Reformed Reflections

Organic Community: creating a place where people naturally connect
by Joseph R. Myers.
Baker Book House, Grand Rapids,
Mich. 2007. Paper, pp.190..

One of the latest innovations in theology is the "emerging (or 'emergent') church movement [ECM], which we can't afford to ignore. It is sparking considerable discussion in evangelical churches, and exerts an astonishingly broad influence. Its leaders call for a "new reformation." Some feel stifled and alienated from existing churches and want them more open to creativity and the arts. Others think the culture of the church is so different from popular culture that those they want to reach for Jesus cannot adapt to today's church with her traditions and confessions. The common thread that binds them is the claim that if the church is to survive, it must adapt to the major changes taking place in North America's postmodern -cultural shift. They want to be innovative in their outreach. They look for a new expression of the church, seeking to create communities of followers of Jesus, who "express the kingdom in all they do." They preach a "gospel of relationships." Instead of an emphasis on the death of Christ, repentance, forgiveness of sin, and eternal life, they focus instead on inviting people to follow Jesus and be on a mission with him in the world.

The owner of a consulting firm and speaker, Myers, is one of the latest "stars" in the "emergent church." It takes him 174 pages of stories and personal anecdotes what another writer could have said in 10 pages. He is extremely critical of churches. He decries the business method for church growth used by mega churches. But he wants us to imitate his own business model.

Myers' book reflects the emerging church's emphasis on the "gospel of the kingdom" as distinct from the "gospel of salvation." Myers believes in the need for a radical dismantling, restructuring and redirecting of the church. He argues that "organic community", his description of church, is "a process, a jazz piece, an elegant dance. It is the product of community that we are looking for. It is the process of belonging that we long for." He states that our focus should be "on the journey, not the destination." But if you don't focus on your destination, you become a drifter. The book is supposed to be "a church resource." You would expect Biblical arguments, but you won't find them in this book.

The ECM is a recipe for failure. By assuming that for churches to survive, they must accommodate to our postmodern culture; then the seed of destruction for the evangelical faith is sown. They seem to neglect personal salvation in favour of social transformation, while the gospel includes both. The Gospel is more than loving one's neighbours and meeting their needs. The Bible speaks of the wrath of God in terms every bit as personal as it speaks of the love of God.

Johan D. Tangelder