Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: Emergence Christianity (by Phyllis Tickle)

Phyllis Tickle has written her fourth book on the emergent church aptly titled, “Emergence Christianity.” A sympathetic look to the non-movement movement, she does an admirable job of assimilating and distilling in about 200 pages where things have been, where they are and where they might go.
If that sounds a little vague, welcome to emergent.
Tickle suggests that we are living in the age of The Great Emergence across the world. Quite a bold claim, especially for one living in the middle of it! And this book seeks to describe how a certain group of “Christians” are adapting to it.
It won’t surprise you that a book that repeatedly identifies Brian McLaren as “the Martin Luther of Emergence internationally” is not going to be my favorite. Yet, I found one section near the end surprisingly encouraging.
Tickle, against the consensus of most observers, suggests that Emergence Christianity is not in decline, but in a stage of reconfiguration, even maturation. As she describes the influences on this process, she notes the place of the New Calvinism.  Of that movement she writes:

“As such and because of its sheer size, it will also be a participant in, or at the very least a potent influence upon, the events and decisions that, during the coming decades, will determine the shape of Emergence Christianity in its full maturity.” (189)

I found that sentence strangely hope-giving. I most certainly do want to help shape Emergence Christianity! And I think the New Calvinism (which is not just the Old Calvinism, but the message of the Bible itself) is uniquely gifted to do just that. The world of Emergence Christianity that Tickle describes is like the early creation, “formless and void.” But those who take the Scriptures at face value are able to speak the Word and see something of real good come out of it.

For more information on all things emergent, you can read some slightly outdated information here.

(This book was provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and BakerBooks in exchange for an honest review.)

Are your needs special?

My son was born missing some 25 genes on the 7th chromosome in every cell in his body. He lives with Williams Syndrome. That diagnosis changed a lot of things in my life, one of which was a greater awareness of the massive world of disability and the burdens and blessings families experience as they care for their children with special needs.

Maybe it has to be that close in order to take notice. I wish that weren’t so. I always hope that other people would be more attentive and caring than I was before his diagnosis.

In that spirit, here are a few items of interest from the web today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Full circle. Grace Fellowship Church of Don Mills Fully Launched

Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching at the ordination service for Paul McDonald at Grace Fellowship Church, Don Mills (DM).  DM is a church we planted under the leadership of Julian Freeman back in Janauary 2011.

The way we plant churches is fairly simple. They remain under our direct oversight until such a time as they gain a plurality of elders. That means that DM is the first of our plants to go all the way to complete autonomy. Now that Paul is joining Julian as a co-elder, there is no more need for the elders here to oversee the work there.

That made yesterday a pretty crazy confluence of emotions. On the one level, I have known Paul for years, had him as a student when I taught at Toronto Baptist Seminary, worked with him as an intern here, and have been very involved with his life for quite a few years. I love him. And, it was all blessing to see him stand and vow to follow Christ as one of His undershepherds.

On another level there was sorrow. Knowing that this church will grow and take on its own personality – I suppose it was something like the feeling one gets when you send a kid off to university. It is not that I fear these guys will blow apart once they are “out from under our roof!” I just know it won’t be the same. That is a good thing. But, there is a kind of sadness to it as well.

Some day I hope Julian and I will be able to sit down and write about what we learned through this whole process. One thing I know I learned is that it is deeply encouraging and humbling to work with guys like him and Paul. They have put up with a lot from me through the years because they value the Gospel over themselves. That bodes well for what the Lord might do as DM takes flight under their wise and careful leadership.

Praise the Lord!