Steve Taylor graciously said he is going to send me a copy of his book, The Out of Bounds Church? Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change but when I was in the local Manna bookshop today I saw it and couldn’t resist purchasing a copy (I tried, but the pull was too strong).
I had the wonderful privilege of using an editorial “pencil” on the early draft of the book as Steve wrote it. It was so life giving, sitting as I was in small town provincial New Zealand, to be a part (albeit it a small part) of the creative process of “birthing” a book. Steve laboured long and hard and now has what I think (and remember, I’m terribly biased) will be a very useful non-technical book (I emphasise the “non-technical” in this instance because having read Steve’s PhD thesis I can appreciate the difference, and the effort Steve has made to articulate in a more accessible way both his academic and his practical learning). In places it will sound familiar while in others it will provoke – it all depends on where you’re coming from when you read it.
This book is helpfully aimed at a more general readership looking for some sense of what is happening “out there” on “the edge of the ecclesiastical envelope.” He has some wonderfully memorable metaphors which help us understand something of what it might mean to be church on what Steve describes as the “fault lines of widespread cultural change.” It’s wonderful to see incorporated so many stories, insights, and experiences from people I would call good friends – there’s mention of Darren Rowse over there in Melbourne; Mark Pierson (who was then at Cityside in Auckland, but is now in Melbourne too); Maggi Dawn; fleeting mentions of The Vine and Branches church (in Kentucky), Vineyard Central (in Cincinnati); and Kathryn, my wonderful wife (who’s excitement at being quoted was priceless). There’s also a story of “keeping the home fires burning,” told at the Unconference I organised in my hometown, Cambridge in 2003.
And then there are others woven into the text whom I don’t know personally but value as co-travellers, commentators, and “funders” (in a resourcing sense) of my and many other’s journey’s – people like John and Olive Drane, Andrew “Tallskinny Kiwi” Jones, Gerard Kelly, Walter Brueggemann, Cathy Kirkpatrick, Robert Webber, Sally Morgenthaler, Stanley Grenz, Karen Ward, Douglas Coupland and Miroslav Volf. There are some great books on the “bedside table,” there’s some great places to surf in cyberspace, some great sounds on the CD, and some brilliant DVD’s playing on the DVD player.
It’s a very useful book. It’s a book I’d love to see widely read, engaged with and discussed in New Zealand church and de-churched communities. It’s a book of “postcards” that tell stories of God @ work in Sydney, Melbourne, Scotland, Cambridge (UK & NZ), the United States of America, parts of Europe, and the United Kingdom. It therefore has appeal and relevance throughout the Western world. It’s a USA published book but it gifts something of our New Zealand context (does that make it "exotic"?) to the world beyond our shores. It’s a book of “postcards” that capture something of the wonderfully creative, wonderfully experimental things that people are doing as part of being church and following Jesus in a world that is in “wild flux.”
Steve’s book “is for those who dream the dream of finding God in the desert of the [postmodern] real.”