Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sully Notes 4 | Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional Part 1 of 3

Emmaus City Church Deep Church Jim Belcher Worcester MA Acts 29 Church Plant

Sully Notes 4: Books in 25 minutes or less

Sully Notes are more than a book review. They are meant to provide you with direct quotes from some books I've read in the last year, so you can get a taste of the overall theme of the book and then begin to chew on what your life might look like if you applied what you read. There are three parts for each book with each part taking less than 10 minutes to read.

Here are links to the previous Sully Notes books:

Emmaus City Church Sully Notes 4 Deep Church Jim Belcher Worcester MAThis week's Notes begin with Part 1 of Jim Belcher's Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. This book was such a welcome breath of fresh air. It's not often you get Scot McKnight, Tim Keller, Richard Mouw, Alan Hirsch and Rob Bell all complimenting the same book. While accolades coming from these five might seem like a word of warning to you, if you have that feeling, you may need to read this book all the more. Belcher's writing is Jesus-glorifying and church-loving in all the grace-filled and humble ways that bring wisdom and insight, while honoring how Jesus has been faithful to His bride for thousands of years, including today.

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional | Sully Notes 4: Part 1 of 3 

Part 1 | Mapping New Territory: Chapter 1 There from the Start: How to Be an Insider and an Outsider at the Same Time

"I launched the discussion by asking what purpose suffering plays in the Christian life. Not so much why God allows hard times, but how he uses them in our lives to grow us. If God can use these experiences for good in our lives, I asked, why do we get so mad at him for allowing them to happen? Why don't we rejoice in suffering, as the epistle of James says we should? Honestly, I don't remember much more about the conversation except that for the next four hours I led a discussion that crackled with enthusiasm, authenticity and depth. ... The more these conversations, so raw in their honesty, pointed us to the gospel  to Jesus' announcement that a new day has dawned and that we could enter his kingdom by trusting in what he had done on our behalf  the more the scales came off our eyes. For the first time we were experiencing grace. ... We came to realize that we can live the Christian life only after our hearts have been transformed by Christ. Grace then compels us to obedience. This is grateful living. We saw people move from discouragement, a feeling of deep failure in their Christian walks, to genuine hope."  pgs. 21-22 

"We desired worship that had depth, the kind that comes when a service is rooted in the two-thousand-year history of Christianity. We hungered for solid food, something that would connect us to the past but change us for the future. We wanted reverence as much as joy, to experience the connection of head and heart in worship, and to be involved, not as spectactors, but as full participants with others in the body of Christ in worship."  pg. 30

Chapter 2 Defining the Emerging Church

Protestant Means Protest: 

"It doesn't take long in reading the literature of the emerging church to realize that protest is at the heart of their teaching. They are unhappy with the evangelical church. ... The task of these emerging churches, they contend, is one of 'dismantling first and then...rebuilding.' They realize that this makes the traditional church uneasy. But, they add, the rebuilding stage cannot be rushed. The work of undoing is essential. ... Before this takes place, the church must 'debug' itself of the viruses that it picked up during modernity."  pg. 38

What is the Emerging Protesting?: 
  1. Captivity to Enlightenment rationalism: " ... Over time, say the emerging writers, the traditional church began to look increasingly like Enlightenment-spawned modernism; it had no way of differentiating itself, of standing apart from the worldview of the culture. ... The end result is either the social gospel of the mainline denominations or the tribalism of fundamentalism. Both extremes claimed to be biblical, but their final justification was the self-evident truth of reason and common sense. According to many in the emerging conversation, these two options keep the church from its call to be countercultural. ... "  pg. 40
  2. A narrow view of salvation: "... focused too much attention on how an individual becomes saved and not enough on how he or she lives as a Christian. ... The church has been overly dependent on the way of salvation in the epistles and has not paid enough attention to Jesus' teaching on the kingdom of God in the Gospels. The critics say the good news is more than forgiveness from sins and a ticket to heaven; it is the appearance of the kingdom of God. Jesus invites people to enter it and thus live differently. ... Once people enter the kingdom, they realize they are brought into the family of God in order to be sent out. The church is called to mission, that is, sent into the world ... to care as much about earth as they do about heaven. This can't be done until the church rejects its narrow view of salvation and adopts a broader view, the kingdom of God, which encompasses not only salvation of individuals but God's reclamation of the whole world ..."  pg. 41
  3. Belief before belonging: " ... reject using doctrine as a gatekeeper, which keeps seekers out of the church. They want an open-border mentality where people are free to come and go, ask questions, engage eternal issues, and get to know God through being part of the community. They believe that the traditional church has eclipsed the mission of the church by setting up all kinds of boundaries to keep people in and to keep other people out. They are calling for a new way of doing evangelism that includes the importance of community. For the emerging camp, belonging precedes belief. ... "  pgs. 41-42
  4. Uncontextualized worship: " ... making no attempt to speak to the present culture and setting a posture that is against the world, traditional churches have become incapable of reaching the culture for God. The traditional church is not being faithful to the biblical call to worship before the nations. ... "  pg. 42 
  5. Ineffective preaching: "Where the pastor is the fount of all knowledge, where rationalism trumps experience and where people are not involved in learning has reduced spiritual formation to head knowledge. ... more than knowledge is needed to change us. ... "  pg. 42 
  6. Weak ecclesiology: "... more concerned with form than mission. It cares more about institutional survival – protecting the growth and assets of the church  than being the sent people of God. ... "  pgs. 42-43  
  7. Tribalism: " ... The church is known for what it is against more than what it is for. It has lost its ability to be countercultural, to model a different way of life and to actually create beauty. ..."  pg. 43
Three Main Groups in the Emerging Family: 
  1. Relevants: " ... are theologically conservative evangelicals who are not as interested in reshaping theology as they are in updating worship styles, preaching technique and church leadership structures."  pg. 45
  2. Reconstructionists: " ... are experimenting with informal, incarnational and organic church forms such as house churches and new monastic communities. They stress that the church is sent, are aggressively planting churches, call for the church to be 'a resident alien,' and want the form of the church to be less hierarchical and based more on a servant model."  pg. 46
  3. Revisionists: " ... are open to questioning key evangelical doctrines on theology and culture, wondering whether these dogmas are appropriate for the postmodern world."  pg. 46
Why Defining the Emerging Movement is Important: 

" ... 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. ... As Protestants we realize the importance of reform, which does not come without protest. We should welcome serious examination from fellow believers. This does not mean that the emerging commitments are all correct. I think they are seriously amiss in some areas. Their protest is too sweeping. At times it borders on iconoclasm. ... I agree with Richard Mouw, a friend of the emerging church, that this icnoclasm is not fair, and if not tempered it will handicap this reform movement, potentially leading it into a new kind of sectarianism, mimicking some of the same mistakes of the past  anti-intellectualism, anti-tradition and tribalism. ... (And) I have a bone to pick with how our disagreements take place in the evangelical world. I'll start with the traditional church. It seems that every time someone criticizes the emerging church, they pick the worst-case scenario or the most extreme statements. No traditional church thinker, says a Calvinist, wants his or her theology reduced, for example, to the burning of the heretic Servetus or the claim that John Calvin was a theocrat and that thus all Reformed churches are sectarian and legalistic. Calvinism can't be defined by one or two unfortunate events. ... The emerging conversation is bigger than postmodernism and more expansive than even Brian McLaren. Brian would agree. As Scot McKnight says, we must define our conversation partners in a way that they would recognize. Most definitions of the emerging church would not even be recognized by them."  pgs. 48-49

"Ultimately, (our) goal is to restore unity, the kind that Jesus calls the church to in John 13 and that Paul pleads for when he asks his readers to 'stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel' (Philippians 1:27). This command to unity is not an option. ... until we see the importance of unity, we often lack the motivation to listen well and understand what our critics might be saying."  pg. 50

Chapter 3 The Quest for Mere Christianity


"All unity has a doctrinal aspect. No unity is possible without boundaries of thought and belief around something. There is always a limit to what any group can tolerate without being torn apart. In his book Evangelical Truth, John Stott argues that the apostle Paul 'begs his readers to 'stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel' (Philippians 1:27). He goes on to urge them: 'make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose' (2:2).' Stott argues that Paul is not calling for unity at any price, for example, being willing to compromise fundamental truths in order to maintain relational unity, or splitting from those who are not in total agreement on every theology point and doctrine. ... The problem for evangelicals, Stott contends, is that we have a 'pathological tendency to fragment.' We place doctrinal purity over unity, or we stress relational unity over sound doctrine. The reality is that Jesus wants us to be equally committed to both  the peace and purity of the church. When this is not the case, our disunity is a major hindrance to our evangelism and witness to the world. We fail at the 'final apologetic,' our love for one another. If we can agree on the essential matters, the 'unity of the gospel,' then we have a shot at rebuilding trust and moving forward."  pgs. 53-54 

"What Stott calls the 'unity of the gospel,' Tom Oden calls the 'new ecumensim.' This 'new ecumenism is above all committed unapologetically to ancient ecumenical teaching.' It is committed to God's Word, 'a long-term view of a cumulative, historical consensus, and a classic ecumenical view of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.' It also holds, he continues, 'to the classic consensual doctrines of incarnation, atonement and resurrection, and the return of the Lord.' ... The core of this doctrine is found in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the so-called Athanasian Creed, all of which have bound Christians together for centuries. pg. 54

"In a nutshell, 'Orthodoxy is nothing more or less than the ancient consensual tradition of Spirit-guided discernment of scripture. Tradition is the 'faithful handing down from generation to generation of scripture interpretation consensually received worldwide and cross-culturally through two millenia.' As patristic scholar Christopher Hall says, 'The Holy Spirit has a history.' God sovereignly watched over his church so his message would stand. And we can learn from and be confident in this tradition. ... 'How do such varied Christians find inspiration and common faith within this joint effort?' By affirming together,' says Oden, 'that the texts on which Classic Christianity' rests are ecumenical and catholic in their cultural range.' As he concludes, 'people of vastly different cultures are recognizing in these witnesses their own unity as the people of God, despite different cultural memories, foods, garments, and habits of piety."  pg. 59  

Two Tiers:

"(From Robert Greer's Mapping Postmodernism) ... Greer posits the need to develop a two-tiered system that divides the essentials of orthodoxy from the particularities of differing traditions within the boundaries of orthodoxy. The top tier matches the creeds of the early church that have historically and universally defined orthodoxy. The bottom tier corresponds to the distinctives of each individual church body. ... As Greer aptly says: 'A two-tiered system reflects the phenomenon of family resemblances within the Christian faith. The top tier establishes the overall family resemblance. The bottom tier makes room for different looks within the family. This sense of unity plus diversity offers the church an opportunity to love one another, as Christ prayed in his high priestly prayer, and thereby be an effective witness to an unbelieving world (John 17:20-23). ... overconfidence so often leads to disagreement and schism within (our) own theological and ecclesiastical bodies. This is what (John) Stott means when he says evangelical Christians have a 'pathological tendency to fragment.' The two-tier system would call the traditional church to have great confidence (the proper confidence) in the new ecumenism and deep humility in the bottom tier, what Calvin called 'things different.'"  pgs. 60, 62

Deep Unity:

"(Belcher's church) stands squarely and proudly on our tradition and heritage. We are not ashamed of our tradition; we embrace it and practice it. But at the same time we desire and promote the broader unity of the church. We hold strongly to the classical consensus, finding our unity in the 'unity of the gospel' as articulated in the creeds of the first four centuries. This allows us to be very open and charitable to fellow believers who hold different bottom-tier views than we do."

  1. We root our congregation each week in historic liturgy: "Our sermons and our weekly school of discipleship are rooted in a commitment to teach the full counsel of God in a way that is culturally relevant, timely and informed."
  2. We don't merely preach deep church distinctives; we practice them: "In other words, we spend our time and energy joyfully living in our Christian commitments; we don't spend a lot of time pointing out our differences from other denominations, churches or Christians. We don't want to be defined by what we are against but what we are for."
  3. We watch our attitude: "Sinful attitudes divide Christians. ... John Frame says, 'Because we want glory for ourselves, we seek to find fault in others. Contentious people are constantly looking for something to argue about, some way to start controversy and disrupt the peace.'"
  4. We watch our assumptions: "We reject the temptation to think that nothing can be learned from those outside our tradition. We don't believe that God has only given his wisdom to us, a small segment of the Christian church. This does not mean we lack confidence in our tradition, but we are humble in what we believe and are willing to learn from others."
  5. We don't require a member to subscribe to anything that is outside the bounds of Nicene Christianity and other evangelical churches: "Prospective members don't need to agree with every aspect of our theology. We rally around the unity of the gospel, and tolerate differences, particularly on matters like eschatology, baptism and covenant theology, even as we look to teach, deepen and mature our people, growing them in the Scriptures and in appreciation for our historic creeds and confessions."
  6. We recognize that growth takes time: "Each believer or new convert comes to us at a different stage of growth. ... Growth is a process; we can't expect members to be spiritually mature from the start. ... We need to be patient with people and hope they are patient with us. At (Belcher's church) we try to cultivate patience. This creates a safe environment to learn and grow. And we have seen tremendous growth in knowledge and grace among our people." pgs. 65-67

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