Are there any new emerging proposals for what church is all about? Jim Belcher, in Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional examines the emerging criticisms of the traditional and the traditional criticisms of the emerging.
The issue is this: how can the church become more “shepherding” in how church works? (As I mentioned in my own post Tuesday, part of this is shaped by how we construct what the pastor does and partly what the church understands itself to be doing.) Belcher’s own approach began with John Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church
: organic, team-led and spiritual. And Belcher discovered that unstructured was not completely acceptable.
So, more structure; growth; some didn’t like the structure. He examines Pete Ward’s well-known, prototypical (in some people’s view) book and proposal called: Liquid Church : church is connection and relationships, not gathering. It’s a web, not a building. No regular meetings but constant communication. This taps into the house church movement which, too, eschews the traditional structure of churches.
Who’s got something to say about Ward’s book and proposals?
Well, of course, traditional folks have pushed back and said culture has captured church among these folks. Belcher’s proposal at this point is that it impossible to find a church structure apart from the Great Tradition of the Church.
Bible + Tradition + Mission = Deep Ecclesiology
My question: Is it possible to embrace the Great Tradition without embracing the ecclesiology of that tradition? (And that means, folks, the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic tradition.) Did not the ecclesiology give rise to the tradition?
So Belcher argues for balancing institution and organism, the importance of God’s calling of leaders, seeing worship as a means of grace, cultivating tradition and seeing tradition as as profoundly relevant.