Emerging Churches by Gibbs and Bolger – A Literary Review
With a lot of tension in the air about Emerging Churches and Emergent in particular, I think if you want to get a sense of this movement, Gibbs and Bolger give us a lot of help in their book Emerging Churches. Whatever you think about Emerging churches, (I have given some of my thoughts here a while ago) one cannot avoid the brutal truth that the church needs to take Newbigin’s advice and embody herself in our new context. To get a better sense of the Emerging Church, a must read is Scot McKnight’s – Five Streams of the Emerging Church – an article in Christianity Today.
I basically start with my sense of the author’s thesis, followed by a
general overview of the book, and then I focus on themes that are
pertinent to my research. With that said, here is my review.
Gibbs and Bolger are convinced that the church in the West is a modern institution in a postmodern world and that she will continue to dwindle in numbers if she doesn’t embody the gospel within this postmodern context.
Gibbs and Bolger begin with giving eleven reasons why we must study and engage our current culture. They follow this with defining the emerging church, and distinguishing it from other forms of church. In the heart of the book they identify three core practices of emerging churches and the six practices that unfold from these. While the first three are imperative for any church they considered “emerging,” not all nine were. The book closes with 50 stories of emerging church leaders.
THEMES TO RE-VISIT
Gibbs and Bolger give us eleven compelling reasons to study and engage our current culture:
- Because of the Incarnation
- Because Cultural Understanding Has Always Been Essential to Good Mission Practice
- Because Christendom and Modernity Are in Rapid Decline
- Because the West is in the Midst of Huge Cultural Shifts
- Because the Church is in Decline
- Because the Majority of Current Church Practices Are Cultural Accomodations to a Society The No Longer Exists
- Because the Primary Mode and Style of Communication in Western Culture Have Changed
- Because a New Culture Means That New Organizational Structures Are Required
- Because Boomers Are the Last Generation That is Happy with Modern Churches
- Because of the Increasing Appeal of Spirituality Derived from Other Religions
- Because Many Christians No Longer Follow the Religion of Their Parents 16-23)
The three core practices are explained in chapters 3, 4 and 5. They are:
1. Identifying with the life of Jesus
2. Transforming secular space
3. Living as community
The six that flow from those three are described in chapters 6-11. They are:
1. Welcoming the stranger
2. Serving with generosity
3. Participating as producers
4. Creating as created beings
5. Leading as a body
6. Merging ancient and contemporary spirituality.
While these nine practices were the focus of the book the other vital element that they mentioned, but didn’t go in-depth with, is the various theologians that have helped to shape the emerging movement. They mentioned a number of people, including – N.T. Wright, Leslie Newbigin, Dallas Willard, David Bosch and John Howard Yoder.
The subheadings within each chapter make it easy to navigate and get further descriptions of each of the nine practices quickly, and hearing how people are practicing these nine essentials from the mouths of the practioners makes this book worth reading and studying again.