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The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives Paperback – October 19, 2003

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan/Youth Specialties (October 19, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310254876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310254874
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,087,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Leonard Sweet's insights on the church in emerging culture solicit the interaction of keen minds like Andy Crouch, Michael Horton, Frederica Mathewes-Green, Brian McClaren, and Erwin McManus. The church serves the mission of Christ in a culture that is less influenced by authority and more influenced by personal experience; a culture that is more attuned to images than words. This is not a book for the quick solution reader. It requires thorough engagement, but the reward is greater clarity on the huge task of being an effective Kingdom church in the 21st century. (Enrichment Journal)

From the Back Cover

What should the church look like today? What should be the focus of its message? How should I present that message?

We live in as pivotal and defining an age as the Great Depression or the Sixties–a period whose definition, say some cultural observers, includes a warning of the church’s influence.

The result? A society measurably less religious but decidedly more spiritual. Less influenced by authority than by experience. More attuned to images than to words.

How does the church adapt to such a culture? Or should it, in fact, eschew adapting for maintaining a course it has followed these last two millennia? Or something in between?

These are exactly the questions asked in The Church In Emerging Culture by five Christian thinker-speaker-writers, each who advocate unique stances regarding what the church’s message should be (and what methods should be used to present it) as it journeys through this evolving, postmodern era. The authors are:

Andy Crouch–Re:Generation Quarterly editor-in-chief Michael Horton–professor and reformed theologian Frederica Mathewes-Green–author, commentator, and Orthodox Christian Brian D. McLaren–postmodernist, author, pastor, and Emergent senior fellow Erwin Raphael McManus–author and pastor of the innovative and interethnic L.A.-based church, Mosaic

Most unique about their individual positions is that they’re presented not as singular essays but as lively discussions in which the other four authors freely (and frequently) comment, critique, and concur. That element, coupled with a unique photographic design that reinforces the depth of their at-once congenial and feisty conversation, gives you all-access entrée into this groundbreaking discourse.

What’s more, general editor Leonard Sweet (author of SoulTsunami and AquaChurch, among several other acclaimed texts) frames the thought-provoking dialogue with a profoundly insightful, erudite introductory essay–practically a book within a book.

The Church In Emerging Culture is foundational reading for leaders and serious students of all denominations and church styles.

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Customer Reviews

This book is a bit hard to follow because it is like reading a discussion.
Joseph Valentine Dworak
I was intrigued by this book given the diversity of views and capability of the authors.
Laurence T. Baxter
If you're new to the postmodernism question, then this book isn't for you.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Conner VINE VOICE on February 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up this book because I've read a lot about Brian McLaren and the emergent church, but I haven't read much actually written by this group. This book seemed like a good place to start, as it collects thoughts from both McLaren and Sweet, and D.A. Carson references it a few times in Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. The basic set-up is that Sweet hosts a gathering of five people with a variety of perspectives on what the church should look like in contemporary culture. The nature of the conversation is kind of an emergent church parlor trick, and Sweet's introduction is heavily weighted toward praising the virtues of a church that is willing to create new methods and messages, but other views were presented with fairness and respect, I think.

The format, though, is what put me off and convinced me to give up on the book. I will paraphrase it here:

Introduction - SWEET: I am going to babble on for a while with tortured metaphors and flowery language that reveals a certain paralyzing intellectual insecurity. No joke, I am going to describe gardens and glens and parks and meadows with dragons with theological stings in their tails.

Conversation 1 - CROUCH: So, there's postmodernism (MCLAREN: I need to jump in every three or four sentences to write a paragraph or two about my thoughts. I disagree with your definition of postmodernism, as you mean it to say "Everything I don't like today," while I think it should mean "Everything I DO like today, except where that ties me to an argument I don't want to support."), and it's like the Mall of America.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alan Reynolds on July 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Two comments have already been made, but I would like to reiterate. The light gray, italicized, 6 pt font used for interjections by other authors during an essay is hard to read. McLaren talks way too much, especially when he says the same thing over and over and takes EVERYTHING personally. He thinks his point of view is the only one worth having, and seems rather arrogant in his intellect.

Having said the few negatives, it is overall a good read. I would love to hear a more detailed view of what each author truly believes church should be like (which I know most of them have been published and anyone could read what they've written elsewhere). It also seems that the only real discrepancies are in their view of what "postmodernism" really is. As far as the actual workings of church, they could probably find a lot of common ground. But, they give very little actual advice on what church should be like.

Overall, it is an interesting book full of interesting ideas about the current culture. Leonard Sweet's introduction must be read to truly understand the rest of the book, but it gets a little too flowery at times.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Alwyn Lau on April 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Andy Crouch. Skeptical of postmodernism, Arminian, (but curiously) open to the New Perspective of Paul & Law, seeks recovery of baptism and eucharist as the enduring means of grace. "Postmodernism is encroaching consumer culture which we must overcome via service and sacraments".

Michael Horton. Reformed, dismissive of postmodernism as a determinant of Christian thinking, critical of 'low-church' theology, believes that justification by faith is Scripture's key question. "Postmodernism is the next bad thing in secular modernism which we must resist with truth and tradition".

Brian McLaren. Emergent, path-finder for a storied, multi-layered, 'refreshed' Gospel centered in Christ. "Postmodernism is the new world in which we must embody and communicate God's message."

Frederica Mathewes-Green. Eastern Orthodox, practical, down-to-earth in a mystical kind of way, offers a relational kind of atonement theology. Postmodernism is irrelevant to our role as God's healers and questioners."

Erwin Raphael McManus. Metropolitan, multi-cultural, urban jungle orientation, pitching an all-out-for-Jesus, never-give-up, all-it-can-be church. "Postmodernism is a radical God-starved jungle we must love and serve!"

The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives - a book examining different views on the relation between church, world, gospel and discipleship, in no particular order.

After a good introduction from Leonard Sweet (which some say was worth the price of the book alone - I'd agree, if the price was lowered...
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By rodboomboom HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Here are six individuals, actually five participants and one moderator/editor who tackle between themselves the topic of what does Christ do in changing, emerging cultures.

As reviewers have pointed out, salient to this dialogue is the method exhibited of each of five providing essay, then other four comment as it seems at will. The essayist than at the end responds to this sprinkled comments.

Of course, one of my confession would lean towards Horton, who certainly wins the day with his comments seeking return to text and history, rather than inventiveness and questioning always from our cultural arrogance stance.

Useful to see contrasts. Too much of McLaren. Would like to seen more "orthodox" participants in line of Horton.
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