The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time by Tom Sine
Author: Tom Sine
Publisher: Paternoster Press
Book Review by Rob Hay, co-editor of Encounters and Director of Research and Partnership Development, Redcliffe College.
For everyone who has tried to get his or her mind around what “emerging church” is, this book will help. It won’t give you all the answers, it won’t give you a robust theological survey and it is not by any means exhaustive, but it does not claim to be any of those things. Instead it sets out to “show the Spirit of God working largely through the vision, creativity and initiative of a new generation”. Sine is well placed for this task. His book The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, published in 1981, was one of the catalysts for the Boomer generation doing the same thing. Whilst recognising the impact those initiatives had he acknowledges that the world has changed dramatically in that period and therefore new initiatives are needed to respond to that new world!
Here, in his inimitable way, Sine manages to give the reader glimpses of what is happening in the various emerging church streams, which he describes as emerging, missional, mosaic and monastic (although he cautions that the groups he categorises in this fashion are not necessarily happy with his labels!). He then unpacks some of the changes in the world and the challenges that they offer to us as church and as individual Christians. He approaches this large task with what he calls five conversations (in reality sections each with several chapters):
Taking the New Conspirators Seriously
This chapter introduces various individuals and initiatives from around the world, with a significant focus on UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US. This is exciting and revealing but leaves you feeling you have dipped your toe in an ocean and three months at sea might give you some clue as to what is really out there.
Taking the Culture Seriously
This section is on globalisation, as are the following two. This first one looks at globalisation as the context of our life today and specifically looks at the obvious challenges of terrorism, diversity and identity before moving on to the more subtle challenge of consumerism and asks how to avoid conformity and offer a constructive critique.
Taking the Future of God Seriously
Here Sine sets out an alternative way forward, a vision of the kingdom as something that each and every one of us who own the name Christian should engage in building; a globalised kingdom and not just a globalised world.
Taking Turbulent Times Seriously
He tells us to expect crises and disasters and challenges us, the global church, to be proactively planning and preparing for such events. He warns too that whereas traditionally it was the developing world and the poor who were most affected by such events, with globalisation this will begin to affect the middle class and indeed the rich too. Much of these sections are very USA orientated (despite this being a UK-market edition) but there are fascinating challenges set out for the future of mission and mission funding in particular that are equally if not more urgently true for the UK.
Taking Our Imaginations Seriously
In this final section Sine does what he does best – convinces you that these are not insurmountable issues, or things too big to be challenged. He goes back to the emerging church scene and finds examples of how Christians are doing what he has just been saying needs doing. In chapters entitled Reimagining… whole-life stewardship, whole-life community, and whole-life mission, he is impassioned, exciting and inspiring as he challenges the reader to do something really, really small!
For those of us who read The Mustard Seed Conspiracy ten years after it came out and felt the things it said were great but out of date, this is another opportunity, another challenge to do something. But it is also a heart-warming, eye-opening peek at what God is about in our world today.
Buy The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time from
St Andrew’s Bookshop.
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