Stories of Emergence:
Moving From Absolute to Authentic

by Mike Yaconnelli, Editor, Zondervan, 2003.
Reviewed by Jack Heppner.

Each of the fifteen chapters in Stories of Emergence is written by a contemporary Christian in search of authentic Christian faith in the postmodern world. Every writer is keenly aware that the cultural and spiritual ground around us is shifting. Each also demonstrates an element of discontent with modern evangelicalism - a conviction that maintaining church patterns, practices and understandings honed in the modern era will render the church impotent and unfaithful in the future. Each story is unique. Some writers find answers in pre-modern spirituality. For them it is a kind of “back to the future” journey of discovery. Others push into new, unexplored territories that build on the past but propel us into an uncharted future. All of them are very much aware that being an adult, maturing Christian means being on a road of discovery, always emerging into places you have not been before.

Instead of finding a singular response to post-modernity, readers encounter a collage of experiences and visions that address issues arising from the cultural and spiritual landscape of the 21st century. Each story documents the twists and turns involved in emerging from a former worldview, belief structure or ministry model into a new world filled with hope for the future. All of these storytellers give readers full access into their doubts, fears, convictions, struggles and growing pains. None of them leave you with the impression that they have arrived. All are on a journey. And they invite readers to join them on their journey of emergence and, in a subtle way, to launch out on their own journeys as well.

Personally I found this to be a life-affirming and life-changing book. I found my own story of emergence blending well with many of the stories it contains. One such story was written by Tony Jones, entitled, “Toward a Missional Ministry.” In it he describes how he came to understand that the four main focal points in the church of the future must be pastoral care, theological reflection, contemplative prayer and intergenerational community. This he considers to be a major shift from the program-oriented, institutional vision often found in churches rooted in the modern era. Another moving story documents Jay Bakker’s discovery of grace in the aftermath of the disgrace suffered by his father, Jimmy Bakker. Again I found it filled with hope and speaking to the needs of the contemporary church.

All of the stories in this book illustrate well that the church of today finds itself at a crossroads on many fronts. And each story offers a beacon of light to help churches and individuals emerge on to the stage of the future both intact and relevant. It is a book all searching Christians should read.