Reinventing your church
By Brian McLaren
Recent years have seen a
flood of evangelical literature on the emergence of the postmodern era. Books on
Generation X, the pluralist society, postcritical theory have all served to heighten the
awareness that our societies have been going through some tremendous changes. Slowly we
are coming to understand that these changes might be more permanent then we originally
Most of these publications have expressed a large amount of concern. Some have rejected
the postmodern era as the last place we would want to go. Others have sought to
demonstrate the amount of ways in which postmodern thought falls short of the Kingdom of
God. A few have been moderately positive, seeking to bring a balance.
Among these books Reinventing the church comes as a refreshing
wind. First, McLaren demonstrates a clear understanding of what the postmodern era is all
about, the sense of insecurity it brings, and the challenges it creates for the church.
McLaren sees the future as full of opportunities - provided that
the church will rise to the challenge. To that end McLaren provides 12 strategies which he
believes will position churches so that they can be more effective in fulfilling its
McLaren is very clear about what he sees as the mission of the church, and he puts it very
succinctly: producing more Christians, and building better Christians.
McLarens strategies are reminiscent of many things. He
openly gives credit to what he has learned from Willow Creek, yet clearly this isnt
just a Willow Creek book. He combines insights from many different sources, becoming as
eclectic as the postmodern context around him. In it all he displays a desire for a
holistic understanding of reality, and he refuses to exalt one strategy as more crucial
than another. Neither does he limit himself to the strategies he describes, but instead
dedicates a brief thirteenth chapter to the reader pursuing additional strategies. They
key to effective church-ministry is that we constantly interact with our environment,
constantly honing our skills and increasing our understanding. As McLaren puts it: the
future belongs not to the learned, but to the learners.
The high point of the book for me comes when McLaren starts
discussing postmodern people in chapter 11 and 12. Up till then he has displayed an
understanding of the context in which we live without ever using the word
Postmodern. When he does talk about Postmodern people, however, McLaren
displays a great understanding, and a kindness towards them that is not so common on
evangelical literature so far.
I suppose it is always possible to say something negative about a
book. Perhaps that nature of reviewing is that one should. But I like this book so much
that I wont. This is a book I will want to keep and re-read every so often to keep
me on track. If there is anything I would like to see, it is a follow-up book to this one,
describing in more detail how some churches have reinvented themselves, and what new
strategies they have come up with.
- By Rogier Bos
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