Walking inside Solomon's Porch in a south Minneapolis neighborhood, I receive a stack of freebies. On this sweltering summer Friday night, the people in attendance make good use of hand fans with shepherd Jesus on the front and the Web address for Wesley Theological Seminary on the back. A flier touts The Great Emergence, published by Baker Books and Emergent Village, in which Phyllis Tickle observes that massive church transitions come every 500 years, and that we are in one now. Before the event begins, a video screen promotes Zondervan's The Bible Experience audio Bible.
We are in for a show, a book tour disguised as an old-fashioned tent revival set in 1908. Only the marketing methods are modern: a form on each seat solicits e-mail addresses on behalf of major evangelical sponsors in return for a chance to win an iPod.
Solomon's Porch is the church of Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village and author of The New Christians. He lives in Edina, the nearby affluent suburb where he grew up. Sporting mutton-chop sideburns and dressed in period clothes, Jones leads the audience in the tour's theme song. "Jesus, Jesus, kingdom of God revealed," he sings while strumming the guitar. "Love is the way, we follow each day, and in him all is healed." Later in the show Jones puts down his guitar and rails against the church's Platonic captivity.
Church founder Doug Pagitt reads from his new book, A Christianity Worth Believing. He talks about growing up in Golden Valley, a working-class, first-ring suburb of Minneapolis. He experienced conversion while watching a Passion play in high school. Pagitt, who now lives in Edina, was drawn to the hero Jesus, who took on corrupt religious leaders. In true revival fashion, Pagitt ...1