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Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  729 ratings  ·  88 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 certain sh
Paperback, 233 pages
Published August 7th 2009 by IVP Books (first published 2009)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Sep 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, theology
I'm not sure how to rate a book like this. Really helpful book in regards to thinking through what a church should look like. Gave me some really helpful vocabulary for talking about church. Good specifics on how to live "deep church" as well as the theological/ theoretical underpinnings. One things I really appreciated was the gentleness and care the author took with all opposing sides. Time after time he mentions reading and rereading other's work to make sure that he does not misconstrue the ...more
Dave Brown
Jul 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: theology, paperback
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
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic look at the issues that divide the traditional (and "happy clappy") church from the emergent church without setting up straw men. In fact, it burns a few of them.

I highly recommend this book to any thinking Christian who wants to find the "third way" between the two extremes in a fair and loving way.
Nancy Peifer
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and thought provoking. A book I will be re-visiting soon.
Adam Ross
Jan 21, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rich Thornton
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This year I am endeavoring to hear/read books that are outside of my usual authors, viewpoints, and other differences. Deep Church let me take a look at the author's research/interviews/thoughts on the possibility of a third way of church. Not the traditional church. Not the emerging church. But what the author calls Deep Church. It is a descriptive term and he is not derogatory towards the other two but instead looks at all three while obviously favoring the third way, Deep Church.

There is a lo
Wes F
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
An overall good introduction to the differences/tensions between the traditional and emerging views of what church is and what it should do/be in a postmodernist world. Fact is--the church needs to be the church that we see set out in Acts and the Epistles of the New Testament.
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent survey of authentic Christianity. Urges a reconnection with the Tradition of early Christian teaching and practice. This is a solid prescription for renewing the spiritual life of the Church. I highly recommend this practical guide.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Already a little dated, yet helpful in many of its critiques. I wish there was a condensed version.
Jonathan Franzone
I hated to love this book, and loved to hate this book. There was much that I disagreed with, much that caused me to think, and much that I loved. It was complicated read for me.
Greg Dill
Sep 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very well researched and thought out. This is an excellent book by Jim Belcher that attempts to unite the polarized views of the emerging church movement with the traditional church, thus creating a third way called "Deep Church". Belcher does a great job in remaining objective and I sincerely applaud his efforts in attempting to bring the two different views together. His heart for unity, grace, and truth are very evident in the way he presents himself throughout this book. And, I learned more ...more
Paul Dubuc
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 31, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology, religion
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
May 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
Dale Critchley
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a great book for people trying to find a third way. The author gives concrete examples of the opposing camps of Emerging and Traditional and proposes a third alternative that's not just a compromise of the 2 but uses the strengths of both. For me, my only problem was that I didn't find much new in here, but I might just be ahead of the curve. Maybe I've read a lot from people who've already read this.
Dave Courtney
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: church
This book is dated now given that Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll are not in church ministry anymore. But while the "emerging/traditional" conversation has moved on the underlying issues are still being discussed. I think on the whole he brings up good points and gives some good direction for moving forward. Some of the earlier chapters were better. The later ones in ecclesiology and culture good have benefited from a better articulation of the core issues. The common critique among emergents and eva ...more
Jim Dressner
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spiritual
While this book is not as ground-breaking as one might expect from reading some of the published reviews, its real value is in the analysis and description of issues in the evangelical debate of "traditional" and "emergent" churches. Here are a few examples of insights that I found helpful:

* a helpful delineation of Emergent Church factions (Relevants, Reconstructionists, Revisionists)
* an explanation of foundationalism, its effect on the "traditional" church, and why Emergent leaders criticize
John Kerr
Aug 28, 2016 rated it liked it
A very interesting and thought-provoking read. Belcher highlights some serious and deep-set flaws in the "traditional" evangelical church and seeks to provide potential alternatives to the solutions offered by the "emergent" church. His emphasis on community is particularly warranted in an age of rampant individualism; his critique of much modern preaching as moralistic is also fair and requires serious addressing.
Reading this as a Brit I felt quite a bit was lost in translation over the Atlanti
Nov 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ministry
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
Nov 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 03, 2011 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
Sydney Avey
Sep 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
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
Chris Hubbs
Oct 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-reads
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
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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

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26 likes · 14 comments
“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.” 1 likes
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