Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No Perfect People Allowed

John Burke's first book is about the come-as-you-are culture at Gateway Community Church in Austin, TX, and it's one of the most practical and engaging books about loving the emerging postmodern generation in the name of Jesus. I first heard of Burke after reading Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches, a theological discussion from five leaders in the emerging church movement, including Burke. His thoughts on theology fascinated me, so I've been wanting to read this book for awhile.

No Perfect People Allowed is basically the story of Gateway, focusing mostly on its values and practices. Burke is offering his church as one example of creating a culture designed for meeting the needs of postmodern spiritual seekers. He addresses five issues that the postmodern generation struggles with, which are the five issues the come-as-you-are culture addresses. Burke is very clear about the motives of his emerging church.
This is the emerging church, not church for a post-Christian culture, where Christians huddle up behind the fortress walls and make forays outside into the messy culture, but a church molded out of a post-Christian people--an indigenous church, rising up out of the surrounding culture to form the Body of Christ.
Just reading the chapter titles is exciting: a culture of dialogue, authenticity, acceptance, healing, hope, tolerance, and truth. Those are the kind of words I hope come to mind when people interact with my church community. Or with me. I was especially impressed with the chapters on tolerance as Burke addresses difficult questions that most churches have no solid answer for: what does the church believe about other religions and homosexuals? There was a tone of grace and acceptance, a willingness to wrestle with tough issues, yet a deep desire to be rooted in truth and say hard things.

No Perfect People Allowed is thorough--another word for long--so it's taken me awhile to navigate through the book and really process each chapter. It's a very practical and humble guide to creating a loving church culture in a postmodern context.

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