Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Liquid church

Take liquid church by Pete Ward. Road test it by asking 30 students from a wide variety of backgrounds, spiritualities and ethnic backgrounds to write a critical review. Hone this reflection by asking them to debate the moot; Liquid Church will drown the Church. In the process the book has to preform a number of road tests.

(Note that these comments are my reflections on the class interaction and feedback and are in no way a comment on any individual student’s work.)

Naming Test: Many students felt the book named

their cultural reality, the liquid, networked, consuming world that they were part of. Students felt it often named their experiences of church as declining and solid. Now while not all students felt their experiences of solid church were a bad thing, they found the book named their world.

Multi-cultural Test: Students from a variety of cultures applauded the book. Maori resonated with the relational potential of liquid church. Island cultures resonated with solid church as their experience of spirituality.

Gospel Test: This caused considerable debate. Some students felt Liquid Church allowed a deeper and richer understanding of the gospel. They had not found Christ in solid church and felt liquid church liberated them to a relational following of Jesus. Other students were uneasy, concerned at the ethical and economic implications of shopping as an approach to spirituality.

Mission Test: Like it or hate it, the book pushed mission firmly into the agenda. It is easy for a class on church and society to spend a lot of time in church discussion. Taking Liquid Church and mixing it with a visit to Borders and videos like Whale Rider, Bend it like Beckham, Romeo and Juliet, ensured that society in general remained at the centre of class debate.

Sacramental Test: The book failed on this count. “Can I have 6 takeaway communions please,” was one parody of Liquid Church. Liquid Church has little reflection on the place of baptism, communion, etc in the book. However, the metaphor “in Christ” seems to me to offer tremendous potential for an exploration of “Liquid Sacraments,” and the dynamism of fluid encounter with Christ amid wine, water and wafer.

Having road tested Liquid Church among 30 people in New Zealand, I would recommend this book for any course which seeks to explore mission in Western society. However the book needs to be explored in a critical context, to allow for sharp interaction, rather than as a recommended and safe text.

Posted by steve at 08:18 PM


  1. signposts has a thoughtful critique of Liquid Church over the last few days of January. My thought is that the ‘liquid’ concept is weak on ‘Holy, Catholic and Apostolic’, which probably sounds un-cool but is critically important nonetheless.

    Comment by maggi — February 11, 2004 @ 10:39 pm

  2. thanks maggi. Phil and I have been emailing back and forth re LC. You really should read one of the chapters of the book I am writing. I have a chapter on community, when I explore how one, holy, catholic and apostolic might work in the emerging/ent church. I’d love to say more, but my publishers have asked me to be a bit shy … te he.

    Comment by steve — February 11, 2004 @ 10:52 pm

  3. write, write, write, steve. I’m looking forward to it.

    Comment by maggi — February 12, 2004 @ 6:14 am

  4. I posted up a few more reflections yesterday actually on signposts. One even has a direct quote from you Steve (you made it into my essay!). I have a few more to post up and will do this week.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Comment by phil — February 12, 2004 @ 10:26 am

  5. Great to see some of the discussion from out of the course. I like the liquid metaphor too but also the solidity of the church has its place. Maybe it’s like water – it sloshes around a lot but when it’s put under pressure it doesn’t compress – maybe the ‘hydraulic church’?

    Also what might a “recommended and safe” text be in the context of this course?

    Comment by Stephen — February 12, 2004 @ 10:47 am

  6. how about plasma church?

    Comment by phil — February 12, 2004 @ 1:34 pm

  7. Bose-Einstein condensate church!

    Comment by Nate — February 13, 2004 @ 11:16 pm

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