by Steve Taylor
Are the innovative expressions of church and worship emerging across the globe “out of bounds?” No, says Steve Taylor who takes his readers on a global journey to the edges of the church.
Emergent Youth Specialties (YS), 300 S. Pierce St., El Cajon, CA 92020, published by Zondervan, 5300 Patterson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49530, 2005, 174 pages, $16.99.
—Reviewed by Mark Hopkins, director, Distance Learning Systems and instructor of leadership, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary.
Are the innovative expressions of church and worship emerging across the globe “out of bounds?” No, says Steve Taylor who takes his readers on a global journey to the edges of the church. Yet, the book is more than simply an introduction to the emerging church; it is a draft of “a postmodern missiology that will be meaningful in a world of increased fragmentation.”
According to Taylor, the book can be “read down or across.” Reading “down” results in a typical, linear reading experience. An “across” reading allows one to sample a wide variety of additional materials, resources and critiques from others (mostly supportive) while reading the text. Each chapter is introduced by a postcard from an emerging church situation. The chapters then seek to answer questions raised on the postcard.
The book is divided into four unequal parts. In Part One, “Culture Shapers,” Taylor describes the seismic cultural shift taking place in this technological age. He then sketches societal reactions to the shift and how the church might position itself in such a context. In Part Two, “Emerging Firestarters,” Taylor introduces birthing, re-birthing and divine creativity as biblical metaphors that can inform churches seeking to missionally engage contemporary culture. Part Three, “Emerging Mission,” is slightly longer than the first two parts combined. In this section the author uses “spiritual tourism” to describe four ways postmoderns experience the spiritual, and “redemptive portals” to describe various kinds of communities that can engage the spiritual tourist. He then proposes a missiology for the interface of the two. In the last chapter, Taylor uses the image of a remixing DJ to illustrate effective missional communication of the gospel in this cultural context. Part Four, “In Advance,” is comprised of one short concluding chapter.
I was encouraged to find Taylor’s work deeply anchored in biblical/theological thinking. He has done a fine job of exegeting global popular culture in an effort to understand how best to engage a rapidly changing world with an eternal gospel. Another strength is Taylor’s “insistence on ‘extreme discipleship’ rather than ‘Christianity lite.’”
Although well researched and academically strong, the missiology Taylor presents is not as comprehensive as, say, the thirteen elements of Bosch’s emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm. Aware of this, Taylor acknowledges that his is a draft “written in the hope that more words will be written, refining what is, catalyzing what is not yet.” This book is a compelling read that I recommend for anyone wanting a good introduction to both the emerging church and practical missiological issues related to faithfully engaging global popular culture.
Check these titles:
Frost, Michael and Alan Hirsch. 2003. The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-century Church. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson.
Gibbs, Eddie and Ryan K. Bolger. 2005. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.
Kimball, Dan. 2003. The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
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