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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional
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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  429 ratings  ·  66 reviews
2010 Christianity Today Book Award winner! 2010 Golden Canon Leadership Book Award winner! Feeling caught between the traditional church and the emerging church? Discover a third way: deep church. C. S. Lewis used the phrase "deep church" to describe the body of believers committed to mere Christianity. Unfortunately church in our postmodern era has been marked by a certai...more
Paperback, 233 pages
Published August 7th 2009 by IVP Books (first published 2009)
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Matthew Robbins
I’ve been somewhat fascinated by the Emerging Church since I first heard about it a few years ago. Not sure if “fascinated” is the right word, as I’ve disagreed with the vast majority of the theology and practices coming out of the movement (although it's clearly not a homogeneous thing), but I’ve been intrigued for reasons I couldn’t quite place. After reading Jim Belcher’s book, Deep Church, I think I’ve figured out why I was interested in the movement. While I disagree with much of the theolo...more
I liked this book simply because Belcher attempted to fairly portray both camps: the traditional and the emerging. It's nice to read a writer who avoids caricature and sarcastic, hyperbolic belittling of those whom with he disagrees (unless said writer does it well, like Douglas Wilson or G.K. Chesterton). Belcher encouraged my empathy. His "third way" (i.e., deep church) seems more traditional than emergent but not as doctrinally exclusive as most traditional churches I've experienced. So, if y...more
Julie Nonyas
It is just beautiful.

He wrote this above my normal reading area (google has been my study mate). But the message and mission are just amazing, it is the heartbeat of the future. If we can build these ideas into the church, kingdom and glory to come!

I cried at the end, like a baby mahn.

It is about tradition, it is about living with the unbelievers yet being set apart to live distinctly and biblically different. It is about fulfilling a need for Jesus in the world right here, right now!

Being the w...more
Micah Neely
I'll do a deeper review elsewhere, but I think this is very cogent and clarifies some loggerheads that we need not be at, and some that we should be at even more than we are as regards "emergent" vs. "traditional" vs. "pragmatic" streams of ministry philosophy.

Particularly the illustrations of "post-modernism" as either post-foundationalism or relativism are illuminating as it relates to church movements. I find that, as a historical analysis, this couldn't really have been written before 2010,...more
Nancy Peifer
Excellent and thought provoking. A book I will be re-visiting soon.
Excellent analysis of the emergent church and the traditional church. Very thoughtful on how to take what is good from both traditions (“emergent”, for all of it’s efforts to not be a “tradition” is basically a “tradition” as well). Belcher’s goal is to pursue a “third way” (taking cues from both emergent and trationtional traditions while also thinking outside of both of those “boxes”) to be in church and community together. Pastors and church leaders will greatly benefit from reading this book...more
Adam Ross
This book has been making waves in broader evangelical circles than those in which I usually run. But, it has been recommended to me from so many corners (such as from men I respect in Andrew Sandlin's sphere) that I thought I would give it a read. It also bears a commendation from John Armstrong, another man I respect. However, it also bears recommendations from men like Tim Keller and Rob Bell, who concern me more and more.

The book is, much like Michael Craven's "Uncompromised Faith," good but...more
Paul Dubuc
A few years ago, I took a seminary elective class in Emergent Christian Spirituality. I had read some things about emergent/emerging Christianity that I found interesting but which also raised questions in my mind. We read and discussed several good books by emergent church leaders or about the emergent church. We even designed our own emergent church service. It was a very good class. I think I gained a good understanding and appreciation for the positive contributions that emergent churches ar...more
Dave Courtney
Deep Church is not a book intended for every audience. It is particular to the current divide between what has become known (in very limited terms) the "emerging Church" movement and the traditional Church. In good fashion he travels the road between the two sides, upholding a sense of faithful orthodox belief while dismantling some common misconceptions that are present with both parties.

Belcher has a good handle on the questions and experience of growing up in the midst of this tension and the...more
Oct 12, 2012 Jardinier rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jardinier by: Bruce
Jim Belcher sets out to bridge the conversation between two distinct perspectives, the emergent and traditional view of what the Church (the body of Christ) should look like, feel like, and act like in todays culture. I greatly appreciated the clear evaluation of the broad spectra of different churches across America and their perspective of what it means to worship as a Church and exemplify the character of God. In addition, Jim also provides insight to the development of key perspectives and r...more
I bought this book because I have been fascinated for the last few years with the emerging church and the significant public conversations about what it is and whether or not certain aspects of certain emerging congregations are dangerous heresies or necessary critiques. After reading passionate and often harsh challenges from many different perspectives in the discussion, I was impressed to see a book endorsed by Mark Driscoll and Tim Keller (who are more traditional), Dan Kimball (who tends to...more
Dave Brown
Belcher makes a promise he doesn't keep, and the end result is noise that smacks of the "pastoral theology" books that were required reading in grad school. What Belcher does well here is accurately portray a deep division in Western Christianity. While he over-simplifies in his categories of "traditional" and "emergent," I think he does so in the interest of expediency, which I understand. He accurately analyzes the two sides of the debate, pulling no punches in their weaknesses and sparing no...more
I'd have rather given this one and half stars. I did not dislike it, but I did not like it, either. In part, this was because the two types of churches the author describes are not ones in which I have spent most of my time. I've never experienced an "emergent church," and Belcher's "traditional church" is not what I would describe as traditional. To me, traditional is Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran. It took me a bit to fully grasp that Belcher's traditional is 20th century...more
Mixed feelings on this one. I genuinely enjoyed the book and I want to be as generous towards its author as he is towards the authors he writes about. (Contrast this with Hunter's 'To Change the World.') I think he ultimately comes out in the right place on most subjects. It provides a great balanced introduction to the emerging church's critique and what a healthy church might look as it takes on-board the truth within those critiques.

And yet...

I left unsatisfied on a number of points. Perhaps...more
With clarity and empathy, Belcher explains the crossroads at which the evangelical church has found itself: between traditional and emerging churches. Both camps, Belcher shows, unfairly oversimplify and attack the beliefs and practices of the other. Emergents denounce the traditionalists as self-righteous, judgmental, culturally disengaged, and irrelevant; traditionalists rail against the emerging church's "sell out" to postmodernism and moral relativism in its attempt to be all-inclusive. Belc...more
Chauncey Lattimer
The writing style: engaging. The topic: timely. The content: provacative. The questions raised: right out of my own struggles.

Deep Church, by Jim Belcher, is a book was very difficult to for me to sit aside for any extended period of time. When I did manage to get my nose out from between the covers, I still could not divert my attention. Setting the book aside only provided an opportunity to mull over the questions and struggles raised by author.

The book was written specifically for me... "tho...more
Oct 28, 2009 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pastors, sem students, church discontents, those wanting balance
Shelves: ministry
Quite honestly, I wish I had this book ten years ago so, as I was processing through it's content the hard way, I could have had a guide to walk with me. I've stood on the extremes of the traditional and flirted with the extremes of the emerging and, in the end, discovered that I don't truly belong in either camp ... rather, I'm a "third way" kind of guy. As a result, this book will be a great resource as I head into whatever ministry endeavor is next for me, simply because it will enable me to...more
Sydney Avey
Belcher does a good job of cutting through confusion in the impasse over how Christians should worship and interact with their culture. I like his approach. He identifies the issues that create discord (truth, evangelism, worship, etc.) and solicits comments on the positions different theologians take from the movement leaders themselves. Then he looks at how they respond to each other and proposes his own middle ground. I now have a better understanding of the Emerging Church movement (it is re...more
Aug 03, 2011 Bruce added it
This book was very meaningful for me and was something that I needed to read. Over the years of ministering through LifeQuest we have tried to find "our way" through being true to the gospel and relevant to the culture, to redefine the ancient truths in relevant cultural terms. Often the way wasn't clear. And usually those on both the traditional side and the so-called "liberal" side stood on the sidelines and yelled their disagreement. Yet you try to listen to God and to do as you believe He di...more
Outstanding book! Most observers would probably consider the church I lead an “emerging church” – a designation that causes joy in some and concern in others. While that label probably fits, I tend to think that the church (and myself, for that matter) is in some sense a “bridge” between the emerging and traditional worlds. In this book, Jim Belcher explicitly lays out a bridge position, a third way between emerging and traditional. His book is full of careful research, thoughtful critique, and...more
Jay Miklovic
Really good book.

This book resonated with me on so many levels. It promotes a confessional Christianity that is actually tenable and not a fundamentalist stronghold, yet without falling into some relativistic nonsense.

This is a very hopeful book, that encourages the creation of a Church environment where the historical Gospel as laid forth in the creeds is the focal point. Somehow he weaves together a vision of church that is in no way relative with regards to the Gospel, yet remains inclusive i...more
Is there a third way between the traditional way of doing church and the emerging church? Jim Belcher thinks so and he suggests that what all Christians have in common is "The Great Tradition" or what C.S. Lewis referred to as "Mere Christianity", that is, the Trinitarian life, the sinless death of Christ for sinners, belief in the historical bodily resurrection of Jesus and the hope of a new world to come. These are the essentials that tie the various traditions of orthodox Christianity togethe...more
Chris Hubbs
Not as revolutionary or insightful as I had hoped, but still good. Belcher identifies seven areas of contention between the emerging and traditional churches, summarizes each group's position on each topic, and then identifies his "third way" for each of them.

Most of his "third ways" seemed less like brilliant insights and more like "let's pick someplace in between the two positions that makes sense to me".

Deep Church is a good summary of emerging vs. traditional if you're unfamiliar with the t...more
Adam Shields
Full Review at

Short review: I have seen and experienced the problems of discussing the issues around Emergent church. Or even the issues around post-modernism and theology. Jim Belcher has been involved in the traditional church and the Emerging church and is conversant in the language and theology of both sides. The strength of this book is its ability to explain the other side (whichever one you are on) with honesty and compassion. He then goes on to pr...more
Mike Denk
I like the concept of what the book tries to do. However, I felt that the author fell a little short and ended up just pointing to his own example as really the best way to do Church.
Belcher does a good job actually listening to emerging types instead of just reacting to them. He holds the theological fort for the most part, but gives way at a few places--"language always stands between us and reality". Language is part of reality and part of our access to it. But those on the liberal/McLaren side want to shelve all sorts of biblical statements that are resoundingly clear, which drive their protest against preaching. This would be a good read for those who can't see why anyo...more
Steven Wedgeworth
I just read this again for the second time and still feel that it is an important and practical book for church leaders. I don't agree quite with all of his thoughts on philosophy, finding them to concede too much to the postmodern critique without sufficiently retrieving the classical tradition. Still, his conclusions in this regard are not really problematic, and he is even-keeled throughout. There are also some informative and entertaining biographical bits, particularly of folks like Driscol...more
Excellent summary for grasping the issues that impact embracing an "emerging" perspective. Belcher is an emerging insider who sides with a more traditional Christian view in many cases. He presents a reasoned perspective from both side. He opts for neither, posing a mediating "deep church." Sometimes he came from a very "mainline" perspective--he is after all a Presbyterian minister. For example, his perspective on "deep evangelism" only viewed evangelism as attractive, drawing people into a bui...more
Matthew Bushnell
Jim Belcher in a clear way explains his journey through the often confusing debate/argument between differing understandings of Church. It is a clear attempt to find a balanced way of "doing" church in the midst of the cacophony of voices arguing that their way is right and others are wrong. The author writes in a very honest and sincere manner, and I found myself liking a lot of what he had to say, and resonated with it. "Deep Church" is a valid attempt at trying to live out in an intentional w...more
Big Mike Lewis
Belcher was trying to come up with a middle/third way, but his definitions and characterizations of people like Brian McLaren were not accurate. McLaren is much more liberal in his theology than Belcher gave him credit for. Belcher seems to think McLaren is just trying new things rather than his unbiblical stance on Christian theology that I read every time he writes a book.

I think Belcher and others who are trying to find truth should listen closely to guys like Mark Driscoll who is very conser...more
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Deep Church 3 10 Jun 14, 2011 11:02AM  
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Author of In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage into the beauty, goodness and heart of Christianity (IVP) and Deep Church: A third way beyond emerging and tradtional (IVP). For more information go to

I am theDirector of the Practical Theology Department at Knox Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fl.

I love reading travel writing, creative non-fiction, long narrative journalism, history...more
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In Search of Deep Faith: A Pilgrimage Into the Beauty, Goodness and Heart of Christianity Strategically Small Church, The: Intimate, Nimble, Authentic, and Effective The Strategically Small Church: Intimate, Nimble, Authentic, and Effective

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“The task of these emerging churches, they contend, is one of "dismantling first and then...rebuilding." They realize that this makes the traditional church uneasy. But, the add, the rebuilding stage cannot be rushed. The work of undoing is essential. "What to some may appear to be pointless complaining is part of a larger process of dismantling ideas of church that simply are not viable in postmodern culture. The emerging church even calls the church to deconstruct itself before it reconstructs itself for ministry in a postmodern climate.” 0 likes
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