Deep Church Review (Jim Belcher) ~ BitterSweetLife

Friday, February 26, 2010

Deep Church Review (Jim Belcher)

As a theological and cultural trend (in a fairly small circle, anyway), emerging church peaked a couple years ago. At least it did for me. I attended a conference on emerging church. I took a class on emerging church. I wrote papers and articles on emerging church. I read books on emerging church. Lots of them. I consider myself part of a particular stream of emerging church. And then I got thoroughly tired of emerging church.

All that to say, when I noticed Jim Belcher’s Deep Church, in 2009 I dismissed it offhand as yet another tome sifting the relative merits of different authors and theologies, and decided in three seconds that No, I didn’t need a review copy.

Some time went by.

Then last month I picked up a copy of the book and noticed Tim Keller’s blurb on the cover: “Very important.” I flipped it over and read endorsements by Mark Driscoll and Rob Bell. And I decided I needed a review copy after all (Thank you, IVP).

Deep Church may be the most helpful ec-related book written to date. At the very least, it’s up there with Alan Hirsch’s masterful The Forgotten Ways.

Jim Belcher is a clear thinker and able writer who, like many twenty and thirty-something Christ-followers, deeply feels the “protest” elements that drive much of the emerging conversation. He acknowledges the various ways that the evangelical church in America has veered into institutionalism and stale understandings of gospel and mission.

However, not content to merely react, Belcher is committed to finding a way forward that corrects the imbalances and arrogance of traditional Protestant religion while avoiding the pitfalls of some emerging theology. He aims for a “third way” or “deep church” (C.S. Lewis’ phrase) that is informed by historical church tradition and sensitive to our cultural climate.

Belcher is also a church planter and pastor, and therefore has that rare quality of “welding theology to practice with a blow torch”–an achievement this blog always rushes to admire.

Deep Church is a gift to those looking to be the biblical church in emerging culture while continuing to learn from the past. Grab this book. It should be on the shelf with volumes like Total Church and The Forgotten Ways.

Highly recommended.

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R. Sherman said...

Alas, I wish I could define what "the emerging church" truly is, given that the Church (and yes, with the capital "C") has been around for 2000 years or so. Toss "emergent" into the mix and a willingness for everyone to appropriate those terms to his/her own use and to use those terms interchangeably, and some of peasants are left scratching our heads.

For me, I do tend to view new trends/fads with suspicion inasmuch as when one examines them, one tends to see old Truths being dressed up as "new verities." Of course, there tends to be the occasional lapse into predictable denial of theological givens, if not outright heresy.

While I'm not opposed to reaching out among the lost to provide them with the solace of the Gospel, I do wonder about the trap of excessive conformance to current cultural norms and practice as a means of "relating to" our surroundings. Stated differently, either it's "Christ crucified and resurrected" or it's not. If the message is universal, then current cultural norms and mores should be irrelevant, I would think.

(BTW, I'll read the book. This wasn't a criticism of your thoughts or review. Rather, just an outline of my own thinking regarding these sorts of issues within the Church.)

Oh, and Miz-zou!


Ariel said...

Hey Sherman, long time no blog discussion!

IMO, the general malleability of the "emerging church" discussion has sent a lot of people streaming towards the exits. The most helpful and accurate commentary I've come across is Ed Stetzer's 3 categories. Belcher utilizes these in his book.

The gospel is timeless and culture-less, which leaves us with the task of "incarnating" it into every culture within which we find ourselves. What does it mean to follow Jesus in 1st-century Galilee? In 16th century Europe? In 21st century Kansas City...urban arts district? And how do we do so while remaining biblically faithful?

Questions like this fuel a lot of the EC discussion and the criticism of various institutional forms of church, which have often failed to take culture as seriously as Jesus.

I see all this discussion as fitting in light of Martin Luther's prescription for the church, Semper Reformanda," loosely, "Reformed but always reforming."

I think you'll enjoy Deep Church for its clarity.


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