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Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That Is Always Organic/Networked/Decentralized/Bottom-Up/Communal/Flexible/Always Evolving (ēmersion: Emergent Village resources for communities of faith) Paperback – August 1, 2007
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From the Back Cover
Embracing an evolutionary approach to change Drawing on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, as well as urban theory, art, and social practice, Kester Brewin calls the church to dispense with tired structures and re-emerge as a networked, bottom-up organism that is responsive to the needs of our changing world. "A dynamic and hope-filled book to provoke the ecclesial imagination. May it help us grow closer to God's dream for the church."--Shane Claiborne, activist, author, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical "With a concise yet pastoral message, Brewin guides the reader through a dynamic understanding of this major movement. This book has the potential to blow the emerging church conversation wide open."--Will Samson, coauthor, Justice in the Burbs: Being the Hands of Jesus Wherever You Live "Signs of Emergence is a rich and luminous meditation on the nature of change, which is grounded in a deep understanding of the Christian narrative and a keen insight into the structure of organic development."--Peter Rollins, author, How (Not) to Speak of God; founder, Ikon community "Kester Brewin has fertilized the Western church's dulled imagination with this fine work."--Alan Hirsch, author, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church; founding director, Forge Mission Training Network "I predict this book will stimulate a very important conversation regarding the future of the church in the West."--Tom Sine, Mustard Seed Associates Kester Brewin is a writer and pioneering church planter based in London, England. In emerging church circles, he is best known for working with a collective of artists and city lovers to create the experimental, alternative worship group Vaux. Brewin has worked in an advisory role at Fuller Theological Seminary, helping them to think about new ways of training emerging leaders.
About the Author
Kester Brewin is a writer and pioneering church planter based in London, England. In emerging church circles he is best known for working with a collective of artists and city lovers to create the experimental, alternative worship group Vaux. Brewin has worked in an advisory role at Fuller Theological Seminary, helping them to think about new ways of training Emerging leaders.
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He wrote in the Preface to the U.S. edition of this 2004 book, “this book… explores the thesis that in the incarnation we see God ‘re-emerging,’ is ‘coming home’ to the land where some wonderful, inter-connected free thinking has explored how deeply rooted in emergent systems our cities and ecosystems are. Many of you will be aware of the use of the term ‘emergent’… and one of those contexts may well be the network of individuals and groups who have taken that umbrella name as they explore new forms of being church… at the time I wrote the book I was unaware that such a network even existed…. I chose the term ‘emergent church’ to describe the bottom-up, self-organizing communities that I proposed might be a way forward… It is this idea of a constantly re-forming, learning community that is one of the driving passions behind this book.” (Pg. 12-13)
He continues, “in this book, when you read about stopping, finishing, ending, I hope you are able to see that this is an exercise in hope, rather than despair. It is desperate if we can imagine nothing will every change… the irony of releasing a book… with the phrase ‘always evolving’ in the title is not lost on me… So these printed thoughts on an always evolving model of church shouldn’t be taken as final.” (Pg. 14)
In the Introduction, he explains, “This is a book about change. More specifically, it is an attempt to resource the church with some ideas about how change happens, and how these ideas might be applied to our faith. If Christianity is to remain ‘vital,’ then it is… ‘vital’ that we understand change: for an organism to show signs of life, it must show how it can respond to its environment, and for the church to retain a vibrancy about its faith, it must ‘adapt and survive.’” (Pg. 19)
Later, he adds, “The concern of this book is to try to show that not only is another model possible but essential… if we are to impact the post-Enlightenment cultural consciousness, then we must be modeling a conjunctive faith in a conjunctive church, for it is only in such a place that people from ALL stages can experience community and growth together.” (Pg. 33) He continues, “this book is also a heartfelt petition to the church to see that the means must fit the ends: the ROUTE to change must not be through the exercise of power but through an exercise in empowerment. This book is… a plea that the model of leadership in the church on this difficult path must not be the same model that led it there in the first place… The distinction between this Emergent Church and the much discussed ‘emerging church’ is an important one… The ‘emerging church’ is a label that is being stuck on anything outside the ‘norms’ of the church as most people know it; whereas the ‘Emergent Church’ is specifically about the principles of the science of emergence to church growth. The principle of emergence is all about bottom-up change.” (Pg. 34-35)
He argues, “somewhere between these two poles of anarchy and rigidity---a spectrum with death at each end---there exists a place where a system begins to live, to self-organize… to develop a character, a culture, a SOUL, if you will… at some mystical place in between these two states of death, life is catalyzed into action; it sparks and takes hold, the exact conditions existing for consciousness to break out… ‘life’ springs up in the complex region between rigidity and disorder.” (Pg. 82)
He observes, “Although we cannot possibly predict what SHAPE the Emergent Church will have, we can describe some of the characteristics it is likely to display. We cannot know its full-grown features, but we can examine its genes. Our first observation is that systems that are likely to evolve are characterized by being OPEN as opposed to CLOSED.” (Pg. 97-98) Later, he adds, “Many… have referred to Japanese industry’s tradition of ‘Kaizen,’ which emphasizes a process of continuous small-scale improvement… Th Emergent Church will be a place where the Kaizen principle is in effect. It will be an open place, fully engaging with the environment that is hosting it; sensing it, responding to it, learning from it, always seeking to change and evolve and renew itself.” (Pg. 105)
He suggests, “The Emergent Church… will not be marked by knowledge stored centrally. There will be no key leader who will be seen as the fount of all knowledge and wisdom on all topics… This in turn will mean that the idea of truth in the Emergent Church will change. It will no longer reside in some intangible conceptual work of theology that only the fully trained and ordained can unlock. Instead, the pursuit of it will be about our shared experience.” (Pg. 110)
He states, “In the Emergent Church we must radically realign ourselves with the environmental movement, not because we are intrinsically antiglobalization … or because we want to stop global warming… but because as Christians we believe that creation is a gift, not a commodity. If it has been given to us as a gift to pass on, it is not ours to do with as we please… And that the church has done so is the result of an escapist view of the day of reckoning, that nothing we do really matters because God will make it all right in the future anyway.” (Pg. 152)
He notes, “The Emergent Church will be one of the key places in a community where gifts can be exchanged, and as always when gifts are shared, relationships will flourish around these places. We know… that it could be ‘messy’ and that it may not always be clear who is in control---but we must remember that this is where life exists. We also know that accusations will come that activities like this are a ‘waste of time’ and not focused on the main goal of getting everyone saved. We must resist this.” (Pg. 159)
He summarizes, “I began this book by proposing that the church had reached a local maximum, and that in order to survive, it needs to progress and find a new way of being in an evolving world… I have argued that the church needs to descend from its pre-Enlightenment … naïveté into the valleys of unknowing, where it must be reincarnated, as Christ was, into specific places and cultures. Only then can it begin to move into the conjunctivity of a post-Enlightenment incarnation, where it can hold together those at other points of the journey of faith without abuses of power or destructive infighting… I have also proposed that there are two ways we could go about this journey… revolution or evolution. Revolution is characterized by speed and violence. It is about divide and rule… Evolution refuses to rush ahead and thus avoids sharing and fissures. It tries to bring about change from within. It is about empowerment. It is bottom up and dependent on distributed knowledge.” (Pg. 187-188)
He concludes, “whatever state our churches are in now, we still have this amazing hope: Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection provide us with an archetype for change and grounds for belief that God is not done yet… Slowly, quietly, under the radar of the authorities, we must bring the church down from its local peak to rebirth and nurture it, allowing it to learn from and be dependent on its particular host culture. We must free it to evolve into conjunctivity, rich and complex, networked and decentralized, not allowing it to be co-opted, and always keeping it open to its environment, sensing it, learning from it, responding to it.” (Pg. 200)
This book will be of keen interest to anyone studying the Emerging/Emergent Church, and similar/related movements in contemporary Christianity
Brewin is certainly serious about getting rid of authority structures in this radical re-visioning of the church. Unfortunately, it looks nothing like the church of the New Testament but more like a church made in Brewin's image, not Christ's.