Organic Community by Joseph Myers (Book Review) ~ BitterSweetLife

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Organic Community by Joseph Myers (Book Review)

Organic Community is Brief, Intuitive, Easy on the Eyes

I read Joseph Myers' Organic Community so fast I didn't have time to add it to my "current reads" list in the sidebar. All told, I probably finished it in under three hours--three hours "on the job," which meant that part of my reading took place under very difficult laboratory conditions: 25-30 high school students collected in a small room, to test the book's accessibility and attention-holding ability. Organic Community performed well. It is very readable, is what I'm saying.

Having read a handful of books by other Emergent authors (Brian McLaren, Kester Brewin), I'd also venture to say that Joseph Myers' work is the most clear and applicable I've encountered so far. He brings a direct writing style and clarity in communication to the emersion imprint--which are good assets. I'm kind of hoping that Brian I-Am-Ambiguously-Mischievous McLaren will emulate Myers on this count, although I'm not holding my breath.

Essentially, Organic Community is an idea book for creating environments in which Christian communities will flourish, and Myers reveals a sharp, culturally-savvy mind. "Community" tends to appear on everyone's vision statement these days. Every church leader will tell you, "It's what we're about"--but Myers persuasively argues that within the milieu of American Christianity, community is usually pursued artificially. His thoughts are perceptive and, I think, accurate. "Top-down approaches [to community] are not helpful," he writes. "The day of organic order has come" (113).

The downside of Myers' book is that it's not rooted in scripture--and doesn't really pretend to be. This isn't a problem, unless you are expecting a biblical exposition on the nature of community and how to grow it. Scripture will always be central to the beliefs and practice of the church, but books like Organic Community are needed as well. Think of it as a slim Good to Great for community-building--Christians are people embedded in culture, so it's vital to understand sociological and cultural dynamics.

Myers' principles and observations are logical, intuitive, and provide some great categories and distinctions that could breathe new life into stagnant groups or help launch vibrant new ones. His book was eye-opening, and I experienced some Ah ha! moments. That's why I'm awarding Organic Community the highest grade I've yet handed to an emersion author...B+.

Yes, it has emerged on the Master Book List.

Footnote: Can people stop writing titles with "Organic" in them? I mean, can we just agree to a five-year moratorium on making "organic" pronouncements? I reviewed Organic God awhile ago, am currently reading Organic Church, and it's all getting to be a bit much...

Like what you read? Don't forget to bookmark this post or subscribe to the feed.


Ariel said...

Tim said...

Would be curious to hear your take on his view of the Trinity. The dance of three verbs, as he called it. I found that particular section to be a little fuzzy. Was he advocating that we just do away with the three unique persons of the trinity? His definition of a person as a verb was someone who is always changing. Does that apply to God too?

I thought the chapter on the superiority of verbs was the weakest one in the book. Too ambiguous, and a kind of simplistic way to imply that "dynamic change is good and dormancy is bad."

That said, I didn't think his view of the trinity was heretical; I don't think he intended to speak to it at all.

Tim Sheets said...

Ok, glad to hear I'm not alone in my trouble to process what was said in that chapter. I guess I was reading a little too much into his brief mentioning of the Trinity.

Thanks for taking time to reply!

T <><


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife