8/10/2004

Reimagining Spiritual Formation

Almost finished Doug Pagitt's book Reimagining Spiritual Formation

All in all a very good book. It embodies a lot of the good parts of the postmodern, emerging church ethic but also exhibits some of its minor annoying qualities, which shows we're all only human.

The book is a week in the life of Solomon's Porch, an emerging church somewhere in the Minneapolis area. The book is structured with each day of the week focusing on a particular thematic way of reimagining spiritual formation. The main story is written by Doug, the pastor, with sidebar entries and occasional main story diversions from the journals of church members.

First, the strong points. It's very honest. Everyone, Doug included, express fear and doubt and frustration - all the things that a lot of churchy books (especially those of an evangelical bent) usually avoid like a dying man at the side of the road. There are moments of transcendent truth. There are a few places where I thought Doug captured the essence of what the emerging church is all about in a deeply meaningful way. But to quote them I'd have to get out of my comfy chair, get the book from my backpack, which is in my car, which is my garage, and look them up, so I'll do that another time. Suffice to say there were several spine-chilling moments when I felt like God just said, "There it is!!! Remember it well." I hope I do.

Okay, enough praise. The book can be a bit heavy going at times. One of my main criticisms of the emerging church movement, as I have seen it thus far, is it is so darned serious. And this book suffers from that quite a bit. It, like a lot of emerging church folks, takes itself way too seriously. I mean we have serious artsy folks here, and serious artsy folks there, but where are the pomo stand-up comedians? Another criticism I have of the emergent church movement at large is that it's often indecisive and introverted, resulting in way too much indulgent self-analysis. It's like the movement spends half of its time on the therapists couch. To a degree, not a bad thing, but it can get wearisome. Doug's writing at times suffers from this. However, I guess if it's that or "Fix Your Church in 30 Days or Your Money Back" by Pastor Billy Bigsmile, I'll take the self-analysis.

The chapter on potlucks as spiritual formation was a bit over the top for me. I didn't really see anything in there that was so different from the average church potluck to be worthy of note. Hey, these people each bring something different to the potluck, thereby showing their diversity. Woohoo! Trusting the Holy Spirit to ensure that 35 people don't all bring broccoli salad doesn't exactly make it spiritual formation in my book.

But back to the good points. The emerging church is:
All about shared leadership - check.
Freedom to create - check.
Willingness to acceptance people where they are - check.

I know there's more, but I'm getting tired, so maybe I'll pick this up later (with quotes!)

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