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What should the church look like today?

What should be the focus of its message? How should I present that message? We live in as pivotal and defining an age as the Great Depression or the Sixties-a period whose definition, say some cultural observers, includes a warning of the church's influence.

The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives by Leonard Sweet

A society measurably less religious but decidedly more spiritual. Less influenced by authority than by experience. More attuned to images than to words. How does the church adapt to such a culture? Or should it, in fact, eschew adapting for maintaining a course it has followed these last two millennia?

See a Problem?

Or something in between? These are exactly the questions asked in The Church In Emerging Culture by five Christian thinker-speaker-writers, each who advocate unique stances regarding what the church's message should be and what methods should be used to present it as it journeys through this evolving, postmodern era. McLaren-postmodernist, author, pastor, and Emergent senior fellow Erwin Raphael McManus-author and pastor of the innovative and interethnic L.

What's more, general editor Leonard Sweet author of SoulTsunami and AquaChurch, among several other acclaimed texts frames the thought-provoking dialogue with a profoundly insightful, erudite introductory essay-practically a book within a book.

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The Church In Emerging Culture is foundational reading for leaders and serious students of all denominations and church styles. The introduction by editor Sweet is particularly stimulating.

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Sweet is attempting to refine H. Richard Niebuhr's classic Christ and Culture categories and apply them to the current situation. The five contributors exemplify the four metaphors. Mathewes-Green and Horton are both examples of the garden approach. McManus represents the park. Crouch is the glen.

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And McClaren is the man of the meadow. While the metaphors are strong, as each writer gives his or her own perspective, it appears that they break down pretty quickly. Postmodernism is, in fact, the product of prosperity.

The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives

It is the way that modernity, whose still-humming infrastructure is the greatest productivity engine ever created, spends its cash. Sitting on history's greatest pile of riches, the surplus of a century of modernity's disciplined efforts to improve the human condition, the postmodern generation is analogous to the heirs of a vast fortune who in a manner of speaking no longer have to work for a living.

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  • Like Horton and Crouch, Mathewes-Green doesn't see postmodernism as merely a new culture to be embraced. The wife of an Eastern Orthodox priest, she does a phenomenal and creative job of presenting a question and answer catechism that starts out addressing the weaknesses of postmodern culture and ends up with an introduction to Orthodox mysticism and thinking. Responding to the emerging church movement which has selectively embraced a few ancient church elements to enhance their spirituality and worship experience, she asks "Is nothing to be gained by choosing and implementing ancient elements we like?

    They are more lovely than no flowers at all, but they have no roots and will wither.