Deep Church Discussion, Chapter 1

In Chapter 1, Jim Belcher explains how this book is the consequence of a very personal quest as to a biblical ecclesiology. As he pursues this quest, he comes to realize that there seems to be a tension which pits two caricatures as two unbridgeable and divergent options: Emergent/Emerging OR Traditional. Though out the book he will employ the tension and mediate a third option.

Postmodern or Hyper-modern?
There is an ongoing discussion as to whether postmodernity is something completely different or if it is the logical consequence of modernity (a.k.a. hyper-modernism). You can see this continuity worked out in several instances in the chapter as Belcher moves into discussing his frustrations with the Gen X movement especially as it employed pragmatism and homogeneity.

Pragmatism is, I believe, a modernist category. Though doing what works is not inherently bad (it is common sense), it does not mean that if it works it is necessarily good. For example, while establishing a Gen X worship service, Belcher writes, “…we launched our new alternative service, The Warehouse. We had figured out the recipe for a Gen X service inside a large church, and it was working.” A “working recipe” is a modernist concept — it’s a law, principle, or rule which, if applied correctly, will always yield the desired outcome.

Later on, Belcher acknowledges this tension. He notes that this working recipe bisected society generationally. In fact this homogeneity or demographic targeting of a population is one of the marketing techniques employed by the Seeker Movement. In speaking of his unease, Belcher writes “We had misgivings about the worship of the early Gen X movement. It seemed overly contextualized. In an attempt to reach the culture around it, the worship looked too much like the world and was not counter-cultural enough. Gen X worship seemed like a hipper version of the boomer’s seeker worship.” And so, you are left with Seeker Worship the Next Generation. Sadly, though, because you have so targeted a generational demographic, you cut yourself off from the wisdom of the life-experienced. Belcher (and his wife) recognized this critical flaw and were drawn to something more.

The Day that Gen X Worship Died
Belcher does not go into great detail about this, but as an aside, he does mention that pre-2001 the proto-emergent church was commonly called Gen X ministry. After 2001 the movement begins to be called the Emergent Movement or Emerging Christians. Though this shift may have occurred because of the
formalization and organization of discussions around blogs and gatherings, I can’t help but think that 9-11 also marked a significant shift in American cultural life and the church. So much, it seems, that made sense before suddenly lost meaning and purpose.

Here are a few questions for discussion:

  1. What has been the best community you’ve ever been a part of or experienced? Why?
  2. How have we been helped by or engaged in the following at GPC: diversity and non-homogenity? our denomination? worship? and gospel centeredness?

Here are some links to those people mentioned in the chapter:

  1. Jim Belcher and Redeemer
  2. Emergent Village
  3. Rob Bell
  4. Brian McLaren
  5. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill
  6. Tim Keller and Redeemer.

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