Deep Church - Review

Deep Church is written by Jim Belcher, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach California. In the attempt to understand the differences between the "Emerging Church" and the "Traditional Church," Belcher has written a book to try to explain each while proposing a "third way."

In many ways, this is a very helpful book. Belcher's research on the Emerging Church and Traditional Church is obvious. Much of his research includes interviews with leaders in both the Emerging and Traditional Churches.

When it comes to the Emerging Church, Belcher quotes Ed Stetzer in laying out three broad categories: relevants, reconstructionists, and revisionists. He describes the relevants as theological conservatives who are mainly concerned with the forms of music and teaching; not their content. Reconstructionists are generally attempting to rethink the entire form of what "church" should mean - trying to make the church look as much like the church in Acts as possible. Revisionists take their rethinking to the point that they are rethinking key evangelical doctrines altogether.

The above distinctions are really helpful, though for the rest of Belcher's book he doesn't always do a great job of specifying which of the three camps he is referring to when he talks about the "emerging church."

Belcher proposes a "third way" that seeks to ask similar questions to what the revisionist and reconstructionists are asking, but through the theological grid of the evangelical church through the ages. He argues that we need to become churches of "deep Truth," "deep evangelism," "deep Gospel," "deep worship," "deep preaching," "deep ecclesiology," and "deep culture."

I'm not uncomfortable at all with where Belcher ends up in most areas. The church must find a way to consistently hold passionate external focus and deep theology at the same time. But, I am not sure I love Belcher's concept of a "third way." Churches and Church Traditions exist on a spectrum, not in bins. You are not either "emerging" or "traditional" in the senses Belcher uses those terms. That's what makes the conversation so hard.

This was an interesting book. If you are deeply interested in the discussion about where the church is going in America, it is a good primer on the discussion if just a bit over-simplified.