“Toward a Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church is Good News for Mainline Congregations,” by Phil Snider and Emily Bowen.
The advent of the emergent church is part of a deep shift taking place among a growing number of young evangelicals who long to encounter expressions of Christian faith grounded in justice, diversity, hospitality, and peace. The result is an utter transformation of the ways in which these young Christians approach the Bible, faith, ethics, worship, and the very witness and mission of the church. Emergent Christians, it turns out, are articulating their faith in ways that are strikingly similar to mainline perspectives. Emergents long for more open and inclusive approaches to the Christian faith than the ones they’ve grown up with. Emergents are less interested in having all of the answers than in living the questions. Emergents wish to participate in communities of faith that take the Bible seriously, but not always literally. Emergents believe that following Jesus isn’t just about getting to heaven when they die, but is about partnering with God to bring heaven to earth in the here and now. Emergents reject the shopping-center approach of megachurches and seek rich expressions of worship that are deeply rooted in Christian traditions both past and present.
Yet as the influence of emerging worship and the emergent church continue to grow — especially among younger generations — all too many mainline Christians feel lost in a sea of unfamiliar language and practice. With this in mind, these thirty-something pastors offer a timely and accessible introduction to emergence Christianity that notes the remarkable theological similarities shared among mainline and emergent Christians. At the same time, they provide reflections and resources for mainline communities that are exploring the ways in which they might offer hospitality to emergents, especially in and through the practice of emerging worship. The authors are highly committed to the transforming power of ritual, and emergents are hungering for music and liturgy from a progressive perspective and often don’t know where to find it. While the growing popularity of emerging forms of worship within evangelical circles has been explored in significant detail, very few mainline voices have been part of the conversation, and even fewer resources and reflections are available for mainline communities who are exploring such possibilities. This book helps bridge that gap.
Through numerous examples and stories, the authors describe how offering hospitality to emergents by engaging the depths of mainline theological traditions led to the revitalization and renewal of their own congregation, and the theological reflections and emerging worship resources provided will help other mainline communities consider how they might offer hospitality to emergents as well. In short, this book shows how the unexpected advent of emergence Christianity—as well as the emerging forms of worship that go with it—are gifts to mainline congregations with the courage to engage. “Toward a Hopeful Future” will be available from Pilgrim Press in March, 2010. Pre-order.
Praise for Toward a Hopeful Future:
A lot of us have been saying that a book like this one needed to be written. Phil Snider and Emily Bowen have given us just what we need — and more, because the book not only says what needs to be said, but does so in a delightful, intelligent, and encouraging way. Enthusiastically recommended — yes, for Mainliners, but also for Evangelicals and Roman Catholics who also need a shot of hope about the future.
–Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker/activist (brianmclaren.net)
Convergence between streams of emergent and progressive Christianity is a striking and hopeful happening. This exciting book is very much needed now.
–Marcus Borg, best-selling author of The Heart of Christianity
This painstakingly researched, beautifully crafted work not only places the reader’s hand on the pulse of emerging theology but draws out how this contemporary movement relates to, and resonates with, the wider Christian heritage.
–Peter Rollins, author of The Orthodox Heretic
Phil Snider and Emily Bowen point mainline churches Toward a Hopeful Future. Let’s hope that the churches start down the path they’re suggesting! This book will help standard churches take a look at this new, “emergent” idea they’re hearing about. It’s thoughtful, well-researched and contains practical ways for typical churches to move into a faithful and effective ministry with a new generation.
–Martha Grace Reese, author of the Unbinding the Gospel Series,www.GraceNet.info
You won’t be disappointed as Snider and Bowen guide you through the convergences and departures of mainline Christianity and the emerging church movement. They’ve given careful and critical attention to the church at the margins and have a clear and hopeful idea of what these communities offer the established church and vice versa. I’m grateful someone has taken the effort to understand emergence beyond just the aesthetics. This book is far overdue.
Founding Pastor, House For All Sinners and Saints, Denver, Co
Author, Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television
Phil Snider and Emily Bowen sort through the cacophony of information that clamors around emergent movements, and write a clear and compelling symphony. Through their research and practical application, Snider and Bowen lift up the voices that resonate with a chorus of progressive Christians from our past, while they inspire great hope for our future.
–Carol Howard Merritt, author of Tribal Church
At the end of his 1913 edition of The Quest of the Historical Jesus, Albert Schweitzer compared “conservative and liberal” forms of Christianity to “two thin streams that wind alongside each other between the boulders and pebbles of a great river bed.” But, “when the waters rise and overflow the rock, they meet of their own accord.” But when and how will that happen? “When desire and hope for the kingdom of God,” he said, “and fellowship with the spirit of Jesus govern them as an elementary and mighty force.” One hundred years later, at the start of a new century, this present book, Toward a Hopeful Future, proves that contemporary streams of “emergent” and “progressive” Christianity are turning Schweitzer’s hope into a reality.
–John Dominic Crossan, author of God and Empire