Right after I read The Great Emergence, I read The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call For Renewal by Charles R. Swindoll. The Church Awakening is written in answer to Phyllis Tickle (she is quoted once in the book) and other advocates of the "emergent" church by this prominent evangelical pastor and author.
Swindoll's book is aimed at both church members and pastors, and its purpose is to persuade them to stand against the tide of postmodernism and to engage the culture for Jesus Christ.
Readers like me, who are of a conservative, evangelical, reformed theological viewpoint will appreciate this book. Those who identify with progressive, postmodern, or emergent theological beliefs will either dismiss it or find it challenging.
Swindoll calls for a return to expository preaching from the Bible as the centerpiece of Christian worship and challenges the drift away from it. In other words, Swindoll believes sola scriptura is a fundamental truth.
In response to those who fear the Bible has become an idol, he replies " we do not worship the print on the page, the paper and ink lead us to a knowledge of the One whom we do worship--Jesus our Master and Savior." I loved this quote, too:
If you need direction in life, you don't need to look for Jesus' face in a burrito, or try to interpret the clouds in the sky for a sign from God, or rely on the advice of a professor with three Phd's. When you are not sure which direction to go, read your Bible. Seek the scriptures and pray to your God.
Swindoll's criticism of the emerging church movement is that it engages the culture in "conversation" instead of preaching transformation of the culture. He is also critical of creeping professionalism: " the people pay the pastors to do the work of ministry, while they sit and watch and offer critiques". As for the marketing of the church, "Jesus is not a brand", Swindoll declares, " Churches don't need to try so hard to be creative and cute that folks miss the truth."
Swindoll is not a hide-bound traditionalist. In the chapter Worship: A Commitment...Not a War, he encourages those who seek to dispense with self-serving traditions and defends good contemporary hymns and praise songs.
In the end, it comes down to the question of authority, as Tickle and Swindoll would both agree. Is authority found in the culture or scripture? Their answers are very different.
One of the oldest symbols of the early church was a sailboat. The sailboat represented the church of believers sailing upon the sea of this world under the guidance of the breath of the Holy Spirit that directed its path. As Swindoll observes, the danger to the ship is not sailing on the waters of the culture, but taking too much of that water on board.
GIVEAWAY!! A review copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher, FaithWords. I am also able to offer a copy to one of my readers. So if you are interested, please leave a comment to this post. The winner will be chosen by a random drawing one week from today! Include your email address (spell it all out so you don't get spammers) and I will contact the winner to make arrangements.