Friday, October 27, 2006

Changing The Scorecard: 20 Portals

Yesterday, thanks to Hillcrest Hospital's pastoral care department here in Tulsa, I got to hang out and listen and talk with one of my favorite authors on the church today, Dr. Reggie McNeal, Southern Baptist, soon to be one of the leading members of Leadership Network. He wrote "The Present Future" (see posts below) and that was the title of the conference yesterday. But the main thrust of it was on his repeated assertion that we need to "change the scorecard" for how we talk and think and see this thing called church. Not keeping score on how many sit in the pews and contribute money and go out on mission trips, but how many lives we are in relationship with outside our group, touching with God's love, serving, and where possible transforming into followers of Jesus. A lot of the workshop was to lift up these main points from his book, and to tell great stories that illustrate the points.

Let me just give some of the notes I made from the conference, and then in another post I will talk about a lunch talk I had with him and a few others.

These will be some random observations, a little mix of Reggie's points with mine, but hope you will get something from them and comment.

I call it 20 Portals of Changing the Scorecard.

1. We need a Template Change of Church. Great now that I am doing some blogs to know what this means lol, and it is a good way to frame it. Contemplate your template, the template of those outside your relationship.

2. A church never votes to go missional. It will always vote to "go back to Egypt" [that would be Exodus story and aftermath to those of you getting acquainted with the Bible and visiting here] This point has some obvious correlations to the churches in the congregational way, as well as the Baptists in his own tribe. A lesson for leaders in these churches to lead, to find those among you who "get it" and turn them loose. Let them be "viruses" not only in the community outside, but it will be contagious then, for some anyway, within as well.

3. Great interpretation of John 4:34-35. The reaction of the way the disciples vs. Jesus react in passing the "woman at the well." Disciples (i.e. church folks) are always "missing the party" be it at the well, or as with the elder son in the prodigal sons story. Always looking for a harvest sometime in the future, always after having to plan for it, while Jesus says it is right now, right here. Just do it.

4. In talking about how we need to move our thinking and acting away from building churches to building a Christian movement, I kept thinking of some counseling I am doing with a person about addiction, this time smoking but any kind of addiction, including the kinds of addictions to dysfunction that churches have--one helpful advice is to completely alter his daily routine as a way to get him out of his smoking rut. Whatever he normally does at a certain time, from the time he wakes up, do something different. See template change comment above. Same for churches.

5. Most of the morning, Reggie went through the all important generational cultures differences at work and connecting it to the shift from the manufacturing to service to experience economy and church. I am sure I must have posted on this before, as an overview, but just in case I will make it a separate post. But some national figures, vary according to region of course, that demonstrate the need for shifting to missional way. I think I got these figures down right from his chart for those still mostly active in church life. Seniors (born before 1925) not counting them statistically; Builders (born 25-44) 60 percent church adherence; Boomers (born 45-64) 40 percent; Gen Xers (born 65-83) 20 percent; Millenials (born 84-00) 10 percent. Nothing yet on Gen Next (00--). This is reason number one for the collapse of the church as we have known it. reason number two is the emergence of the "postmodern" world. Generational cultures reveal to us that we have our own missionary work to do right at home. The lessons we have learned, the hard way (see for example I would note Vincent Donovan's Christianity Rediscovered) about overseas mission work we have to apply here among ourselves. Requires post-evangelism, learning new languages, customs, being willing to be transformed.

6. The question is not how can we do church better? We can do it great with all kinds of quality stuff like the boomers like, but they still won't come to 'be like us.' As long as we keep presenting a "monoculture" we will miss the future. Connected with another important observation about how he is trying to get leaders to quit thinking "multi-site" where one version is replicated in many places, with "poly-site" where one church movement has many different incarnations. [Transformational church is all about doing church better; that is needed; something else is needed too].

7. appropos point 6, instead of putting money into new and bigger sanctuaries and r.e. buildings, etc., put it into community buildings use, helping children in your community instead of those who are dropped off for R.E.; pay the rent of missionaries to go live in apartment complexes and make relationships and form church within the apartment complexes. Studies have shown, he says, that apartment complexes have highest rates of no church connection, even if they are right across the street from a huge mega-church. Go into cul-de-sac churches as some are doing and plan to have six couples in an area meeting for the new versions of missional house church. Glad to see he mentioned Neil Cole's book Organic Church (see my other posts on it) about all the ways of being poly-site.

8. Don't have Committment Sundays. Have Compassion Sundays. (see my post about the hopeful sign among us UUs with Generosity groups and missions). Do away with Evangelism Committees and tasks and have Blessing Groups. Go task everyone with simply finding three people to bless each week (waitresses, etc. etc., teachers, etc. etc.) and make one of those three persons someone you or others might consider not "worthy" of a blessing.

9. Great exegesis about the way God moves among those who are "outside" our particular group identity, and the necessity to go there to experience God and be transformed [but now if they could only extend and live that to us in the more progressive and liberal wings of Christ's movement lol but that's another post; there are always those stunned looks when these folks find out who I hang out with, but more on that later]. But great stuff about Abraham learning from Melchizedek, Moses learning from Jethro, Jonah going to Nineveh and God's blessing of Nineveh, and of course the Jesus stories.

10. Church has been like the "live well" for fish caught; people are brought in out of the world and placed in a container called a live well, but of course it is an unnatural place for a fish to be and is a place on the journey toward their death. Church should be like an airport hub; its whole mission is to get people where they need to go. It isn't a destination but a departure place. And so church needs to be about asking people these questions: A. What do you enjoy doing? B. Where do you see God most at work in your life now? C. What would you like to see God do in your life in the next 6-12 months from now? (and make sure they are in a group that will follow up with how it is going) D. How would you like to help other people? and E. How can we pray for you?

11. It's about believing God not about believing in God. (there's a postmodern parable for you). Church isn't a noun but a verb (so is God but that's where the evangelicals can learn from progressives as we have so much to learn from them). Start with a community building agenda and not a church building agenda.

12. We need a return to Spiritual Formation. We are in a world of mass customization. We can meet people where they are, even if it is called a consumer mentality, but by our being and God's being the spiritual formation will transform their mentality into a God giving mentality (these are mostly my words and paraphrasing of several questions rolled into one in his responses). See questions above. Also it is return to ancient practice of Spiritual Direction. If your DNA is Jesus, don't have to worry about becoming consumer-bound.

13. We have to deal with the lay reformation. We are held back by clergy-focus, and others are bypassing us because of clergy-focus. Will affect Seminaries very hard, especially as they are caught between the changing needs of the world and the world's churches, and the requirements of the accrediting body that they feel they must have to attract students.

14. The shifts in focus are from internal to external; program to people-centered; church-based leadership to apostolic-based leadership (sending people who get it, working from the fringe), understanding we are in an A.D. 30 world now deja vu all over again. But shifts are not replacements. they are overlays.

15. check out

16. Need to move From Planning to Preparation. [oh god, progressive church, do you hear??]. We can't plan but we can prepare. Great biblical light shed here, re: John the Baptist didn't plan but said prepare; Hebrews prepared for Exodus but didn't plan; God is in the future coming upon us now, we don't create it but prepare and be ready and go to meet it.

17. Here is the DNA: A. Our Vision (why are we here?); B. Our Values (what were Jesus'?); C. Our Results we hope for (shift the scorecard, see above, such as money we give away not that we bring in); D. Our Strengths. So important. Use the talent you have. Build strength from strength, which means realizing what you are not good at, opening up room for others. E. Our Learnings. What don't we know yet that we need to learn. Listen to those in their 20s. Show those in their 70s and above how to move from a situation of "loss" (of church, of culture, of family and friends) to a situation of "legacy", how we can learn from and mentor one another.

18. Know how to tell your story of faith, of why you do what you do, where God and Jesus are in it. Stories are important, not the four spiritual truths, etc.

19. In the collapse of the church culture, you don't try to do church the way it has been done, even doing it better.

20. There will be all kinds of churches to come. The leader of the Christian movement in the coming century (or replace as needed with non-Christian progressive movements) may have been born and be growing up in your very church and web of relationships right now. How are you going to identify, nurture, learn from, and release her? [last question, my addition].

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meanwhile in the Organic Church Circle...

At the same time this year we have seen "survey" books on the left with Christianity for the Rest of Us, and A New Spiritual Home, (see posts below), there is another one surveying emergent/organic churches from a more (for the most part) orthodox evangelical position. It is "Inside The Organic Church: Learning from 12 emerging congregations" by Bob Whitesell (Abingdon, 2006).

I will be blogging in coming days more in depth to compare it with Diana Bass' and Hal Taussig's books (main premise is that each side in the emerging and changing church world can learn from one another), but let me at least mention the 12 churches and you can check them out too. Except for theology, my own church planting experience and interest lies more closely with the experiences reflected in Whitesell's book than the other two, which are more geared to already established churches, but there are good things to gain from all. If only....

The Twelve:
St. Thomas' Church, Sheffield, England. and
The Sol Cafe, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Mars Hill, Grandville, Michigan,
The Bridge, Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Arizona, and
Vintage Faith Church, Santa Cruz, Calif.,
Freeway, Baton Rouge, LA,
Church of the Apostles, Seattle, WA,
One Place, Phoenix, AZ,
Scum of the Earth Church, Denver, CO,
Bluer, Minneapolis, MN, and
Tribe of Los Angeles,
Solomon's Porch, Minneapolis, MN,

I will blog more in depth coming up soon on this book's findings, and comparing them to surveys of recent progressive Christian churches.

Hal Taussig's new book a good first step

"A New Spiritual Home: Progressive Christianity at the Grass Roots" by Hal Taussig, pastor and professor, is a good first step in moving liberal Christians toward the emergent and organic and church-planting churches movement necessary for its thriving in the century ahead.

The thrust of the book is about the new momentum for churches with a progressive Christian core, and for associations connected with progressive Christianity (except for the one I am most connected with, the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, founded in 1945, a long time before many of these other progressive Christian associations, but since we hang out in covenant with non-Christian Unitarian Universalists, it seems, that or unfamiliarity with us (to our shame), we don't get mentioned. But I digress.

The book is similar in tone to Diana Bass's Christianity for the Rest Of Us (and I am still going to be blogging on it more comparing it with some other recent books), but it goes more into depth into the emergent church movement with a few of the churches profiled. It lists 1,000 progressive churches but profiles sixteen more indepth.

It goes into some analysis of why progressive Christian churches have not been growing, into the decline of the mainline church analysis, and, lo and behold, it actually has a small chapter in it devoted to planting progressive churches (we are still waiting for the whole book on that to be published, complete with ecclesiology and corresponding theology for it).

I have some qualms about what is in here, but right now wanted to say it should be on all the library shelves of those interested in progressive Christianity.

He says progressive churches shouldn't try to get started in rural areas or metro areas under 100,000 people, and that's a good point if you are trying to start "a" progressive Christian church that looks like what people think of as church in the attractional model with building, and minister, etc. No reason why in the organic model you can't start church planting communities of much smaller number just about anywhere, rural or small urban area.

He says you shouldn't try to plant where there already is a progressive Christian church. Not sure about that. I think strength will begat strength, and also help to reach out to micro-church niches of progressive Christians, many of whom don't know they are progressive Christians yet because they aren't Christian yet. They are unchurched or de-churched. Taussig's realism, which is important, is still grounded in the model of "church" as it is.

His other points:
1. focus on participatory worship---good point, part of emergent movement, helps breakaway from church default mode.
2. help people think clearly and analytically--generally not a big fan of that, since I am coming from the uber-sphere of it in Unitarianism, but I am finding out that this is a big draw in my area, helping people see the bible in understandable ways....all of course, for me, as a prelude in helping them encounter it in very poetically and perhaps irrational, mystic ways.
3. advocate for full participation of women and GLBT folks---a no-brainer, otherwise why call yourself either progressive or Christian :)
4. Christianity is not the only or best religion---well, I don't know. Progressive Christians certainly talk about God being found in other religions, and that's good, but a failure to actually state that you think it is the 'best" religion? I don't have any problems with that. I think it is the best, not only for me but for the world, though in its present incarnations it vexes me to no end. I don't have a problem stating that it is the best because I know I don't speak for God, thank God, and my humility and finitude grants me the freedom to nevertheless speak what I think is the best, and to make some judgments.
5. committment to justice and equality--again, a no brainer. but this is particularly because it is where the unchurched and dechurched are.

His don't of planting a progressive church:
1. don't worship as business as usual---excellent
2. do not defend orthodoxy---don't be an anti- negative kind of church, but positive in tone, i think is his point. Good point. not defend male or heterosexual privilege--again, no brainer.
4. he states the need to have "publcized events."--to the extent that he is referring to events such as "signature events" in a community, this is great advice. If it just turns into publicizing message because there are people out there "looking for you" not so sure it is so sound. Again, the ace in the hole is creating not just "a progressive church" but church-planting churches. Of the ones mentioned in his book, I still didn't see a focus or interest on that among them. It is about finding ways to incarnate and give yourself away, over and over, as a church.

I wish I could take Diana Bass's book which talks about recapturing and updating and owning again many of the ancient traditions of Christian faith as part of progressive Christian churches, but which leaves out except in vague passing, that church planting is one of those most ancient of Christian practices--add in Taussig's book to hers because it explores the increasing influence of the emergent church on progessive Churches in ways that, he says, are making them different from the "liberal mainline" of the 50s and 60s. And then add that final chapter or call to arms about taking the next full step and creating and incarnating church-planting church movements among us that are redefining the image people have of church itself.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Recent Travels: Monastic church plants?

I've just returned from Boston where I was on spiritual retreat at the Benedictine Glastonbury Abbey delving into the parables of Jesus in a focus called "Living in the Kingdom" led by Rev. Carl Scovel. There were 23 of us there. It was "deep church" and one of the subtexts running through the groups and the conversations in between times was all about the need for renewal and refreshing of the Spirit and creation of groups such as this that can multiply and help connect people in ways to go deeper with God. I will be posting more as the days come about the ways the contemporary monastery is a model for church planting. In the meantime I will reproduce some of my recent letter to folks connected to The Living Room Church. For more go to

"It was great to get away to the Benedictine Monastery, Glastonbury Abbey, in Hingham, Mass. for a spiritual retreat, and to represent The Living Room Church at the annual convocation of the Council of Christian Churches within the Unitarian Universalist Association that was held at Kings Chapel in Boston (see And it was even better to come back to Turley, full of new spirit and ideas and experiences to share. It was great to hear about the fun time here while I was gone, too, as people shared their visions of what church can mean in this place, and time, and with us its people and particularly in our possible new and enlarged space we would be giving away to the community....

"I subscribe to a newsletter by the famed national researcher on religious issues George Barna. We disagree about many things having to do with what it means to follow Jesus, which is one of the reasons I pay attention to him, and the other is that his work reflects pretty accurately I believe the life issues we face. His most recent article is about the number one complaint people have about their lives these days, the number one desire----To Get A Good Night's Sleep. Go to

"And I know it is a spiritual issue. It is a concern of the church. Haven't we all been there? Right now? The reasons why this is a growing desire and problem in our lives are legion; you can fill in the blanks with all the explanations the same as I can. One of my favorite ways of looking at this is, in fact, to turn my title around and say that it is precisely because we aren't finding our work useful and helpful to us and others and with more comfort than challenge that we can't get a good night's rest. We try to fill the holes in our lives with work or activity or even social concerns and sleep is often seen as another hole in our life to fill, avoid, self-medicate. But tackling the problem with all kinds of explanations will only help a little. I think a major "awakening", so to speak, is needed.

"Out this window I face while I write, I see a world in need of more monastic living, which means intentional spiritual living and community-building that is counter-cultural to both the way the "church" says we are to live and the way the "world" says we are to live. Twice this year I've been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with monasteries, one run by Anglican Sisters and the latest by Benedictine Brothers. They carry on an ancient tradition. While I am no fan of hierarchy (and so I differ with the ways the monasteries are organized theologically), there is something compelling, commanding, even confronting about the mission they represent.

"As The Living Room Church grows and finds itself and loses itself and multiplies itself, there are lessons from these communities that can guide us, and I believe guide us as individuals as well as when we are a community.

"Places of Hospitality. Earth-centered. Simplicity. Service-oriented. Prayerful. Full of song and silence. Focusing both on the very local and broadly global. Places for people to come, abide, immerse in the rules and guides of ancient wisdom, and to go, be sent, as agents of change in their lives, in their families, among their friends, at work, as citizens.

"Expect, from me in the weeks and months ahead, to bring in a little more Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, and many others who have walked "in the desert and worked in the dirt" wherever they have found themselves.

'In the meantime, I live you with a "rule" we discussed at my recent retreat, to use to shape your own life so that you may become the change you seek to see in the world.

'---Daily, pray and/or have a spiritual practice you engage in.
---Weekly, rest in Sabbath for worship and praise and remembrance of what sustains you and calls for your life's commitment.
---Monthly, have a "deep meeting" with others or a spiritual director, for accountability of your walk in life.
---Annually, go on retreat to be re-oriented.
---During your lifetime, take a pilgrimage to a special sacred place or holy land.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More on "The Present Future" by Reggie McNeal

Since Reggie McNeal is coming to Tulsa to do a day-long workshop (see post below), and because I love his book "The Present Future: Six Tough Questions For The Church", I wanted to give folks a little more taste of it ahead of time. I must say that the book was published in 2003, and already to me it seems a little dated though very much still current. What I mean by that is the future he talks about that is headed toward us, rather than us headed toward the future, certainly seems to have happened perhaps quicker than he or any thought. There have been so many books and developments regarding church and emerging cultures in just the past three years. But the book is a good intro into these changes, particularly it seems to me for existing and established churches looking for transformation, perhaps moreso at this time at least than those looking at church planting or multiplication. I think it will lead you in that direction, but there's a lot of good here to raise with people within churches that it will lead to health in a number of ways.

So, before we get to the six tough questions, here are the assumptions about church that he challenges:
1. If you build the perfect church (the way we think about church), they will come.
2. Growing your church will automatically make a difference in the community.
3. Developing better church members will result in greater evangelism.
4. The church needs more workers (for church work)
5. Church involvement results in discipleship.
6. Better planning will get you where you want to go (in terms of missional effectiveness).

The questions:
1. Not how do we do church better, but "How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?" (for those of you in my reading audience who have perhaps already deconverted from Christianity to Churchianity, this goes for you too--how do you deconvert from Churchianity to, so to speak, the Spirit of Freedom?).
2. Not how do we grow our church, but "How Do We Transform Our Community? How do we Hit the Streets with the Gospel?"
3. Not how do we turn members into ministers, but "how do we turn members into missionaries?"
4. Not how do we develop church members, but "how do we develop followers of Jesus"?
5. Not how do we plan for the future, but "how do we prepare for the future?"
6. Not how do we develop leaders for church work, but "how do we develop leaders for the Christian movement"?

A few closing thoughts and some of my favorite quotes from McNeal:
It isn't over for the institutional church, but it should be if the church continues to lose its mission.
The last thing we need is a postmodern church. We need a church for postmodern people.
"I believe Jesus is the hope of the world. I believe God has called out a people to make sure the world knows this. These people are the church. Jesus has promised that hell will not be able to stand against it. I just wish hell were the problem."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Blogging from Revival?

Calling all bloggers who will be attending the Revival 2006, Nov. 2-5 at Fourth Universalist Society in New York City, 160 Central Park West at 76th, "Universalism: Reviving God's Grace" and featuring keynote speakers, Dr. Gary Dorrien, Episcopal priest and professor at Union Theological Seminary and author of many books, lecturing on "Liberal Theology Today: Crisis and Renewal in Progressive Religion" on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., and Jim Mulholland, pastor of a Friends Meeting and ecumenical Christian and co-author of "If Grace Is True" and "If God Is Love" lecturing Friday at 10:30 a.m. on "Resisting Good News." Both Dorrien and Mulholland will lead talkback workshops.

A call to blog on the lectures, and the workshops, and reflecting on the worship services each day including the Saturday communion service and the Saturday prayer and healing service, and the Friday morning Taize service. There will also be other workshops, small group bible study, and lots and lots of good conversation and times out together in Manhattan and environs.

You can get more information, and on registering, at or email me at and I will send you an electronic version of the full brochure.

One day registration available for the day of your choice. If you need help locating lodging, please contact us.

Sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship. Spread the news. Don't miss this revival!

I will be busy but hope others can blog during the event. If you can, let us know about it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Okies and Liberal Puritans

I can't resist dipping into the discourse in the blogosphere on liberal Puritanism then and now and current UUism over at and especially at I mean, after all, I have lived all but four years of my 52 years in Oklahoma and the other four all the way up in Wichita, KS, and I am immersed in UU Christianity which draws a sizeable share of its continuing identity from Puritanism, liberal and otherwise. I discovered UUism in Oklahoma and through it discovered a deeper relationship with Jesus and the tradition and communities springing forth over the centuries. And now, the national offices of the UUCF and much of our recent activity is located here in Oklahoma. As I joke, when folks in New England here this, they say the UUCF is where? and around here folks say the UUCF is what?

My first Unitarian church was First Church in Oklahoma City which has been shaped so much by New England, in its architecture and in its ministerial history, especially from Frank Holmes. Also in its liturgy which has changed but still owes so much to the Puritan heritage. My other Oklahoma church of note was All Souls in Tulsa; its chancel area is especially designed to the measurements of the first meetinghouse of the Plymouth Pilgrims, and its architecture is likewise New England, though its own ministerial history and theology has been shaped more by the theistic free church Western Conference strains of Jenkin Lloyd Jones.

Having said all that, as I have posted back in August archives (see previous post on Puritans and Emergent Church) there are tensions galore in our heritage from New England religious culture of the congregational stripe. It has a lot to do with why we have not been church-planting folk, which has a lot to do with why we have not grown but are slip sliding away from a national perspective (there's a lot to say here too that don't have time for about the post by Colin on the fellowship movement and why its representation growth with us while merging with humanism of the day was not due to the humanist theology; it had more to do with the cultural baby boom of the time and the fact that we still then were existing in a churched culture, and there was a lot of growth also from already existing churches that were theistic as well; humanism played a part in the overall growth of the time of the new churches, and perhaps also why between 1961 and 1983 so many of them and other of our churches died out).

The New England legacy is ours in so many fundamental organizational ways, which always have roots in theological understandings. I will try to pick up and post more about ways to glean from that legacy parts of it that will help us shape new organic relational ways that will help us turn loose our people and churches to reproduce and multiply. We have a free church polity that already frees us from so many of the restraints that other more hierarchical denominations have in terms of church planting and redefining church, but our pendulum swing to the other extreme of favoring our own community and congregation without building connections to others and especially to new and emerging possibilities has been a detriment that the more "connectional" polities can employ once they catch the vision and passion. It has a lot to do with the various covenants that make up our embodiment of faith, and how we need to understand and pay more attention to them and to the ones we have left out of the picture, but I will have to post more on that in the future.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Book Update: Can you guess what is missing?

The following books from and about and promoting progressive or liberal Christianity have been published already in 2006, a kind of "perfect storm" of publishing from, so to speak, "our side of the table." (just in time for the elections? one wonders). Guess what is missing from virtually all of these....a gospel imperative, not to mention survival and thriving in the emerging cultures, of church planting. These are excellent books, rah-rah for the cause, and I wish more people paid attention to them, and I am thrilled that people are paying attention to them...but....across the board so many with a missing piece which many have said is vital to the very survival in the coming generations.

"Getting On Message: Challenging the Christian Right from the Heart of the Gospel" (Beacon Press, 2006, UUA)
---"Why The Christian Right Is Wrong" (2006, Jossey-Bass) by Robin Meyers of the United Church of Christ;
---"Big Christianity: What's Right with the Religious Left" (2006, Westminster John Knox) by Disciples of Christ Jan G. Linn;
---"Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical's Lament: How the Religious Right distorts the Faith and Threatens America" (2006, Basic Books) by Randall Balmer, evangelical Christian and American religious history professor;
---“The Phoenix Affirmations; A New Vision for the Future of Christianity” (2006, Jossey-Bass0 by Eric Elnes, a UCC minister;
---The emerging Christian Way (2006, CopperHouse), a book of essays by progressives (at least there is some allusion here from Marcus Borg about the rise of the emergent church, as I note he and Brian McLaren have been appearing together).
---“Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith” (2006, HarperSanFrancisco) by Diana Butler Bass, Episcopalian.
---"Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right" (2006, Simon and Schuster) by Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, United Methodist.
---and from a more inter-religious and secular intersection is Rabbi Michael Lerner's "The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right (2006, HarperSanFrancisco). There is a buried nugget here about starting those groups of the network for spiritual progressives, but it is still mostly message-driven instead of why these groups reflect something basic about the spiritual left, and indeed about God.

Add to this from just a year earlier but with an updated guide in 2006:
---“God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” by evangelical and liberal Jim Wallis who has published this year “Living God’s Politics,” (2006, HarperSanFrancisco), a guidebook based on the recent work. The guidebook is at least geared for group work, though it is lean on the need for forming the groups as well as keys for how to form these groups for the guidebook among people not already a part of "churchwork."

Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Leaving Church: A memoir of faith” (also 2006, HarperSanFrancisco) is in a different category as a memoir from a progressive Christian. It actually makes a pretty good personal journey case why people are leaving church to deepen faith and why so many are finding that in emerging organic ways that have little to do with organized church, but she doesn't talk about how many are finding their responses in emergent and church planting movements to the malaise and malady that afflicts the "successful" church not to mention the many dysfunctional unhealthy churches. But there is a section, all too brief, on the start of a new church by the church Taylor leaves. In fact it talks about how starting that sucessful church too added to the "burnout" if that phrase can be applied; probably because it was seen as another way of program outreach rather than organic reproduction that revs up the juices of the "rev" instead of runs it down. A good 20-20 hindsight kind of look at where a lot of people are.

But then how about these titles too for hitting the mark in so many ways except one crucial one.

"The Future of Christianity: Can It Survive?" (2006, Prometheus Books) by Arthur J. Bellinzoni, professor emeritus of religion, which is another in a long line of books by liberals looking at Christianity in this coming century but without any mention of the emerging church and necessity for church planting movements,
like also---
John Shelby Spong's "A New Christianity for a New World" (2001, Harper SanFrancisco) and "Why Christianity Must Change of Die" (1998, HarperSanFrancisco), --great titles and thought but nothing about church-planting movements for progressives. The first book has several concluding sections on liturgy and ecclesia and how it might not be church but they are rooted in how the message coming from these events will be changed or need to change, not so much about the very gatherings themselves.
"Saving Jesus: From those Who are Right" (1999, Fortress Press) by Carter Heyward, and Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity" (1997, Crown) by Bruce Bawer. Great books from those who have found great liberation in Jesus after suffering from the exclusion of the church, but while they focus on the message coming from the Right they don't reveal how the Right's methods and its passion for engaging the new cultures is helping it spread while those who have "seen the light" are holing up in their newfound safe places.
There was Christianity in the 21st Century, edited by Deborah Brown (2000, Crossroad) which has one, at least part of one, promising essay that touches on the life of the church itself and evangelism in "Reflections on the Church and the City' by Paul Moore, Jr. I would hope these books with such wide-ranging all encompassing titles would take into account the emergent and the evangelical as part of liberalism and not as somehow its antithesis.

and "Christianity in the 21st Century: Reflections on the challenges ahead" by Robert Wuthnow (Oxford University Press, back in 1993) which at least gives much thought to churches and communities but doesn't mention church planting, although in the epilogue there is a pretty good summary of why church isn't working for many and how they have found spirituality in small groups and how these small groups and relationships could become church for many. This is a sleeper of a book, I think, which emergent and church planters should go back to even though it will of course be dated. Or engage with his other works.

Oh well, now to put a lot of these books back on the shelves. I hope emergent folks will become more acquainted with them, and that the progressives would become more acquainted with the ones on my blog list in the Book Section (see archives).

Tulsa Conference: "The Present Future" Author

This is for those who are especially in the Tulsa and surrounding "driveable' area.

Just received my brochure in the mail for the Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa's annual clergy appreciation seminar. It will be Thursday, Oct. 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. (you can come and go as needed though) and is free but with limited seating. I will highly recommend their speaker and workshop presenter this year, Dr. Reggie McNeal who wrote one of my favorite books recently called "The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church" from which the day will be constructed into four leadership sessions. Particularly if you missed the outstanding leadership conference at PTS ( recently by Sally Morganthaler, this will be I expect in the same sort of leadership vein, focusing on the collapse of the churched culture. Haven't heard him speak but love his book. Would be a great continuing education day.
If you haven't received the brochure you can call or register by phone at 918-579-6210. Spread the word to others.