The UK Church is becoming all too familiar with the stark statistical evidence of its own decline. In emergingchurch.intro Mike Moynagh makes a passionate plea for the church to face the reality of its growing irrelevance and failure to engage with contemporary culture(s). I winced frequently as he highlighted realities of contemporary church, the cracks in which I often paper over in the hope they’ll eventually disappear! He is however no mere harbinger of doom and his writing is littered with hope. He includes numerous micro-scale examples of how ordinary Christians are experimenting and making themselves vulnerable by taking church beyond its inherited forms and seeking to express it within the increasingly alien cultures that surround its doorstep.
This is a useful introduction to the in-vogue world of emerging (or ‘fresh expressions’ of) church, recently championed by the Church of England report Mission-shaped Church. Emerging church defies definition but is loosely understood as a missionary motivation to serve existing unchurched communities, to explore the gospel with them and nurture culturally appropriate and authentic expressions of Christian faith without imposing the models and expectations of the existing church sub-culture. Readers familiar with Moynagh’s earlier work will recognise the sociological-cultural analysis outlined in Changing World, Changing Church, but also appreciate the way his ‘out-of-the-pew’ thinking has built upon these foundations. The concrete principles and practical suggestions presented here dare us to believe that the church has perhaps not embarked on ‘mission impossible’ after all.
This book demonstrates the author’s gift for ‘theological sketches’ which illustrate and apply Christian truths clearly and simply and yet bear sustained reflection (NB: not in the least bit ‘sketchy’!) The picture of the ‘constantly journeying Spirit’, sent out from the Father to connect with a broken world in order to return gathering people into the divine life, helpfully captures the tension between engaging with contemporary culture and yet remaining accountable and committed to sharing in the wider church. Perhaps the most refreshing aspect of emergingchurch.intro is its determination to acknowledge the tensions raised by emerging church and resist the temptation to offer packaged models for imitation. This openness is expressed in the text with regular interjections from church-planting gurus George Lings and Stuart Murray Williams both expressing support but occasionally raising difficult questions. It is immediately apparent that the emerging church phenomenon already demands more prolonged deliberation concerning its implications for ecclesiology and ecclesiogenesis.
emergingchurch.intro is not just a primer in contemporary Christian experimentation – it is raw prophecy, a clarion call to make fresh expressions of church the top of the church’s agenda and the priority for financial, leadership and human resources. Far from heralding the death of traditional church Mike argues persuasively that through genuine interdependence and mutual enrichment between new and existing church the Spirit will breathe life into both. When you read this book you won’t agree with all of it, but your response might just enrich the conversation and help suggest fresh possibilities for the mission of God to be expressed in the life of the world.