under the umbrella that is the emerging church. and he even asks that question in the beginning of his chapter. but i thought john’s contributions to the book were great. he and gateway do belong here.

kimball is pure kimball: bridgebuilder, lover, grace-giver, friend, passionate about finding common ground, evangelist, evangelical. he’s the gracious glue that oozes between all the pages and holds all the bits and baubles of this book together. and, i see dan starting to get a little bit more of a backbone in stating what he doesn’t agree with.

pagitt is pure pagitt: cranky, brilliant, ascerbic, pointed, thoughtful, paradigm-busting, reshaping, compelling. did i say brilliant? actually, doug’s on really good behavior in the responses. but certainly, having doug and driscoll in this book is what makes it dicey and fun to read, a bit voyeuristic even. without doug and driscoll as part of this book, it would likely have been too nice, and slipped into b o r i n g.

karen is pure karen: artsy, creative, poetic, communal, living what she preaches. karen is clearly the most “other” in this book. but her presence, her voice, her church, and her thoughts, add an indispensible element to what works in this book (really, when i was working to develop “the church in emerging culture: five perspectives”, frederica matthewes-green ended up in this unoffical role, being a gadfly to all the otherwise evangelical and male/logical speak in the book. karen cuts cross-current like that).

this book adds a level of depth and understanding to the emerging church discussion. any idiot who, in the days and weeks and years to come, tries to publish a book that says, “the emerging church believes this….” in one dismissive broad brushstroke (like carson did), will clearly be misguided thanks to this book.

oh, geez, i just re-read this post, and realized i didn’t even mention robert webber, the general editor. his contribution to the book is fantastic: a framing (and naming) of each perspective. really brilliant stuff. almost as brilliant as when webber would walk across the front row of desks in the lecture hall at wheaton college, when i had him as a prof, just to keep our attention.

10 thoughts on “listening to the beliefs of emerging churches”

  1. I know blogs are informal but truly, a book review ought to have basic capitalization in place. I was so distracted by your form (actually lack of it), that I could not finish reading the review or take your recommendation(s) seriously.

  2. i’m really glad you reviewed this book. i’ve been going back and forth on whether to read it, but from what you’ve said, it seems pretty balanced and worthwhile. thanks for posting :)

  3. curious is such a curious name. it distracted me so that i could not take your comment and inherent recommendation seriously.

  4. Mark-

    I want to know more in detail what it was about Mark’s contribution that ticked you off. It seemed to me that the editor or whoever was in charge of communicating with the authors gave them a specific agenda to approach. It seemed as though most of the authors did not even approach the agenda (Pagitt and Ward).

    I think I know what you are getting at when you say it ticked you off but I would just like to hear more from you. Could it be that there was nothing really regarding emerging church practice and that it was just full of bible believing doctrine? And do you think that Mark Driscoll should even really be tied in with the Emerging Church, or is he really just a mega church leader who does a great job at reaching those in a emerging culture. I really enjoy Driscoll’s writings but I can understand your frustration, I just would like more clarification as to what it is.

    And personally the one author who frustrated me the most was actually Karen Ward. I had a hard time reading through her chapter. I didn’t see how it really benefited the discussion. I also disliked her use of blog posts from other people. Perhaps that is just me but I thought I would share my frustrations.

    Great review though Marko! And I hope you have a great time out of the country!

  5. kevin k — what ticked me off was only that mark’s chapter, which was the lead chapter in the book!, wasn’t, in any way, even remotely about the emerging church. yes, i DO still think mars hill (the church mark pastors) belongs under the broader umbrella of what is popularly called the emerging church. and i do think it made sense to include mark and mars hill in this book. i just wish he had written about how his church is unique. his chapter is purely a hyper-reformed doctrinal statement: no different than what many who would never embrace mars hill’s approach to doing church would have written (like: sproul).

  6. these books come late to Malaysia don’t they? :-) I’ve been thinking of getting some people to do a multi-authored book giving some voice to the younger leaders here in Malaysia. let’s see whether that happens.

  7. I found Driscoll’s chapter to be the only one which really outlined a theological content.

    I am still reeling from Pagitt’s comment, “Complex understandings meant for all people, in all places, for all times, are simply not possible.” The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary defines complex as “involved; complicated; perplexing.” So it seems to me we have a complex statement here. I think he just wrote a complex sentence which says that complex understandings of complex sentences are not possible. It seems that, even if the statement were true, we would not be able to understand it. It’s another instance of someone using words and sentences to explain to me that words and sentences can not be explained. That kind of thing gives this small-town boy a headache.

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