Friday, August 21, 2009


This newest work by Eddie Gibbs, part of the co-author with Ryan Bolger of Emerging Churches, is called "churchmorph: how megatrends are reshaping christian communities." Like Emerging Churches when it came out, this new work is a good basic introduction to why church is being reimagined, and how it is being done so in different ways and places around the globe, especially in Europe, the U.S., and Australia. It is a good companion with Tom Sine's The New Conspirators. Its breadth is more significant than its particular depth, but it would be a great book to share with church leadership if you are introducing organic ways of being church. For depth go to Reggie McNeal's Missional Renaissance (see posts below on it); but for a one book intro to get you going into more depth, start here now. Gibbs and Bolger's three major characteristics of emerging churches continues to be a good guide; 1. identify with the life of Jesus; 2. transform secular space; 3. live as community.

Good Dog-eared sections of ChurchMorph:

A key scriptural text for incarnational theology and churches is Philippians 2, the possibly pre-Pauline hymn where Paul writes about Jesus being in the "morphe" of God. This is key to kenotic Christianity, giving up temptations of power in the world in order to allow God in and to transform the world. As with Jesus, so with the church and our lives. How then are we and our communities morphing to let God in?

Megatrends: a sense of mystery, without superstition, in worship; self-critical churches reflective of the move from modernity to postmodernity; rise of grassroots initiatives reflective of change from industrial culture to information culture; becoming incarnational reflective of shift from christendom to post-christendom era; as culture shifted from production to consumer oriented, he sees church-goers shifting from conformers to consumers (I see the shift coming next with missional church away from church-goers as consumers to them being convertors, agents of change). other megatrends include from religious identity to spiritual exploration, and delayed adulthood.

I resonate with Doug Pagitt of Solomon's Porch who is quoted in the book describing their experience as "kinda liturgical church...kinda like Mennonite church...kinda like Bible church." We often in worship have our blends of elements.

Gibbs uses several markers to decribe a church both emergent and missional, and it pretty well sums up our markers here in Turley too: on his spectrum we fall mostly into his categories--external focus, independent network (vs. inherited denomination), multicultural, theologically liberal, missional, low-profile situational leader (working on that more), and engaging popular culture.

"Traditional denominations on both sides of the Atlantic suffer from a number of drawbacks. First, the model of church they are endeavoring to reproduce is a style of church shaped by and suited for Christendom.[RR: even if they are theologically eclectic oriented UU churches]; it is not a missional model...Second, the new church plants have to meet criteria set by the denomination in order to be considered a full-fledged church. This means that church planting becomes phenomenally expensive, as it is tied to real estate, meeting pay scales for professional clergy, and the purchase of furnishings...Third, traditional denominations suffer from a shortage of trained and passionate church planters. They tend to attract and train leaders who look to the church to provide security and a career in ministry, rather than ground-breaking risk-takers...Fourth, the seminaries that provide their leaders have trained their students in teaching and pastoring existing congregations, rather than in how to birth and reproduce new faith communities."

More good markers of a missionary church: 1. focused on God the Trinity [see my posts on the Trinity in progressive and still powerful understandings, as touchstones of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, how each of these needs to be incarnated in community]. 2. incarnational; 3. transformational; 4. makes disciples; 5. relational, hospitable and welcoming and "its ethos and style are open to change when new members join" [that last one is becoming increasingly important and is a challenge for most to understand that it doesnt mean the DNA changes, as new members come in and are leaders because they get the DNA, but the expression of the DNA in ethos and stlyle reflects continual evolution, and is another reason why multiple small groups helps this happen in a healthy way]. 6. reproducible; 7. globally committed.

Emerging churches are moving in an Anabaptist direction, resistance to ways culture shapes us and churches.

emerging churches reflect emergent systems: 1. open to change from within; 2. dictated by local not global circumstances; 3. learning as self-renewing; 4. distributed knowledge, no key leader seen as fount of all knowledge; 5. servant leadership that changes perception of a situation instead of announcing change.

Type rest of the post here

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