Book Review #3: Emerging Churches, Gibbs and Bolger

Chapter one looks at culture and why churches in a post-modern era must consider culture. They identify several key reasons; primary is the idea of incarnation. In order to serve in a Western context, Christians must be missional.

Chapter two seeks to define the emerging church. Emerging churches are communities that live out the way of Christ in a postmodern context. They identify three core practices evident in all emerging churches, with an additional six common practices stemming from those core practices.

Chapter three looks at the first core practice, “Identifying with Jesus.” Jesus provides the model for the emerging church, to be a missionary and embody the Kingdom. Emerging churches embrace the missio Dei to go rather than asking the world to come. Emerging churches find a way to participate with God in the redemption story.

Chapter four, transforming secular space, discusses the ways emerging churches are trying to destroy modernity’s sacred/secular split. They see all things as sacred and try to make holy what was once “secular.” This includes holistic worship and evangelism as a natural part of everyday life.

Chapter five, living as community, embraces the shift from a church emphasis to a Kingdom emphasis. Emerging churches see church as family and relationships, people not a place. They believe church happens whenever two or three come together. They embrace the idea of ekklesia as a verb more than a noun.

Chapter six, welcoming the stranger, focuses on inclusion through hospitality to all. Emerging churches seek to create a safe place of worship regardless of beliefs, affiliations, doubts, etc. They are Christocentric but still embrace those of other faiths. Emerging churches are marked by evangelism that is an invitation to change your life rather than your beliefs.

Chapter seven, serving with generosity, shows that in emerging churches hospitality is manifested in serving those both inside and outside the community. Emerging churches seek to help liberate people from a consumerist approach to church and society by being both faithful and generous. They understand need and give to particular needs through established relationships with the poor and needy, as opposed to large-scale, anonymous giving. They are inherently activist through their mission.

Chapter eight, participating as producers, discusses how emerging churches focus on people as contributors rather than recipients of worship. Dynamic, organic, and flexible communities that are altered by the gain and loss of members mark emerging churches. They intentionally create space so that everyone can be a part of and contribute to the story, seeking to fulfill the priesthood of all believers.

Chapter nine, creating as created beings, shows how, as created beings, we are all creative. Emerging churches turn those acts of creativity into acts of worship. They redeem creative acts for God’s purposes.

Chapter ten, leading as a body, focuses on the emerging church’s turn away from hierarchical leadership. They focus instead on leadership based on giftings and passions and a consensus, group leadership.

Chapter eleven, merging ancient and contemporary spiritualities, discusses the cultural shift away from “religion” and toward “spirituality.” Emerging churches see spirituality as a reaction to the “hyperactivity” and high-energy worship styles of many churches. They seek corporate and personal spirituality through mind and body, marked by a return to pre-modern practices (liturgy, ritual, etc.) in a post-modern way.

Emerging churches do not simply take one particular form or shape. They are, however, characterized by nine common practices: three core practices which lead to the other six. Emerging churches try to follow the example of Jesus in living out the Kingdom.


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