Mapping the Church Today

Mapping the Church Today February 25, 2008

(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
Last week we posted Michael Patton’s “map.” His was an attempt to create a map that revealed where specific emergent folks were to be placed theologically with respect to orthodoxy. Michael’s post generated an enormous response so I thought it would be good for me to point you to some brand new resources that will help you “map” what’s going on today.

First, I admit to some weariness with folks mischaracterizing emergent and emerging when we have had so many good studies mapping the whole thing. Well, now, the major debate is over. If you want to know what “emergent” (as in Emergent Village) is all about, here’s the only and best firsthand account: Tony Jones, The New Christians. I like the subtitle: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. Tony pulls out all his punches: too much left vs. right, what emerging is, the Bible as propaganda, friendships, legalisms of the left, “after objectivity,” his clever umpire stuff, and more about Solomon’s Porch. Here’s what I have to say: from now on all conversation about emergent begins right here. (I’ll be posting more about this book, but for today — a valuable mapping of emergent.)
Second, if Tony’s book digs deep into one facet of the American church, Tom Sine’s new book sketches the big trends. Sine, author of The New Conspirators, may provide for “emerging” what Tony does for “emergent.” Sine’s book maps four areas of church shifts: emerging, missional, mosaic, and (new) monasticism. You may not be old enough, but I am, to know of Tom Sine’s famous book, The Mustard Seed Conspiracy. That old book from 1972 revealed underground Christianity taking shape in the USA; it was sensational at the time. So, when I met Tom last year I was deeply honored to meet this veteran mapper. In this new book, Tom explores taking the culture seriously, taking the future seriously, taking turbulent times seriously and taking our imaginations seriously. A wondrous ride through the alley ways.
Finally, I’ve been stating for a few years we need more books about The Third Way. Roger Olson, in his new book (How to be Evangelical without being Conservative), has done just that. Yes, I blurbed Tony’s and Tom’s book; but I wrote the Foreword to this book. I read the ms up and back on a plane trip, took notes, forgot the ms on the plane, and got home and bubbled over into that foreword because I found the book so blooming interesting. Here are some chp titles: being biblical without orthodoxy, building character without moralism, celebrating America without nationalism, seeking truth without certainty, taking the Bible seriously without literalism, …. stuff like this. 12 chps exploring the middle ground between polarities. Thanks Roger.

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  • scot: thanks for this. mustard seed conspiracy was a revolutionary book for me when i first read it 10 years ago.
    he and his wife, christine, and mustard seed org is hosting a conference this upcoming weekend in seattle for those who lurk in the northwest:

  • In the churches of Christ, we have also asked this question, where are we in the bigger world of religion? Sometimes though, trying to discover the connection makes us lose our identity. There should be no need to be like anyone else, except Christ.

  • we are so there.
    picked up the new conspirators today. just finished the new christians.
    if there is one word to sum up all of these bold new adventures in christianity it would be HOPE. thanks for being another raft, scot.

  • Just started reading The New Christians this week and am very glad to be getting some perspective from Tony on Emergent/Emerging. This will be a good resource to point people to who desire clarification.
    Thanks for the other 2 recomendations, I ordered them just now.

  • Doug Allen

    I love what you and Tony Jones and Roger Olson are doing (sorry, I’m ignorant of Tom Sine’s work). Many of us far outside any circle of orthodoxy you might draw (see my comment #151- a poem- in the Feb. 19 “Mapping Emerging” discussion) find orthodoxy not a door, not even a window, but mostly a barrier to Jesus’ teachings which we do take seriously.
    What is orthodoxy? It’s the majority vote by ancient councils and committees and the perspective or bias of some powerful individuals who had many and conflicting agendas. Some were searching for truth and some were advancing marketing stratagems. Some wanted to gain power, retain power, or consolidate power.
    I think any thoughtful person should be very skeptical of that thing called orthodoxy when they realize how much hatred, war, torture, bloodshed has been (and still is) spent in its name. Sure, maps and intellectual constructs are fun, thought provoking, but when taken seriously- that is legalistically- they distract from what is important- The Jesus creed.

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