Church In the Inventive Age Part 1

Back in August, I read Doug Pagitt’s latest book, Church in the Inventive Age. It’s excellent. And I have been waiting this long to post it for a few reasons. One is that I procrastinate, sometimes on good things. But the other reason is that I wanted to make sure that I posted it as the blog was moving in a “future church” direction and what better time for those in my local context than now as we move forward after celebrating our 50th Anniversary?

It’s true that I am biased towards appreciating Doug’s work (everyone is biased towards something you know). As one who spends a lot of time working on the problem of why our churches are shrinking, Pagitt is among the few that have insights and answers worth pursuing. Perhaps one of my greatest admirations of him is that he is truly not afraid to question. I think I can only say that about a handful of people. That said, this does not mean that every question he asks is a good one, but many of them are. So when Doug asks, What should the Church look like in the future, I’m interested in that conversation.

But before we jump to the present, Pagitt takes the reader on a quick crash-course on the last 200 hundred years of American Christianity. He divides the years into four ages: Idyllic, Industrial, Informational and presently, the Inventive Age. I don’t think that I have ever seen a better and more concise explanation of that material.  I plan on blogging about this a little more tomorrow.

I have some sense of my readership, I thought it may be helpful to cut to the chase and construct a bit of FAQ or FMS (Frequently Made Statements)

Who Should Read It?
Anyone interested in the future of the church, especially those who do not understand how we got to where we are. For those new to Pagitt or these conversations, this is the easiest book to begin with.

Isn’t Pagit one of those “emergent” guys?
One, praise God he is. Two, I’d really like you to sit down wiht me for some coffee so I can introduce you to a library of resources that would likely change your impression of what “emergent” is/isn’t. (Simplest explanation – It’s a conversation). And three, this book never mentions the term. To my traditional-type friends, consider this like you would a tract. It’s a brief and great overview of the recent history of the Western Evangelical Church, the direction our culture is headed and Doug gives some very broad strokes on how the church should respond. Unless you are against that sort of stuff …

“Because “The Gospel” never changes, can’t we just do the same types of things that we were doing 50-60 years ago? The Church was flourishing then …”
It’s true that Jesus is Lord – that will never change and no one is contesting that. However the proclamation of the Gospel is ever-changing. And while we can debate the success-failures of the last 50-60 years, i think we’ll see that the proclamation of the Gospel was faithful to that age. Thus, copy and pasting that proclamation to today’s world is not helpful. It’s like fixing a new Toyota Prius with the parts of a ’56 Bel Air.

You are really hyping this book, are you getting royalties from it?”

I think one of my pastoral, (if not Christian), duties is to lead people in a necessary direction. Among other Christian disciplines, I try to read a lot of books, I like a lot of them and I try to share the knowledge and hopefully the application of them. And like many, I see things like social networks, blogs, etc. as an extension of the ministry so as always, thanks for taking the time to read here and I hope you consider reading The Inventive Age.

“I Don’t Have Time to Read …”
You should change that. Reading is an essential habit for the growing Christian. Read the Scriptures and read this book, it’s an easy 2 hour read and it’s worth it. Order it here through Amazon or here at Augsburg Fortress for a discount on bulk orders.

By the way, Sparkhouse did a fantastic job on this book and I look forward to reading their  other titles. Not only is the book is aesthetically pleasing in its cover, easy readable text and  chapter display, it’s got a great physical feel to it (take that digital version!), and big quotes  in case you missed the good stuff – seriously they did a nice job.  Also, if you are a youth  pastor or involved in vbs, you should check out some of their curriculum here.


  1. You didn’t answer if you were getting royalties or not :) .

  2. Jim Peterhoff says:

    Hey Tim,

    Can you explain a little more on the comments about the proclamation of the Gospel? I know you well enough to know some of what you mean, however; I think some people may take that section to mean a Gospel proclamation isn’t important in today’s society.

    Thanks bro!

  3. @Glenn, I get 75% every time someone thinks about it. Yep, I have got crazy negotiations skills.

  4. @Jim, great question – to put it as simply as I can, The Gospel is the announcement in word and action that the Risen Jesus is the Lord of all and we are all invited to partake in experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven today for all of eternity.

    I realize there’s a lot to unpack even in that sentence but thought this was a solid start.

    Scot McKnight has a few excellent words in this post The 8 Marks of a Robust Gospel –

  5. I think we are transitioning into a new hocritisal epoch regarding spirituality. The new era is away from spiritual beliefs and practices which are imposed on the individual by the community, whether by default or by limited assent, and into an age where ones spirituality, to the extent experienced and expressed, originates from within, or at least is explored as a matter of personal choice and/or individual will. The period is transitional because many still accept the faith of their community by default, though even they willingly acknowledge that faith in today’s world is rightly a matter of choice.What marks the real pivotal change is the growing awareness that no matter what people say, genuine belief is not subject to external control. People will believe, or not, without regard to the externally imposed dictates which confront them, and also regardless of what they say, to appease either their own consciences or those around them who may have authority in their lives. In our age we are coming to accept the truth that genuine faith is no longer a matter of mere assent but instead has become a matter of a more wholistic embrace, “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

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