deep church

September 25, 2009

I’ll tell you up front that I received Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, by Jim Belcher, for review. But I’ll also tell you that I would have bought this and read it at my first opportunity, review copy or not.

With so many books written about the emerging church in recent years, there has been a gap in books written about…the gap. Most books from both sides of the discussion have been written from the perspective of, “Here’s what we think, and why we don’t agree with you.”

But there is a gap and many of us find ourselves sitting in it — somewhere between what Belcher labels as the Traditional and Emerging churches. I think many of my peers in the Ecclesia Network fit this description. The newly forming Origins Project seems to as well. In the introduction, Belcher says it like this:

This book is written for those who are caught in between. They are unhappy with the present state of the evangelical church but are not sure where to turn for an answer. They like some of what the emerging and traditional camps offer, but they are not completely at ease with either.

Despite what he writes above, I think Deep Church is a book that can speak to several different readers. To those in the gap, I think it will be a hopeful resonance with what you are thinking and feeling. To those in the traditional church with trepidation about the emerging church, Belcher offers a fair take on the emerging church as one who has clearly listened to what is being said. And to the emerging church, Belcher offers a thoughtful and honest reaction to the concerns being expressed.

If I have one critique of the book, it is that the subtitle is ambitious (but maybe that is more a revelation of my own hopes than of the intentions of the publishing team). Belcher does not go all the way to lay out what a third way between emerging and traditional should look like. And that task should not be his alone anyway, though he offers a good head start.

Belcher writes as one who stands perhaps a little more to the traditional side, but leaning into this third way. I read as one standing a little more to the emerging side, but also leaning into this third way. The generous yet honest way he writes is one that invites me and others into conversation about a third way — a conversation that I hope will grow as labels are shed and hope is adorned.

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