In a thought-provoking new book, Ancient Future Disciples: Meeting Jesus in Mission-shaped Ministries, journalist and religion commentator Becky Garrison shifts the popular focus from the pioneers who founded emerging congregations to those finding appeal and belonging within them. What draws followers to these ’emerging church’ communities? Why are they coming back, or are they? How do they understand themselves to be “church” or do they?
“The movement has taken hold especially in Anglican Church circles, mostly because of its complementary ‘ancient-future’ focus.” said Garrison, “Anglicans are known for their passion for tradition (ancient) and for context (future). For this reason, you will often hear people in Episcopal settings talking about an “ancient-future” church or “mission-shaped” ministries.
“In researching US Episcopal communities that fall within this broad family of ministries, I had to ask: Could this Anglican emerging stream actually birth new forms of church that go beyond creating alternative worship services into producing transformative Christian communities? Do these communities nurture disciples and welcome people who might not otherwise be part of the body of Christ, or at least of an Episcopal community? How can the Episcopal Church connect with people living in this post-secular culture who would describe themselves as spiritual but not religious? How do church leaders create meaningful forms of Christian community that cross boundaries and connect people with Jesus in ways they never expected?
“What I’ve seen emerging is an Anglicanism that does indeed connect with seekers who have been burned by religion or alienated from more conventional church life. It is a fresh expression that communicates across cultural boundaries the church has generally shied from throughout much of its history.”
“The book is for clergy and lay leaders, seminarians and faculty, Diocesan leadership, youth and young adult ministers,” she added, “mostly because of its complementary ‘ancient-future’ focus.
The new book is a logical follow-up to the author’s popular and insightful Starting from Zero with $0: Building Mission-shaped Ministries on a Shoestring. In it, Becky Garrison tackles the question – “Are people actually becoming disciples of Jesus in the emergent Anglican communities of the US?” – by visiting and interviewing participants in emerging congregations across the country. In the process, she reveals wit and wisdom regarding evangelism, Christian formation, and discipleship that every congregation can use to flourish in this postmodern age.
Becky Garrison is a prolific commentator on contemporary religious life and missional forms of church. The author of “Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church” and “Jesus Died for This? A Satirist’s Search for the Risen Christ”, she is a panelist with Washington Post’s “On Faith” column and was a contributing editor for the The Wittenberg Door.