Two books arrived this week and I kid you not . . they look like twins, despite coming from different book publishers. Both have deserts on the cover. One book (The Jesus Creed) goes for the old-skool-Lawrence-of-Arabia desert aesthetic and the other (Perimeters of Light) draws a glassy cyber-desert.
Do these companies spy on each other? Is there a shortage of creativity in the land of Christian publishing? [ . . . dont answer that!]
The desert metaphor is good - its a new world, unexplored and dangerous and a new breed of desert fathers are needed to give some navigation. And these books do just that - one hanging out in the gospels, and the other tapping into the epistles and recent missiological insights.
1. The Jesus Creed is an excellent book by Scot McKnight. You may have run into Scot in the comments section of this blog - certainly if you were following the Carson Chronicles - a flow of conversation that I redirected to Scot' s blog. Anyway, this is a good book - nay - a GREAT book - Scot examines how Jesus saw spiritual formation and the Greatest Commandment - to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and mind and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself. This is the backbone of the book and Scot does a great job in weaving the gospel narratives in and out of this theme. Definitely a book to buy and get re-centered to the core of what it mean to follow Jesus. We need more books like this.
Buy the Book?
Yes. And a good book to accompany it would be Mealtime Habits of the Messiah, by Conrad Gempf
2. Perimeters of Light: Boundaries for the Emerging Church, by Ed Stetzer and Elmer Towns.
Both great guys. I met Elmer in the late 80's on his "Most 'Innovative Church" Tour. I haven't met Ed, but I hear he has been taking a risk by investing in the next generation of Baptist emerging leaders which makes him a good guy in my opinion.
The book is OK. There are better books on upgrading church growth theory, missiology, and emerging church, but this book has two great qualities:
1. The writers hit the target. They say the answer to a post-christian world is an approach informed by missiology - and they are absolutely correct. What they dont do, is take some of these old diagrams and church growth models into the the new century. This is more like an introductory level missiology. Which isnt a bad thing in itself, unless you have been exposed to Bosch, Newbiggin, and other heavy hitters.
2. The book is sanctioned by Baptists. With a forward from Paige Patterson, and references to significant Baptist leaders and writers, this is a book that could give you a common ground to present your case for a mission-shaped church that is taking a different shape that what previously happened in your Baptist world.
Besides that, the book has an excellent chapter on the history of music in church through the centuries (nice little summary, actually) and some thoughts on preaching. Tim Challies reviewed the book and gives more details than I did. He makes a point that "emerging church" is not the same as "emergent church" but I see a contextual missiological approach to church and evangelism as the heartbeat for almost every stream of emerging church. I also think it is appropriate for non-emerging contexts as well. In fact, the teachings in this book could pretty well be applied to any cross cultural context.
Buy The Book?
Well . . . I guess, especially if you are a Baptist and live in America. Other emerging church leaders and practitioners will find it helpful in giving a common language to explain why they are doing what they are doing, and how it fits into the grander scheme of God's plan. But if you are looking for a book that brings the full weight of missiological progress to bear on the emerging church movement, then you would be better off buying The Shaping of Things To Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church, by my Aussie mates, Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost.