Deep Church shifts over to USA

" . . . Deep Church is back with a vengeance. Get used to the term because you are going to hear much more of it." TallSkinnyKiwi, 2007

A few years ago the UK experienced a "Deep Church" wave. There were books, blogs, lecture series,  Now the USA is taking a look at this term that C.S. Lewis preferred for his book "Mere Christianity".

Hot off the press is Jim Belcher's book called Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional". I took a quick look this morning.

Initial responses:

– Jim Belcher seems like a lovely guy with a good mind and a big heart. I think we will be meeting up at Lausanne 3 next year in South Africa. Look forward to it.

– Jim has really caught the attention of the American church with this book and it seems to promote unity and understanding. Good.

-. I am a little uncomfortable with the idea that the emerging church emerged out of protest, which Don Carson also suggested in his book. For me, and thousands of others like me, it was a strategic move towards a more sustainable, effective, contextually appropriate way of creating new church structures for a new wave of Jesus followers in a way that jived with the Scriptures AND the denomination's [I was Baptist] framework at the same time. And not having any money to buy buildings or pay pastors salaries meant we just did what we could with what we had and what we could find (coffee shops, etc) . And the traditional denominations and organizations applauded what we were doing and were quick to support it. Of course we had to do a little reminding of what pioneer ministry looks like in our world as well as how it looked like for them when they first started.

– The distance between the traditional and the emerging is not as wide as most people think. Many denominations have a two track (traditional and emerging) strategy reflected in their budget and staffing. I would say most new church starts are actually "emerging" whether planted by traditional or emerging groups. Also, many of the emerging church's key leaders have either been brought on staff on older mission organization or denominations, or they have been deeply embedded all the time and there has not been a significant controversy over doctrine or methodology. The few mavericks get all the attention. Controversy sells.

– A really good review of the book is by Kevin DeYoung, who, despite being on the opposite side of me, comes out with pretty much the same conclusions.

– The Pryos liked it. Who would have thought?

-. The conversation on "deep church" and "deep ecclesiology" happened a few years ago in the UK, and was followed closely by Jason Clark . The key book was Remembering our Future: Explorations in Deep Church by Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton.

– The conversation in the UK pointed back to the Great Tradition, especially as outlined by DH Williams in his two excellent books: Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism; A Primer for Suspicious Protestants which I suggested in my review was a better and more edgy book that his later "Evangelicals and Tradition". Jim Belcher also points to the Great Tradition, and references DH Williams, and I hope his American audience takes note.

– There is plenty of good material online around the subject "deep ecclesiology". I taught on it many times, In fact, I think I coined the word in Europe in 2002. It was later was picked up by Brian McLaren and adopted by Emergent Village officially, and other groups more informally. I dont find Belcher referencing much of this previous conversation. But maybe he is a book person and not a blog person. All the same, Belcher points the church in a good direction and good things will no doubt come of it.

"A deep ecclesiology, from what I have seen, is still around the corner." Andrew Jones, The Ooze, 2002

– I have 200 books on the emerging church and really don't need more unless they significantly add to the conversation. But Jim Belcher's book does and deserves to be on the shelf. However, I am still not convinced that we need a third way. So I will keep on planting new churches as someone equally at home in the traditional and the emerging global mission scene.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Jason Clark says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive archaeology of ‘Deep Church’ Andrew.

  • Tsk says:

    And for your contribution to the subject Jason.

  • becky says:

    A journalist friend of mine Christine Scheller recommended this book and I requested a review copy. I see this as an yes/and scenario where hopefully we can be mature enough to embrace of the traditional and new forms of church.
    That’s why I am so skeptical of those who proclaim the mainline church DOA and proclaim that they’ve paving the way for the church of the 21st century. What inevitably ends up happening is the creation of a de facto institutional structure that has a Lord of the Flies type quality about it.

  • cas says:

    Thanks for putting this work in context Andrew. I found the chapter on philosophy particularly helpful. I’ve heard NT Wright and others speak on the postmodern context as it relates to emerging and talked with Dallas Willard about it. Belcher is the first person to give me a thorough, nuanced understanding of the topic.
    But I would imagine that for you this work would be pretty elementary.
    Hi Becky, What a surprise to see my name show up in your comment. I hope I haven’t steered you wrong here. And hi Jason! The first thing I thought of when I heard of this book was your blog. I’ll have to dig into your explorations.

  • brambonius says:

    you still have to write your book…

  • The blurbs that this book “avoids the clamor for extremes” (Scot McKnight) and is “the first to be truly gracious” and is great “for any who are tired of straw man arguments and polarizations” (Mark Oestreicher) make this a definite consideration for me.
    The fact that DeYoung found such blurbs to be troubling makes it a must-read. God forbid we be gracious.

  • I remember that in 07 when i was in London, was gonna go to a meet up and check it out, but YOU didn’t go….. so… i ate fish and chips with Mark and Han!
    I like the phrase “Deep Church”- much better than Shallow Obligation………. oops did i say that out loud……..
    praying for you guys
    xo cat

  • Anonymous says:

    It is great to see your perspective both from where you find your home on the globe (I am amazed at the range you and your family have on the road), and the years of commentary on the subject of the Church in an emerging postmodern culture.
    One of the reasons history is so bendable around the beginnings of times like these, is because there were no books, agreed upon terminology or approved organization to catalog these ideas/actions. Your blog(s) and will become more and more valuable as the years roll on.
    But… to be honest, I think we have lost something now that we are beginning to talk, debate or even reflect back on what has transpired. History (now that we have a decade or more behind us) can inform us, but I hope we spend a majority of our time creating, learning and discovering what it is to be the Church in the Way of Jesus now…
    I know I have enjoyed all of the wonderful times together and I look forward to the days ahead. I love to think about it as all of us moving forward together rather than talking in “them and us” terms. Labels have the potential to distract us – finding what unites us has the opportunity to guide us into what ever is next…

  • Tsk says:

    Well said. Thanks spence!

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