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Navigating the growing split

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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
Jim Belcher

InterVarsity Press, 2009
240 pages



Deep Church is a book for evangelicals wondering how to navigate the growing split between so-called “traditional” and “emergent” churches.

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.”

Belcher takes time to define what the emergent church is all about, and what the movement is protesting against. He also tackles the concerns that the traditional church has regarding the values the emerging church is adopting from postmodern culture. One of the major problems Belcher observes is that “the emerging church’s understanding of postmodernism is very different from the traditional church’s, which has created all kinds of confusion, distrust and animosity.”

Belcher identifies seven complaints the emergent church has with the traditional church, but he also balances the critique by allowing the traditional perspective to respond. For each of the issues, he posits a third way, and includes an illustration from the church he planted in Newport Beach, Cal., – Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Although Belcher speaks from his experience within the Presbyterian Church in America, his writing has something to say to the Mennonite Brethren church in Canada. MBs have such a broad spectrum of theological views represented within the denomination that the opportunity for misunderstanding and conflict is a foregone conclusion. Honest dialogue is something that is necessary if we are to learn from one another.

If nothing else, Mennonite Brethren can learn from the lesson of listening to one another, instead of talking sideways past each other when it comes to issues of theology, ecclesiology, and missiology.

David Chow is pastor of community development at Killarney Park MB Church in Vancouver, B.C.

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