Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger is the most comprehensive book I have read regarding the emerging church movement. Gibbs and Bolger are both professors at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. Instead of simply listening to what many people are saying about this movement, these two men spent 5-6 years researching it, both in the United States and the United Kingdom. And maybe what I appreciated most about this book was the willingness to ignore some of the figure-heads and more outspoken leaders that affiliate themselves with the emerging church. Instead, the focus is fixed on practitioners, some with large emerging church communities; others whose groups are quite small. In either instance, however, these are people engaging with the postmodern culture. Many of the practices are nothing new – they are simply uncovering or maybe more aptly put, recovering what was there all along, but has gotten smothered in the hierarchical and modern church. From their research, they came to some conclusions to begin to define the emerging church movement.
Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.
Gibbs and Bolger spend almost the entirety of the book unpacking these 9 marks. Not only do they write their conclusions (which they do provide) but they let many of the practitioners of the emerging church movement speak for themselves about how they are enacting these concepts in real life. In the appendix, a section is included that allowed many of the emerging church leaders tell their own story and what has led them to who they are and what they are doing these days. I found it quite interesting.
A fantastic book, really it is. For those who have no idea what the emerging church is, this is the book to begin with. And for those who have read many books on the emerging church and are sometimes consumed by it, add this book to your library. The insights these two men provide within these pages shed much light on what churches may look like in the next half century or so.