Back in 2005 I was spending a lot of time reading authors like Len Sweet and Rex Miller, trying to understand the changes I was seeing in the spiritual lives of both those I met in parishes and those I met in classrooms. I began to get a sense of postmodernism, the need for experiential worship and learning in congregations, and the ways in which the internet and other technologies of connectivity were changing our lives. But there still seemed to be something missing in the picture. Why were the changes in the 21st century so jarring compared to the major changes 100 or 200 years ago?
In the spring of 2007, I took a course on apocalypticism. I had a hard time getting a handle on the course, although we talked a lot about cataclysmic changes that occurred in history, focusing on world history, European history, and American history. I wasn’t exactly sure how it all added up, but most of the assigned books were enjoyable and the research paper for the course—looking at what the lynchpin events that shaped the congregation I was serving—was interesting to do.
In the time since I’d pieced together a blueprint for how the material I learned while doing my D.Min. and other research and experiences dealing with change were beginning to fit together. And then, last week, I ran across Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. What a book! How I wish it had been written and someone had given it to me back in 2005. It explains it all- the change (religious and secular) we’re undergoing in North America, the causes for it, how postmodernity fits in with what came before, and the way this “rummage sale” that we’re part of is similar to earlier transitions Christianity has undergone.
I’ve already been in touch with two of my professors at Drew to say “Assign it” and with my presbytery’s Vision MInistries to say “We have to read and talk about this.” But the book should be much more widely read than that. It needs to be discussed by not only clergy and scholars but by the average person (and not only the average religious person). It’s got important information for scientists and writers, business people and artists of all kinds. If I were choosing one non-fiction book that would be a ‘must read’ for 2009, The Great Emergence would be it.
Here’s Phyllis Tickle, explaining just a bit of what the book is about:
Watch it and then READ THE BOOK!!!