Is Tony Too Close To His Data Set?

Chad Lakies’s review of my book, The Church Is Flat, is up at The Other Journal. He’s generally positive, though gently critical of my research. Here’s the critical part:

I appreciate Jones’ offering in The Church is Flat. To my knowledge it is the first serious academic treatment of the ECM to come from within the movement. More are surely needed. As I mentioned above, Jones employs a phenomenological methodology in an attempt to mitigate his close proximity to his subject. I’m not convinced that he was altogether successful in “bracketing off” his biases in his assessment of the data he collected. I wonder how successful Jones feels he was in his attempt, as he reflects back on the experience?

Regarding his explication of the data he collected in his interviews, surveys, and focus groups, one can’t help but notice the high number of anecdotes Jones uses from Solomon’s Porch and Journey. These two churches, more than any of the others, seem to provide most of the illustrative fodder for the practices outlined in the book. Yet proportionally, these churches account for only 7% of his data set. If the other six churches also engage in the distilled practices mentioned above, why the heavy reliance upon examples from just these two?

There is little mention of ecclesial practices outside of a church’s regular weekend gathering. Almost all of Jones’ attention is paid to what happens within the confines of the church’s gathered corporate life. I’d be interested to know more about what life for an ECM community member is like between Sundays. While Jones makes mention of some higher level conversations that occur between churches and with other religious groups, one does not get a clear picture of how the regular, daily life of an ECM participant is changed by their involvement in their church. Perhaps the brevity of his visits to the eight churches didn’t allow for observation of activities outside the weekly corporate gathering?

Finally, it is interesting to note that if Jones were to undertake a similar survey today using the same four criteria outlined above, only one church would likely appear again: Jones’ own Solomon’s Porch. Both Vintage Faith and Pathways Church would not qualify, each having dissociated itself with the ECM, and the other five (Cedar Ridge, Jacob’s Well, House of Mercy, Journey, and Church of the Apostles) have all undergone significant leadership changes. In the end, I was left feeling that the book has more to teach the reader about Solomon’s Porch’s ecclesiology than about a broader ECM ecclesiology.

Read the positive part: Forest, Grove, or Tree? Predilection and Proximity in Jones’ The Church is Flat : the church and postmodern culture.

My response to Chad will go live tomorrow.

Richard Mouw to Retire from Fuller Seminary

I can’t find it on the Fuller website yet, but here’s the announcement that was emailed to alumni last evening:

I have the highest respect for Rich Mouw, and a deep love for Fuller. This will be a tricky search process, however, since Fuller occupies a precarious spot on the Protestant landscape: centrist evangelical. It’s a bit like being a political independent these days — you’re a person without a party.

The Mars Hill Church Job Description

Here it is, from the site of the search firm running the search:

The Vanderbloemen Search Group is thrilled to partner with the leadership of Mars Hill Bible Church to find a full-time Teaching Pastor to join their community in Grandville, Michigan.

With the transition of founding pastor Rob Bell this January, Mars Hill is seeking a full-time teaching pastor to join in the ongoing mission and program of Mars Hill. This person will teach 35 – 40 weekends per year and work collaboratively with the Ministry Leadership Team. The Teaching Pastor will engage actively with the Mars Hill community and participate fully in the ministry of Mars Hill.

The Teaching Pastor will be an exceptionally compelling, creative communicator of the Scriptures in ways that eliminate hurdles to Christ all the while challenging the thinking of the community. Mars Hill embraces a conversational, expository style of teaching that embraces historical context, and careful explanation of the original languages in a style that engages questions.

West Michigan and the Grand Rapids area is known for its philanthropy, strong community values and as an ideal place to raise a family with great schools and neighborhoods with a low cost of housing and living. Additionally, with access to many arts, festivals, restaurants, area skiing and snowboarding as well as the gorgeous Lake Michigan beaches, there are many activities during all four seasons to enjoy.

via Mars Hill Bible Church | Vanderbloemen Search Group.

A Whole Podcast about Nothing

Homebrewed Christianity

Tripp has done me a great favor by posting a new HBC podcast from AAR last year — a debate in the Open and Relational Theologies Group about the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. It follows up on our debate of last week. I tend to think that Phil Clayton’s opening remarks are spot on: this is really about the very nature of God — but if it can be proved that creatio ex nihilo is really responsible of monarchial monotheism, misogyny, and governmental hierarchies, then I’ll abandon it.

Here’s a teaser for the podcast, and a link:

Get ready for a theological treasure chest! Here you get not one or even two theologians but SIX theologians ready to throw down theologically over Creation Out of Nothing. The audio was harvested from the Open and Relational Theologies group at the American Academy of Religion of which I am a very proud member!  This episode will include the panelists arguments for or against Creatio Ex Nihilio and later this weekend we will post the Question & Response portion of the session.  The initial panel includes:

Download their papers and listen to the podcast at: The Creatio Ex Nihilio Debate!.

Finally, let me just say that if I had to write my syllabus for next month’s DMin cohort again, I would include Keller’s Face of the Deep.


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