Allow me to introduce myself. I was saved approximately sixteen years ago in a non-denominational Bible-church setting. I grew up in that environment; socially conservative, seeker-sensitive, program-driven and theologically shallow. I still love that church and many of the people who are still there, but let’s be honest about what it was. Soon after, I was introduced to the “doctrines of grace” and found myself in a very warm, welcoming and loving Reformed Baptist church using the 1689 Confession of Faith as their adult Sunday School material.
From there, my wife and I found ourselves in Louisville, KY at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We were in Louisville for three years while I did my MDiv and it was there that I first began to feel the pains of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great seminary experience, but it is a seminary that leans toward the “suit and tie” model of the pastorate and, try as I might, I just don’t fit that model.
I have always been fascinated with popular culture and particularly how the church can better bridge the gap between it’s own ghetto subculture and the broader surrounding culture. I love music and the arts and, as much as I want it to be otherwise, modern evangelicalism often views these things as utilitarian propaganda tools. And it doesn’t take long for someone who loves all kinds of music to get the stink eye from those who think I’m dabbling too much “in the world.”
To top it all off, I have, for some time, felt that many of the questions being asked by the emerging church are right on. I too have shared many of their frustrations. This has meant that I have not always fit well into the traditional reformed circles in which I often find myself. But at the same time, I am very conservative doctrinally which means that, though I am intrigued by many of the emerging church’s questions, I am less than enamored by many of their answers. In short, I have often had the experience of feeling stuck in the middle.
And I know I’m not alone. The very fact that Jim’s book exists, much less the fact that it’s the buzz of the blogosphere demonstrates that he has hit a nerve. There seems to be a growing group of young(er) pastors who are reformed in their theology but don’t fit in the wider spectrum of so many who hold court in the larger reformed world. This book fills several holes that seem to have been lacking in much of this discussion. It is:
That’s a unique set but it’s one that many people have been longing for. To be reformed does not have to mean being cold and antagonistic. To be missional does not mean leaving doctrine behind. Jim’s book is a challenge and an encouragement. It is a testament to the fact that modern evangelicalism has succeeded in alienating many of its younger leaders. But it’s also a call for those younger leaders (to paraphrase Marva Dawn) to “reach out without dumbing down.”
I’d like to hear your thoughts. Why is this book striking a chord with so many people? Has it with you? Why or why not?
- Read Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional by Jim Belcher