New expressions of church that are proliferating among Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other non-Christian religious communities, including so-called insider movements, have raised intense discussion in missiological circles. In Seeking Church, Darren Duerksen and William Dyrness address these issues by exploring how all Christian movements have been and are engaged in a "reverse hermeneutic," where the gospel is read and interpreted through existing cultural and religious norms.
Duerksen and Dyrness draw on the growing social-scientific work on emergent theory—the concept that social communities arise over time in ways that reflect specific historical and cultural dynamics. This is a missiological process, they argue, in which God has always worked through people and their culture to shape his witness in the world. They illustrate emergent theory through historical and contemporary case studies and consider the church's contextualized nature by exploring biblical models of the church, worship practices as emergent, and ecclesial markers that identify emerging churches and their distinctive witness.
For missiologists, theologians, practitioners, and all who ponder the challenge and opportunities of mission among other religious communities, Seeking Church offers a multidisciplinary conceptual framework with which to understand the global diversity of the body of Christ. The Spirit is constantly drawing people toward God's community, causing new expressions of church to emerge and thus displaying new facets of his work and character.
"The twenty-first century global Christian fellowship is undergoing radical questioning of two theological loci: epistemology and ecclesiology. This book is about the second, the doctrine of the church. Authors Duerksen and Dyrness argue that the church is always emerging (never in final form) and in the end, like the Buddha's raft, will be eliminated when the kingdom of God reaches its fullness. They suggest that the answer to our quandary about what the church should be has more to do with eschatology than we have heretofore imagined. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in our religious future."
"How should we understand the many diverse, emergent expressions of church across the globe today? What is the relationship between these emergent expressions of church and the vision of God's kingdom? Writing from their own deep missional engagements in Asia and the conviction of their lifelong-missiological reflections, Darren T. Duerksen and William A. Dyrness make the case for a renewed vision, critical theology, and constructive practice of being church as an emergent phenomenon, empowered by the Spirit to witness the good news of Jesus in a world marked by pluralism and diversity. Duerksen and Dyrness also break new ground by offering a comprehensive, critical, and constructive theology of emergent church that truly embraces the diversity and plurality of ways a church can be a faithful witness to the coming of God's kingdom. Seeking Church is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the future of a decolonized Christianity, where indigenous and subaltern emergent communities of faith, as well as new voices concerned with transforming church structures, are challenging us to rethink church and seek to find it in new, emergent, and hybridized forms that are able to witness faithfully to the coming of God's kingdom."
"If we Christians seek a better fulfillment of church mission in the future, we do well to better understand the church's past. Seeking Church documents how the church changed its self-understanding in response to historically changing circumstances. As a sociologist, I found this sociologically informed theological reflection of great insight and value. I recommend this engagingly written book for both individual and group study."
"In decentering the 'church' from the mission of God and in inviting cultural, even religious, norms to inform our appropriation of the biblical texts—what the authors call 'reverse hermeneutics'—Drs. Duerksen and Dyrness, former missionaries both, follow the venerable tradition of missionaries bringing radical ideas to challenge the institutions back home. So much of 'received authorities,' especially our own, are products of cultural accretions and historical contingencies. We would recognize them for what they are if only we have the humility to hold up the thriving Christian communities around the world as mirror to see ourselves."
"The diversity of world Christianity forces us to reevaluate our more common hermeneutic of the church. These two authors have combined theological, missiological, and social science perspectives in a fresh analysis of both the church's history and those settings where the church is presently emerging within unreached populations. It will prove to be an invaluable resource for comprehending ecclesial dynamics where social, religious, and geopolitical barriers are prevalent. Seeking Church provides a timely hermeneutic that opens us to new and innovative ways of extending the kingdom of God."
1. Is the Church in Crisis?
2. The Church as an Emergent Phenomenon in History
3. Emergent Ecclesial Identity and Mission
4. The Church Emerging Among Other Religions: Case Studies
5. Biblical Metaphors for Church
6. Theological Practices of Church
7. Markers of the Transformative Church
8. The Future of the Church
Name and Subject Index