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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional Paperback – August 7, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0830837168 ISBN-10: 0830837167 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 233 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; First edition (August 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830837167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830837168
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Passionately, articulately and with sometimes winsome self-confidence, Belcher seeks to chart a third way between the often divided factions within the traditional and emerging wings of American evangelicalism. The author, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Calif., asserts that it is possible to forge a new ecumenism and unity based in creedal orthodoxy, while also respecting the particularities of denominations and faith communities. After defining what impels the emerging church movement, he analyzes the seven protests leveled by the movement against traditional churches within the evangelical movement, from being too caught up in the rationalism of the Enlightenment, to overemphasizing doctrinal purity and an unwillingness to engage modern culture. Following that, he responds to each critique with an alternative solution that blends both reform and tradition to create a new body of Christian gospel–centered believers. A caveat: readers who think that mainline Protestantism has anything to contribute to this dialogue will not find any encouragement. Focused on the internal struggle within the American Christian evangelical wing, Belcher barely mentions this other flank of Christianity. (Sept.)
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"Belcher provides a balanced critique of both paradigms threaded within his own quest to present the formidable issues dividing them. . . A worthy read." (Diane J. Chandler, Religious Studies Review, September 2010)

"An excellent survey and tutorial of the issues of dividing the emerging church and the traditional church." (Equip to Disciple, Issue 2, 2010)

"Belcher describes his very personal journey to discover a way beyond the current debate that divides the traditional and emerging camps within American evangelicalism. In sorting out the contours of a debate that is sometimes hard to follow, Belcher also sets out the vision for the church he leads and describes how they are trying to live into that vision. He calls the vision 'deep church' ... a way of following Jesus and being the church that is both grounded in what Belcher calls the Great Tradition and engaged with contemporary culture." (Robert J. Weingartner, Missiology, 2010)

"Belcher, himself a child of the traditional church in North America and concerned with the state of the evangelical world, takes an honest look at the debates raging between the two perspectives. He looks at the strengths, weaknesses, and misunderstandings they each have of one another, and introduces a third way -- what C.S. Lewis called the 'deep church.'" (David Chow, Mennonite Brethren Herald, February 2010)

"From a former insider of the emerging church, this theologically weighty book speaks to both sides in the emerging/traditional debate. Though reflecting primarily a Reformed perspective, Belcher is irenic, showing appreciation for both emergent concerns and the great tradition of Christian faith and practice." (The 2010 Christianity Today Book Awards, The Church/Pastoral Leadership Category Winner (tie), February 2010)

*Conversation Starter Award* "The most discussed review on our site in 2009 was by far Chris Smith's review of Jim Belcher's book Deep Church. We certainly appreciate his careful and thoughtful work and the book's capactiy to spark meaningful and needed conversations." (The Englewood Review of Books, December 2009)

"All serious readers will benefit from Belcher's insights and critiques as much as from the exemplary, thoughtful manner in which he handles the discussion." (Bob Gerow, Pulpit Helps, November 2009)

"Belcher's concern for his congregants and for the future of the American church is evident on every page. Readers who recognize that the traditional church is ripe for reform but are wary of emerging alternatives will find Belcher a careful, sympathetic guide toward a more productive conversation." (Brandon O'Brien, Christianity Today, December 2009)

"Jim Belcher was emerging before it was called emerging. His insights into church life are broadly useful, and the balance he strikes between tradition and mission, certainty and creativity, could provide a way forward for many." (Madison Trammel, Christianity Today, October 2009)

"A fair-minded treatment of a polarizing and polemic topic." (C. Brian Smith, Christian Retailing, September 7, 2009)

"Passionately, articulately and with sometimes winsome self-confidence, Belcher seeks to chart a "third way" between the often divided factions within the traditional and emerging wings of American evangelicalism." (Publishers Weekly, July 13, 2009)

"Jim has written the most fair and affectionate critique of the emerging church yet published (especially from someone with a reformed theological perspective). Deep Church is a great read. It's a great read for non-formed types in the emerging church because it's a fair and thoughtful critique, and it's a great read for more traditional or reformed types, because it doesn't construct straw men to make its case." ((, April 10, 2009)

"Jim Belcher's Deep Church calls our attention to the pressing issues of our day to create a 'third language' conversation between the traditional and emergent church movements. Deep Church provides a healthy theological wrestling full of pragmatic wisdom, bringing a renewed perspective of birthing a church today. I highly recommend this book to pastors and lay leaders alike, to consider what the church, God's artwork, is called to become in the coming days." (Makoto Fujimura, artist and author of Refractions: A Journey of Art, Faith and Humanity)

"In Deep Church, Jim Belcher has given us great thoughts about how a church can walk the tightrope between emerging and traditional, between sound doctrine and openness to our culture, between modernism and postmodernism, and between 'belonging before believing' and the importance of 'community in the conversion process.'" (Howard Ahmanson, president, Fieldstead and Company)

"Smart, passionate, thoughtful, hopeful and Jesus-centered--this is the Jim Belcher I used to hang out with in the early nineties (like it was so long ago!) at the Huntington--and this is the Jim Belcher in this book. Lots of people are going to find this book very helpful." (Rob Bell, pastor, Mars Hill Bible Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, author, Velvet Elvis)

"Deep Church is a thoughtful, helpful and practical addition to the growing field of missional church thinking." (Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, president, Acts 29 Church Planting Network, president, Resurgence)

"As Christians enter the third millennium, they are in the midst of a great reconsideration. They are asking if the forms of church they have inherited are the right forms for the mission in the future. For some, they believe the forms must be rejected and deconstructed. Others seek to defend and restore them. Jim Belcher points a way that ties orthodox theological moorings with creative thinking and missional engagement, providing a helpful guide to thinking about church." (Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research,

"Rising above the usual shallow, facile critiques of the emergent church movement, Jim Belcher has written for us a book that, indeed, goes deep. Jim took the time to listen to emergent voices, and as a result, he appreciates the movement for what it is. And, further, his admonitions ring true. While Jim and I have theological differences, I can heartily recommend Deep Church as an invigorating study of and healthy corrective to both the emergent and traditional church." (Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (

"Deep Church is the book we need--it's a genuine third way. Jim Belcher is poised like no other to evaluate the emerging movement: he knows theology, he loves the church, he cares about twentysomethings, he knows the entire emerging movement, and he remains faithful to theological orthodoxy. Most of all, Deep Church avoids the clamor for extremes. There are only two or three really good books about the emerging movement, and this is the best analysis I've seen." (Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University)

"A marvelously reliable guide--indeed I know of none better--for our much-needed efforts to go deeper as churches by mining the depths of the gospel for creative and faithful ministry in the strange and exciting new world of the twenty-first century." (from the foreword by Richard J. Mouw, president, Fuller Theological Seminary)

"Deep Church is a carefully balanced and helpfully critical analysis of the emerging church and the numerous negative reactions against it. It is a fair-minded, truly gracious undertaking that speaks the truth in love and charts a clear third way that I sincerely hope will be embraced by a multitude of younger Christian leaders. Only a thoughtful pastor who knows Scripture, the Christian tradition and the modern challenges to mission in our present context could write such an excellent book." (Dr. John H. Armstrong, president, ACT 3, and author of Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ's Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church)

"Deep Church is a narrative of one man's journey of spiritual discovery involving at core a search for a place to stand. Whether you can fully agree with Jim's findings or not, you will find this book to be an accessible, well-articulated, deeply personal and (thankfully) theologically irenic apologetic for the emerging church." (Alan Hirsch, author of The Forgotten Ways, and founder of Forge Mission Training Network and

"Jim Belcher shows that we don't have to choose between orthodox evangelical doctrine on the one hand, and cultural engagement, creativity and commitment to social justice on the other. This is an important book." (Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City)

"Many have written critiques of the emerging church, and some have attempted 'third way' books that attempt to describe a possible best-of-both path between traditional and emerging mindsets and practices. But I think Jim Belcher's book is the first to be truly gracious to both of these oft-contentious perspectives, suggesting a fair and honest critique of both. Belcher has clearly done his homework, and lives--as a lead pastor of a church plant--with one foot in the Reformed, traditional camp, and one foot in the emerging church. This is a great read for any who are tired of straw man arguments and polarization." (Mark Oestreicher, president, Youth Specialties)

"Deep Church takes us beyond just the surface with what is emerging, emergent or traditional and gives us some wonderful insights toward an alternative future." (Dan Kimball, author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church)

"Working out his ideas in the crucible of pastoral ministry, Jim Belcher proposes fascinating new ways to arbitrate today's disputes by appealing to the Great Tradition. Read it and learn how your church can go deeper." (Collin Hansen, editor-at-large, Christianity Today, and author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist's Journey with the New Calvinists)

"Viewing Christianity and culture through the lens of the Reformed--and reforming--tradition, Jim Belcher judiciously assesses the divide between liberal and conservative factions of evangelicalism. Lucidly analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the emerging church as well as of the traditionalists who critique it, Belcher offers an inspirational 'third way,' the 'deep church,' that synthesizes the best of both." (Crystal L. Downing, professor of English and film studies, Messiah College, author, How Postmodernism Serves (My) Faith)

Customer Reviews

His humility throughout the book makes for a very pleasant read.
Matthew B. Redmond
Jim Belcher's new book, Deep Church, looks to steer a third way between the emergent movement and the traditionalist / reformed approach.
A. Morgan
You really ought to read the book to get the full thought process of finding this third way of a deep church.
DJ Chuang

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 108 people found the following review helpful By Matthew B. Redmond on August 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
I have only read a few books with church in the title that were any good. Most of them read like religious versions of the marketing solutions for small businesses. In other words they were no help at all in my thinking about this crazy, messy and weirdly beautiful institution we call "the church."

If you add to the fact there is a raging battle going on in the western church about how to do/be/plant a church, the list of books worth reading actually becomes far narrower. Either the book is so irenic to the point of not daring to criticize anyone or anything in particular or the author simply writes off everyone not like him.

Enter Deep Church by Jim Belcher. Wait, no, lets back up. About, I don't know - 6 months ago, I think - I became friends on facebook with Jim Belcher. We had a number of mutual friends and seemed to have some similar sentiments/feelings/opinions on a number of things. Anyway, when I saw a blurb about his new book coming out with Tim Keller endorsing it, I pre-ordered it. You see, I have a rule that goes something like this: Order everything that Tim Keller endorses. Pretty safe rule. I also recommend touching his garments for church healing powers.

Now, enter Deep Church by Jim Belcher. Within 48 hours of receiving it, I finished it and filled it full of asterisks and underlinings and exclamation points. A breath of fresh air, it was easily the best book on the debates that are raging in the church today. So, what sets Deep Church apart from all others?

First, most books are arguing for either a `traditional' or `emerging' way of thinking about church life, Deep Church seeks to forge a `third way.' And this third way is not what you might think it is. It is not some Utopian pie in the sky, `can't we all just get along?' dream.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A. Morgan on August 24, 2009
Format: Paperback
How far is too far? Where in terms of theology, ecclesiology, worship, preaching and mission do we draw the line in the sand and say this is too far and has lost sight of orthodox or biblical Christianity. And with regards to ecclesiology, or worship, or contextualization, where the Bible is interpreted differently, by what criteria do we even being to decide that something is too far?

These are some of the issues that have been raised with regards to the Emerging Church movement. Criticisms and even charges of heresy have been leveled against Emergent leaders and their methods, while the emergent leaders accuse the traditionalists of being out of touch, irrelevant and stuck in the past.

Jim Belcher's new book, Deep Church, looks to steer a third way between the emergent movement and the traditionalist / reformed approach. Why a third way? According to Belcher there is good to be found in both positions. The birth of Emergent came from the desire for the church to be more engaged with our postmodern culture. They raise excellent questions at some of the irrelevance and detachment of the traditional church. Each chapter of Deep Church is an analysis, critique and response to seven `protests' of the emerging movement against the `traditional' Church; 1. Captivity to enlightenment rationalism, 2. A narrow view of salvation, 3. Belief before belonging, 4. Uncontextualized worship, 5. Ineffective preaching, 6. Weak ecclesiology & 7. Tribalism (i.e. unwilling to engage the culture). The traditional church in response claims to stand on 2000 years of historic Christianity which they feel the emergent movement is simply discarding.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Evans on September 10, 2009
Format: Paperback
What sets Deep Church apart is that it explains the emerging church phenomenon without putting it in a box. Belcher allows the diversity of the movement speak for itself, and does an excellent job of dispelling some of the myths and mischaracterizations that have dogged the emerging church and its proponents.

Highlights for me included: 1) Belcher's call in Chapter 3 to find common ground in classic/orthodox Christianity (the Apostle's Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed) which, if applied, would dramatically reduce some of the name-calling and accusations of heresy that have been most unhelpful in the discussion between the emerging and traditional camps, 2) Belcher's fabulous treatment of postmodernism and postfoundationalism in Chapter 4, where he rightly explains that when talking about postmodernism, folks in the emerging church and the traditional church are using the same term to refer to two completely different things, and where he concludes that "a third way rejects classical foundationalism and hard postmodernism," and 3) Belcher's fair handling of the atonement issue in Chapter 6, in which he clarifies that most emergering church leaders "are not against atonement theories and justification, but want to see it balanced with the message of the kingdom of God." These are just a few examples of Belcher's remarkably balanced approach, which is such a breath of fresh air.

Of course, in a book like this, it is inevitable that those of us who tend to identify with one side or the other will nitpick some of the author's characterizations or claims.
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More About the Author

After almost 20 years pastoring two congregations, raising four children and finishing my first book, I was tired and worn down--out of gas. I needed to make a change, to find a way to regain my passion for my calling. While I was exhausted, my wife and I were also worried about our four children and whether they were developing a strong enough faith to last a lifetime. Were they being more influenced by the culture around them--the media, materialism and friends--than by the story of Christianity and its reality in their lives?

Then we hit on an idea. What if we traveled on a pilgrimage for a year to England and Europe, and studied and experienced the biographies and places of some of the great heroes of the faith--people like C.S. Lewis, Sheldon Vanauken, William Wilberforce, Corrie ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Maria Von Trapp. Maybe this could get my passion back for my calling and at the same time help my children develop a deeper faith--a faith that shaped their imaginations and identities and futures.

So we left the comforts of Orange County,Ca and moved to Oxford,England.We didn't have any definite plans but upon arriving we discovered that a pilgrimage has three components: to rediscover our roots, to understand that life is a journey and to know our ultimate destination. These three ideas became our inspiration, shaping the themes we pursued, revealing the heroes we studied, and steering us across time and place. And as the pilgrimage unfolded, day by day, month by month, what we learned and experienced over the year would startle us and surprise us and change us forever. In Search of Deep Faith is the record of this pilgrimage, an unfolding drama marked by suspense and intrigue.

I hope you will take the journey with us and go deeper into the faith than you could ever imagine.


Jim is best known for his widely acclaimed, award-winning book, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (InterVarsity Press, 2009), which won Christianity Today's 2010 Best Book Award and Leadership Journal's 2010 The Golden Canon Award. His forthcoming book (October, 2013), In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the beauty, goodness and heart of Christianity (IVP) takes the reader on the year-long pilgrimage that Jim and his family took through England and Europe, pursuing a dozen heroes of the faith and weaving his family's journey throughout the book. Steve Garber of the Washington Institute calls it "A Pilgrims Progress for the 21st Century" and author Will Vaus calls it a "great theological adventure story and Christian travel guide to Europe all rolled into one."

Jim is the former founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Newport Beach, California, where he served from 2000-2010 and led a period of steady growth. He was the co-founder of the Restoring Community Conference: Integrating Social Interaction, Sacred Space and Beauty in the 21st Century, a conference for city officials, planners, builders and architects.

Jim was an adjunct professor of political science at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Ca from 1993-1996 teaching classes on American government, international relations, and political philosophy.

In 1996 he earned a Ph.D. in Political Philosophy from Georgetown University.

He and his wife, Michelle, and four children live in south Florida, where they are raising four children--Jordan (14); Jonathan (12); Lindsay (9); Meghan (7). Michelle, a former elementary school teacher, home schools their son Jonathan, while the other three children attend a more formal school.

Most afternoons, Jim can be found on the field or rink coaching his kids' Little League and ice hockey teams. Along with raising their kid's in the faith, their family is integrated into the community of City Church/Forth Lauderdale, where Jim is an associate pastor and where Michelle teaches in the Sunday school.

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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
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