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Church on the Other Side, The by Brian D.…
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Church on the Other Side, The (edition 2003)

by Brian D. McLaren

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452443,485 (3.55)1
Making the leap from yesterday to today If you're a church leader or committed member and you're tired of easy steps and facile formulas for church health, growth, and renewal, then this book points the way to thoughtful action and profound, liberating change. Discover the importance of redefining your mission, finding fresh ways to communicate the gospel, and engaging today's culture with understanding. Brian McLaren shows you thirteen practices for navigating towards a vibrant church that can reach out and serve the conviction and confidence in today's changing new world.… (more)
Member:markheath
Title:Church on the Other Side, The
Authors:Brian D. McLaren
Info:Zondervan (2003), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:**1/2
Tags:church, emerging, read

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The Church on the Other Side by Brian D. McLaren

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This excellent book which is geared primarily to pastors and other church leaders. Brian McLaren observes - as he has said often - that the modernist era, from approximately 1500-2000 AD, has drawn to a close. We have much to be thankful for in the industrial and technological revolution, including new means of spreading the Gospel in places where it used to be considered impossible. Modernism was necessary - and the church (at least the Protestant part of it) adjusted to meet the needs of those who were modernist in outlook.

Nowadays, more and more people are aware that there is ‘something’ beyond what they can see and touch. Story-telling and art communicate far more effectively than logic and absolutism. And the church needs to adjust. Not to change the core beliefs but to look at ways of communicating with today’s teenagers, and young people and also the middle-aged such as myself who have become somewhat disillusioned and jaded.

McLaren suggests we need to ‘debug’ the church of modernist 'viruses'. These are unhelpful things people hang onto: consumerism, individualism, reductionism, and more. He offers alternatives - gentleness, positivity, and so on - which we do well to develop as the church inevitably changes over the next few decades.

It’s not an easy read; I personally preferred McLaren's ‘Generous Orthodoxy’, which explains where he comes from, with anecdotes and light-hearted asides. This book, by contrast, is rather dryer; I couldn’t read more than about nine or ten pages a day, and often had to read a paragraph twice as I’d not taken it in. Nonetheless, there are some excellent points made in this book, and I wish it could be made compulsory reading for pastors and church leaders everywhere! There is much that’s worth considering and discussing, even if the conclusion is that nothing needs to change.

At the end of each chapter there are some excellent questions for group discussion - so this could be a good book to use as a study guide for a small group over twelve or thirteen weeks. ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Whatever their disagreements on a multitude of other issues, almost all Christians active in congregations can agree on one thing: the practices of Christian faith have changed dramatically in recent years. A regular church-goer from the 1950s dropped into a modern congregation would probably be shocked by, among other things, much more casual dress, more audio-visual technology, and new music (sometimes accompanied by new instruments), not to mention the much more public role of women.

Some of the most dramatic change is not quite so visible on the surface, but quickly becomes obvious. Worship attendance patterns have changed: often regular attenders only appear at services about once a month, owing to weekend work hours, various children's activities, traveling, or just wanting to take it easy on Sunday mornings. It is also increasingly difficult to get volunteers for various activities or responsibilities in the congregation -- in general, there are fewer members and much busier members than before. Such changes are creating financial hardship for many congregations, making the contemporary differences painfully obvious all too often.

To be sure, sometimes Americans become enamored with talk of new things, whether they are "new and improved" products or new challenges in their lives. As a student of history, it seems to me that there have been significant changes in Christianity in the United States at least every generation for at least 250 years (a quarter of a millennium), so the current period of change and challenge should not be all that surprising.

Still, the new context for Christian congregations in the past several years demands some understanding of what has changed -- both inside and outside of the church -- and how congregations can respond to the opportunities and challenges created by these changes. Popular Christian author Brian D. McLaren's 2003 book, "The Church on the Other Side: Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix," offers a prescient overview of the current situation for congregations, whose component parts -- in various forms and combinations --have come to be adopted and advocated by other church leaders who have explored 'modern ministry' in the past decade.

McLaren grabs attention at the opening of the introduction with a succinct assessment, "If you have a new world, you need a new church. You have a new world." From there, in a conversational style that is engaging and concise, he suggests twelve positive ways that congregations can respond to the 'new world' in which they now find themselves. Overall, he offers new language, new approaches to mission, new organizational flexibility, and a renewed appreciation of tradition as ways the congregations can meet the challenges of this era and still live out the Christian calling faithfully and in ways that attract others to do the same. The book culminates in an extensive section where McLaren attempts to tackle the issue of "post-modernism," which he does fairly well (though, as with most explorations of post-modernism, the ultimate description is hazy, at best).

While McLaren presents many ideas, most of them can be classified in two main areas: structure and language. Like many, McLaren suggests that churches have outlasted the organizational structures that served them well during the '50s and '60s. This is most obvious for congregations that are much smaller now than they used to be, but still try to operate in the same way; however, McLaren emphasizes that current church participants are different from those of 40 years ago. Sometimes this is due to the changing demographics of the location of the church building, but it is also due to the cultural shifts over the past two generations. In a couple of chapters, McLaren explains how these changes require a different leadership model (in particular, one that recognizes that no leader can do everything well) and a renewed focus on outreach and mission in congregational ministry.

McLaren also argues that contemporary Christians need to adjust the ways that we speak about ministry and faith. Repeatedly, he insists that the emphasis on rational certainty about different aspects of Christian teaching needs to be abandoned and replaced by an approach to the Gospel and essential beliefs that is more open to questions and even mystery. Interestingly, McLaren suggests that such openness should allow Christians to reclaim certain parts of the tradition, including large swaths of theological and spiritual writings, that had been cast aside as part of previous doctrinal debates or overly critical historical narratives.

More than anything, it is apparent that McLaren is trying to encourage and support a conversation about the ways Christians need to adapt to the changing context of recent years. The book itself models this: it is a revision and expansion of a previous book, "Reinventing Your Church," based on additional research and conversation. It also has an extensive appendix filled with thoughtful questions designed to stimulate discussion, especially among congregational leaders.

This is an ongoing discussion in which active Christians need to participate. While the Gospel remains unchanged, the lives of those who desperately need to hear the good news of Jesus Christ are significantly different at the dawn of the 21st Century than in the middle of the 20th Century and before. McLaren succinctly offers the broad outlines of how an old church might effectively minister to this new world.

This review is also published at http://alongthispilgrimsjourney.blogspot.com/2013/06/book-review-church-on-other... ( )
  ALincolnNut | Jun 12, 2013 |
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Making the leap from yesterday to today If you're a church leader or committed member and you're tired of easy steps and facile formulas for church health, growth, and renewal, then this book points the way to thoughtful action and profound, liberating change. Discover the importance of redefining your mission, finding fresh ways to communicate the gospel, and engaging today's culture with understanding. Brian McLaren shows you thirteen practices for navigating towards a vibrant church that can reach out and serve the conviction and confidence in today's changing new world.

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