Stories of Emergence (edited by Mike Yaconelli)

Staying at my son’s house, I picked this from his bookshelves to read in odd moments. I had never heard of the late Mike Yaconelli who edited it, but the word ‘emergence’ leapt out at me. The front cover lists several contributors to the book including Brian McLaren, whose writing I like very much.

‘Stories of Emergence’ is exactly as described: each chapter contains the story of one individual’s journey, mostly from some form of modernist/evangelical Christianity via a crisis of some kind through to a broader, more relationship-based faith. It could have been rather dull; the plot of each story is, essentially, the same albeit with different details. But this is not a book to read at one sitting. I dipped into it irregularly over the course of a few weeks, and found much to ponder.

The book is divided into three sections, grouping the writers by those who had a crisis in ministry, those who had a crisis in worldview, and those who simply had a crisis in faith. I can see the reason this was done, but am not sure I could easily have distinguished them. Each individual describes openly and honestly how he or she become disillusioned in some way with the church or other belief system of their youth, and how they eventually found a new and vibrant faith that embraced postmodernist culture while staying true to Jesus.

Some of the stories are fascinating, some of the childhood churches staggeringly rigid or oppressive. One writer describes his childhood as a committed Communist, and one as an ardent feminist. They are all careful not to condemn their earlier views or their upbringing, instead explaining how their eyes were opened at some point, usually due to some dramatic circumstances. The writing styles are quite different; I found some a bit heavy-going, others light and more personal. There were things to ponder in almost every chapter.

Brian McLaren’s chapter is an afterword rather than describing his own experiences as such, but still interesting. There is, unsurprisingly, a strong US bias to this book; most of the writers are from the US (or living there) and thus some of the assumptions are not relevant to everyone. But that's not really a problem.

I would like to have got hold of a copy of this book for myself, but it’s long out of print and not readily available at reasonable price to ship to Cyprus. Still, I will keep an eye out. I doubt if I would want to read it again in its entirety, but I’d like to dip into it from time to time, and would recommend it to others interested in the conversation between 20th century evangelicals and the 21st century modernist believers who are not always accepted as part of the church.

Review copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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