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Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil: Theology and Practice

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National headlines regularly herald the decline of Christianity in the United States, citing historically low levels of confidence in organized religion, drops in church attendance, church closures, and the dramatic rise of the "Nones." Scarcely heard are stories from the thousands of new churches and new forms of church that are springing up each year across the country. I National headlines regularly herald the decline of Christianity in the United States, citing historically low levels of confidence in organized religion, drops in church attendance, church closures, and the dramatic rise of the "Nones." Scarcely heard are stories from the thousands of new churches and new forms of church that are springing up each year across the country. In this book, Christopher James attends carefully to stories of ecclesial innovation taking place in Seattle, Washington-a city on the leading edge of trends shaping the nation as a whole. James's study of the new churches founded in this "post-Christian" city offers both theological reflection and pragmatic advice. After an in-depth survey- and -interview-based analysis of the different models of church-planting he encountered, James identifies five threads of practical wisdom: 1) embracing local identity and mission, 2) cultivating embodied, experiential, everyday spirituality, 3) engaging community life as means of witness and formation, 4) prioritizing hospitality as a cornerstone practice, and 5) discovering ecclesial vitality in a diverse ecclesial ecology. Stimulating, encouraging, and stereotype-shattering, this book invites readers to reconsider the narrative that portrays these first decades of the twenty-first century as a period of ecclesial death and decline, and to view our time instead as a hope-filled season of ecclesial renewal and rebirth.


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National headlines regularly herald the decline of Christianity in the United States, citing historically low levels of confidence in organized religion, drops in church attendance, church closures, and the dramatic rise of the "Nones." Scarcely heard are stories from the thousands of new churches and new forms of church that are springing up each year across the country. I National headlines regularly herald the decline of Christianity in the United States, citing historically low levels of confidence in organized religion, drops in church attendance, church closures, and the dramatic rise of the "Nones." Scarcely heard are stories from the thousands of new churches and new forms of church that are springing up each year across the country. In this book, Christopher James attends carefully to stories of ecclesial innovation taking place in Seattle, Washington-a city on the leading edge of trends shaping the nation as a whole. James's study of the new churches founded in this "post-Christian" city offers both theological reflection and pragmatic advice. After an in-depth survey- and -interview-based analysis of the different models of church-planting he encountered, James identifies five threads of practical wisdom: 1) embracing local identity and mission, 2) cultivating embodied, experiential, everyday spirituality, 3) engaging community life as means of witness and formation, 4) prioritizing hospitality as a cornerstone practice, and 5) discovering ecclesial vitality in a diverse ecclesial ecology. Stimulating, encouraging, and stereotype-shattering, this book invites readers to reconsider the narrative that portrays these first decades of the twenty-first century as a period of ecclesial death and decline, and to view our time instead as a hope-filled season of ecclesial renewal and rebirth.

45 review for Church Planting in Post-Christian Soil: Theology and Practice

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brent Johnson

    Christopher James grew up in Seattle. He calls it the None Zone, and the paradigm of US Cities in the future. They will be post-christian and the churches there will look different than they used to. He conducted a study using sociology and theology as primary tools. He looked at churches started between 2000 and 2014. He found four major models of churches, and clearly likes one of them, the Neighborhood Incarnation model. James is arguing that Christianity is not dying in America, it is changin Christopher James grew up in Seattle. He calls it the None Zone, and the paradigm of US Cities in the future. They will be post-christian and the churches there will look different than they used to. He conducted a study using sociology and theology as primary tools. He looked at churches started between 2000 and 2014. He found four major models of churches, and clearly likes one of them, the Neighborhood Incarnation model. James is arguing that Christianity is not dying in America, it is changing, and churches that ignore this will suffer by becoming irrelevant within a generation in most major urban areas. I took my time studying this book. It is written or academics, and since I am not one I had to slow down and reflect a lot on what was being said. James states what he wants to say, says it, and then sums up what he said. Not a real page turner, but every section has amazing insights on church life in Seattle and is valuable for anyone who wants to move the the Puget Sound and start a congregation. Church as habitat and ecosystem is his insight.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I think this is a good book, but it bummed me out for a few reasons. Primarily, each the four models of new churches that James describes sound unappealing to me. James does a great job of combining qualitative and quantitative methods to build up these models, and it seems like they are probably accurate reflections of reality on the ground in Seattle. But I wouldn't want to join any of those congregations. That is not a criticism of the book, but I think there are some problems with it. James, I think this is a good book, but it bummed me out for a few reasons. Primarily, each the four models of new churches that James describes sound unappealing to me. James does a great job of combining qualitative and quantitative methods to build up these models, and it seems like they are probably accurate reflections of reality on the ground in Seattle. But I wouldn't want to join any of those congregations. That is not a criticism of the book, but I think there are some problems with it. James, and especially the promotional material around the book, bill it as a model for Christian revival. Spiritually, I think that might be true. But the model James favors for the future direction of the church doesn't seem like one that will lead to quantiative or material revival. He talks about trusting the spirit to do the work and rejecting any coercive methods. That's theologically awesome, but ignores the fact that everyone who is a Christian today is so because of coercion. Absent that, there's no way to get back the numbers that existed before, which is not something it seems James appreciates. Finally, while I really liked the way James considers each church model theologically as well as practically, I was disappointed that he did so only using the "missional" lens. He bends over backwards to accomodate diversity in so many other areas (he's far too soft on the misogyny that lies behind not allowing women to hold leadership positions, for example) that it was a little jarring to see him say, essentially, that this is the way to evaluate churches. This book was my introduction to missional theology, but it seems far too sanguine about it's ability to purge missionary work of the inherent element of superiority and colonialism to merit such an exalted theological status.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bryan

    I now have another new book that I will request that every planter to read if they want to be a church planter. This not only breaks down models of church planting but also cautions church planters to be careful to not look at people as numbers, but as people. Don’t look as cities as something to conquer, but to love, to join in the work, to sacrifice for. It helps to give a realistic view of what a plant might look like in the more urban post-Christian world and helps to set expectations that a I now have another new book that I will request that every planter to read if they want to be a church planter. This not only breaks down models of church planting but also cautions church planters to be careful to not look at people as numbers, but as people. Don’t look as cities as something to conquer, but to love, to join in the work, to sacrifice for. It helps to give a realistic view of what a plant might look like in the more urban post-Christian world and helps to set expectations that are truer to more and more urban areas as it becomes harder and harder to plant churches in the west.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie Davis

  5. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sparks

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jacey Johnson

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brian Remsch

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  9. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Carpenter

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Philip

  11. 5 out of 5

    Evan Mackey

  12. 4 out of 5

    Isaiah Hobus

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joel Childers

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kris Stache

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  16. 5 out of 5

    James Boyce

  17. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Jarchow

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Clark

  19. 5 out of 5

    John

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris James

  21. 4 out of 5

    JoAnn Bastien

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  23. 4 out of 5

    Justin

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen Wilk

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sherri

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bo

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Monson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Miles

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Klinefelter

  30. 4 out of 5

    Columbia Bible College

  31. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Van Sickle

  32. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  33. 5 out of 5

    Seth Westhoff

  34. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea Constant

  35. 5 out of 5

    Mike Weston

  36. 4 out of 5

    Holly Wood

  37. 4 out of 5

    David Heater

  38. 5 out of 5

    Katie Wingard

  39. 4 out of 5

    Craig

  40. 4 out of 5

    Jared Stacy

  41. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Poole

  42. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  43. 5 out of 5

    Zachary Adams

  44. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Schutte

  45. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Robledo

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