The Emerging Church: a Model for Change and a Map for Renewal

Bruce Sanguin, Wood Lake, 2008

Reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

        For Sanguin, the emerging church refers to congregations that are looking out at the horizon for the futures that desire to be born through them (rather than at the past as basis for the present (p 63): congregations making a shift from a redemption-centred evolutionary Christian theology.  This ‘creative emergence’ is defined by three core dynamics:  novelty, self organization, transcendence and inclusion.  We recognize that in Jesus G-d was doing a new thing, especially a radically inclusive development, a ‘radical hospitality’ (p 57).

        He stresses the call of discipleship over the preoccupation with membership (p 58).  In the church’s attempt to see where it is moving to, there is a need to recognize the non-negotiables:  the gospel, the whole bible, the open table, the striving for mission and justice—to get the church into the world (p 60).

        Sanguin identifies four aspects of leadership, based not on technique but on personhood:  self definition, emotional intelligence, the shadow side, and Friedmann’s non-anxious presence (pp 119-128).  Insightful is his articulation of spiritual leadership capacities: stillness, theological reflection, confession and creativity.  He points to the difference between ‘good ideas’ and ‘governing ideas’ (p 65)—he utilizes the Carver governance paradigm, and has a useful analysis of the familiarization of Jesus’ mission statements for congregations:  the kingdom of g-d.  Entering G-d’s kingdom means we exit Caesar’s kingdom; Jesus built a new reality, not simply deconstructing an old one (p 67).

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.