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on July 17, 2003
Besides Yaconelli and McLaren, thirteen different people share their frustration with the modernistic church and how they escaped the discontent. While the book contained some great insights - James Engel's view of evangelism, for example - I was pretty bored through about half of the book. What is to be expected when you have so many different writers? Perhaps this is one point of postmodernism - everyone's stories will not be exciting, and that is okay. Honestly, I bought the book because of McLaren and Yaconelli, but they weren't so much the players in the game as they were the announcers at the game. If you are discontent with boring, businesslike christianity, this book will share some real-life stories and, possibly, give you some hope that all Christians aren't the same. Don't buy it for a definition of postmodernism or for Yaconelli's name. For Yaconelli-likers, look into Dangerous Wonder or Messy Spirituality - two great thought-challenging books.
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on March 19, 2007
The multi-authored Stories of Emergence showcases personal stories of church disillusionment and suspicion with the institutionalised, doctrine-oriented church, out of which emerges (you knew I was going to use this word, right?) new thinking and (perceived) authenticity in spirituality and the understanding of what this whole 'God' thing is about.

For the book's sake, it probably isn't a good idea to read all the stories at one go. Treat it like Dilbert and make it a friend for a time-out. Two stories max per reading should suffice.

And there are some good ones. The story I started with, Frederica Mathewes-Green's chastisement her earlier feminist attitudes, was one of the best, for me:

"It's not what feminists say, but how they it...An attitude of self-righteousness. A tendency to pull rank as a victim. A lack of humility. A blindness to the fact that women, just as talented as men, are just as sinful too. Smugness, touchiness, judgmentalism, and even darkner notes of condescension, ridicule, and anger toward men.

"Pretty much the opposite of every line in 1 Corinthians 13. My brothers and sisters, 'you have not so learned Christ' (Ephesians 4:20)" (p.134)

I also enjoyed Tony Jones sharing of his character-shaping encounters with people like James McClendon, Nancey Pearcey and Miroslav Volf. It's strikingly coincidental how barely a few hours after I first heard the word 'liminal' during a meeting, I saw it again in Jones' essay, talking about liminal times - the "thin times, the border times when we're in the midst of cultural change". (p.66)

Todd Hunter's piece brought back some cute memories of friends telling me about the un-Christian it was to have drums in church(!). And how can I not resonate with Spencer Burke's paragraph on spiritual McCarthyism:

"In today's evangelical world, one of the worst things you can be called is liberal. Challenge an accepted belief or confess doubt and you're the equivalent of a card-carrying communist. Brows furrow. Eyes narrow. Lips purse." (p.30)

Brian McLaren echoes this tension when he writes in his afterword:

"(Can) the gatekeepers of modern evangelicalism see these brothers and sisters as resources, pioneers, a research-and-development wing of the movement...or will they see them as a threat?" (p.224)

I also suspect God planned it such that I had to be at an unfamiliar section of town at 5.30 in the morning (after dropping my dad off at the bus station), drinking coffee and reading these words by Chris Seay, "Jesus understood that it's not only the truth that changes us, but also the journey of seeking truth."

This book isn't for those who want some idea on how to "move forward" in one's walk and ministry with Christ. It'd be a mistake to take any one story and say, "That's how I/we should progress". Unless I'm completely mistaken, the very idea of progress isn't even a category in emergent thought.

There are no "doctrines" in the book, no new theology, no new "synthesis of ideas" and what-nots. This will undoubtedly leave the reader with the impression that the authors care more about praxis than about doctrine (eliciting, as much of Emergent output has, the occasional remonstrance). They probably do.

In an experimental mode, getting things right is less important than doing as many helpful things as you can. And there's really no other to explain this - except maybe via stories?

Thus, I read these essays - some were dull (because predictable), some sad, most were fun - and emerged (there we go again) a more hopeful person. Hopeful because God does not does not does NOT require super-holy, all-doctrine-knowing perfection from us prior to giving us His joy and using us as conduits of his love.

The stories of emergence are stories of grace.

Note: Don't treat the two-star rating as implying that I'm not *recommending* it. I am. Sorta. It's just that I don't think it need be all that high up on one's "to-read" list. It's a good book to have but there are lots of better stuff out there.
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on April 4, 2015
I enjoyed the book because it contains thoughts and experiences from some Christians who are not mainstream - it's a fresh perspective on what it means to live the life of a Christian. This book gave me a lot to think about.
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on December 18, 2009
Not knowing much about post-modern thinking, I found EMERGENCE informative and interesting as various writers bared their souls, telling their frustrations with the way church is usually done. Much of what they said, I could resonate with.

Most of the writers appeared to be in the experimental stage of trying to discover a more meaningful way to connect with fellow church attendees and the world at large. However, for me, Jo-Anne Badley articulated the best solution.
She is a Baptist, teaching Biblical Theology in Newman Theological College in Canada, a Catholic institution.

She discusses the modern church at length then goes on to say that "the post modern world looks like the same dissonance I have always known..." What she fears is an arrogance that assumes you know the truth, that you are like God, is always a danger, whether that arrogance is found in individuals or communities."

"In all this dislocation I expect to experience unusual grace. My responsibility is to faithfulness, so that I recognize grace even when it comes in unusual forms. Measured amounts of food cooked on cow dung. Or a vision of a temple. Or a Jesuit priest. Or my female body. Laugh. God makes good jokes."

Betty L. Sheldon, author of OMNIPIECE
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on March 31, 2010
Mike Yaconelli, Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003)

Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw

This is a collection of stories about Christians moving on from previously-held convictions, through their doubts and fears, to new senses of community, spiritual formation, and unexpected grace. For example, Mike Yaconelli describes his transformation from preoccupation with efficiency, pretending and doing to being real and free to 'frolic in God's presence'. Tony Jones the youth pastor discovered he was really an event manager, and so reinvented his ministry with contemplative prayer and intergenerational community. A former fundamentalist, former Pentecostal, former liberal, former communist, former feminist and others describe their crises and discoveries about faith, worldview or ministry. Experience of this sort of `emergence' can be disconcerting but is almost inevitable for Christians as they mature and as they grapple with the changing context of postmodernity. More stories are collecting at [...] , where you can add your story as well. And look out for the growing list of emergentYS books (which publishes on emerging church and culture).

This review originally appeared in Darren Cronshaw, `The Emerging Church: Introductory Reading Guide', Zadok Papers, S143 (Summer 2005).
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on November 11, 2003
I have a love hate thing going on with the emergent church. I love the critique of modernity and willow creek, but I sometimes wonder what positve contribution emergent people have brought to the dialogue. It is easier to tear down than destroy. But this is not a negative book. Not even a little. The people in this book are all very cultural engaged. And are all very diverse, and they focus on their story.
You don't get the same boring rehash of where the enlightenment got us, and what to do about it analysis. These stories have a more personal dimension to them. Every person writing decided what ways they should engage the culture in their context. There is nothing formulaic about it.
If I have one criticism, it is that I wish a few other authors were included. But that doesn't mean what others offered will be found wanting. Excellent book.
Mike Yaconelli lives on in his uber-chellenging introduction
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VINE VOICEon August 27, 2005
STORIES OF EMERGENCE is a collection of stories (or conversations as they like to put it) of "former" evangelicals who have walked away from ministries and institutional Christianity to embrace post-modern Christianity that focuses on being authentic followers of Jesus Christ than on just being absolute (right).

The stories vary since each person has their own unique background but the common thread is an utter dissatisfaction with popular Christianity as given to us by the evangelical church. The writers tell their stories of not losing faith in God while losing faith in the modern church. The stories range from bizarre trails to simply being influenced by such emergence leaders as Brian McLaren to former PTL's son Jay Bakker.

The positives of this book are:

- A good division of the book. Editor Mike Yaconelli did a good job of breaking the book into divisions such as stories of ministry crisis, stories of worldview crisis, and stories of faith crisis.

- Short, fast paced stories. The stories are not boring to read (even if you disagree with them). They move quickly and each writer does a good job of staying focused on their subject.

- Issues that the Church must address. The book does present several key issues that we must present from the Bible. Only Scripture can help us to work through the problems of modern modernity.

Problems with the book:

- Lack of theological substance. While the book is a book of stories, the book lacks Scripture. In fact, the authority of the Bible is never addressed. The emergence movement seems to want to throw Scripture out the window and yet still be Christians. How can this be? The Bible is where we learn about Jesus (John 20:31) and the Bible alone is the truth (John 17:17). The stories lacked truth. They were filled with common themes of experience ("I don't like the church because of this") but no biblical proof.

- Too experience driven. Feeding off the above, the emergence movement seems to be more about common experiences and not sound doctrine. However, experience must flow from Scripture (1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:16-22) lest we be deceived (1 John 4:1-2). Experience is no basis for truth. Only the Bible is able to save our souls (James 1:21). As a disciple of Jesus, I must hold to His word (John 8:31-32).

- Shallow view of sin. From homosexuals to drugs, the emergence movement has a shallow view of sin. In fact Mike Yaconelli admits that he has spoken about sin in the Church only twice in 12 years (p.18)! The book even says that homosexuality might not be a sin (pp.30-31). How did they embrace this world-view? Not from Scripture (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rev. 21:8)! This is what happens when the Bible is not your authority. How do we expose man's need for Jesus without first addressing our depraved nature?


The emergence movement has grown out of the seeker movement which has come from the charismatic movement which came from the Pentecostal movement. What do all these movements have in common? Experience as the basis for fellowship. If anyone tries to critique the movements based on the Word of God, they are often viewed as a Pharisee or a Puritan. I for one believe we need to hold firmly to the Bible despite our changing culture. God does not change (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 2:10) and neither does His Word (Psalm 119:89). I will not embrace the philosophies of Hume or Blaine over the Word of God but if I did then I would be heading down the emergence movement road.
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