- Paperback: 233 pages
- Publisher: IVP Books; First edition (September 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: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional First Edition
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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." ((ysmarko.com), 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, www.edstetzer.com)
"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 (http://tonyj.net))
"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 Shapevine.com)
"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)
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Top Customer Reviews
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. What he does is criticize both groups where it is needed and celebrate what both groups bring to the table. What I appreciate the most about this was how he sympathized (as I and many others have) the questions of protest posed by the `emerging church' about the traditional church. The first 3 chapters are a great introduction about the debate, getting a handle on what the emerging church is and a description of `Mere Christianity' - those beliefs that all Christians everywhere and at all times have agreed on. In the next 7 chapters, he deals with 7 protests of the emerging church and he engages them well, celebrating the concerns they have and seeking to evaluate their answers. Why is this so valuable? Because in my gut I know they have raised some great points. And I want to learn from them without sacrificing `Mere Christianity.'
Second, Jim Belcher writes with real humility. This is important because most guys seem to write about the church with a certain bravado. It's the difference between "I've got all the answers" and "lets try this and see if this will work." His admission of frustrations and failures and difficulties was refreshing. Not merely for authenticity's sake but for the sake of saying, "Hey, I don't have it all together. But God does." His humility throughout the book makes for a very pleasant read.
Third, - and I have no idea how to label this reason for liking this book but - I actually marked this book up a good bit. I do this so rarely that it is a big deal when I do. I cannot keep a writing utensil near me to save my life so when I would read something I wanted to go back and read again or what I thought was noteworthy I would mark it - even if I had to get up out of my chair, step over my children begging me to play with them and go find one. Only those who rarely mark up books will get it.
Fourth, books on the church are not really known for emotionally moving the reader. This one did. I was moved to the point of tears more than once. Once because of the beauty of what I was reading and once because of the ugliness of my own lack of grace and charity and willingness to learn from those who are so different from me. What many may take for granted was very profound for me...
...the emerging church is passionate about the health of the church. They have serious problems with the traditional church and want to see changes. Since they are our brothers and sisters, we have a responsibility out of love, to take them seriously, to listen to them and to understand them accurately. (48)
It really struck me how little charity I show those I disagree with me, acting as if they want to hurt the church. Deep Church convicted me and emboldened me. And that seems to be the way of good books.
Last, the book is just very well written. Books about church life and practice written by pastors should have engaging stories. I mean, that is what is going on in the church on a huge level - people with their own story bumping up against other people with their story and all trying to find themselves in the Great Story of Redemption. To be honest, I had trouble putting this book down. I ignored my family during that 48 hours and when I finished I reintroduced myself, "Hello, I am your father and husband and I want to pastor a Deep Church."
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. Of course the debate (or argument) that usually takes place between these two sides too often focuses on the extremes of each tradition, and making any unity or move towards each other very difficult.
Belcher writes clearly and with objectivity. He represents both sides with fairness acknowledging both the good and the bad. He also writes as someone who has traveled this journey and personally wrestled with the issues on both an intellectual and practical level. Neither is he writing from a position of here-say or assumption. Belcher has visited the churches, spoken with and has even becomes friends of many of the leading emergent figures.
Belcher's response in each chapter is his proposed third way and it is the core of the book. This is no symbolic attempt to mediate between the two sides. This is a very real, practical and reasoned proposal for being church. From my perspective the emerging church has been stuck in `critique' mode. Its only message being "the traditional church is dying". All the books I have read have not really moved the `conversation forward from critique to real action. The traditionalists have also been stuck in critique mode, offering no real response. Here, in Deep Church, Belcher offers a way forward - a real response.
What I love about the book is that unlike other recent books that have tackled the emergent movement, Belcher speaks as one who has a real foot in both camps. He sees the real issues that the emergent movement have raised, but he is not willing to accept the complete re-write of historic Christianity which some in emergent are moving towards. For Belcher the anchor, or the line in the sand for the emergent movement should be the authority of scripture and the traditional historic creeds and confessions of the ancient church. But that should not quench creativity in worship, relevant and exciting (but biblical) preaching and strong community which leads to a real and transformative commitment in Jesus Christ as savior.
For this reason Belcher's book is both timely and important.
I have commented (here & here ) on my own frustrations with the emergent movement. I have appreciated the questions they raise and have sympathized with their frustrations. I was involved with an emergent type church in the UK and I have even had a chapter published in a book edited by Spencer Burke here in the States. But I also feel that too often they cross the line of biblical Christianity.
Belcher's book thoroughly resonated with me and it is a book I would highly recommend and encourage people to read.