For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Jim Belcher.
Today we chat with Jim about shallow faith, heroes, and pilgrimages.
Your last book, Deep Church, attempted a "third way" between evangelical emergents and traditionalists. What has changed in that conversation since it's publication?
As a movement, I think, the emerging church has splintered and lost most of its momentum. But the questions they raised and the protests they lodged have not gone away. For a number of years they put their finger on what was wrong in the evangelical church—individualism, weak ecclesiology, and in-grown churches. These questions often became a catalyst for change in the evangelical church, at least in certain sections of the church. For example, there is now a growing awareness that the church has to rediscover the gospel that is more than eternal fire insurance and that God is a God of mission, who has called us to be a people of mission and that the whole world is a realm of this mission, as Chris Wright says so well in The Mission of God. Also, there has been a renewed emphasis on ecclesiology, liturgy, and the Great Tradition, helping the church develop a more robust ecclesiology and worship. These are good things and the emerging church and the questions they asked helped prompt some of this change. I am grateful that in a small way Deep Church has been part of this dialogue and change in the church.
How did that conversation inform, In Search of Deep Faith?
Deep Church always had a double meaning for me. First it was coined by C.S. Lewis to mean a church committed to mere Christianity. But I also liked the title because it was challenging the church to move beyond a shallow faith, which so often characterizes the American church. We took our children to Europe, in part, because we were worried that they would be infected by this shallowness, what Christian Smith calls "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism," and we wanted to help them develop an "articulate faith" (a phrase coined by Kenda Creasy Dean). By studying the writings and significant places of a dozen heroes of the faith—people like C.S. Lewis, William Wilberforce, Corrie ten boom, and Maria von Trapp, we hoped our family would develop a deeper faith. As the reader takes this journey through history and geography with us, we hope they will be inspired to take a similar pilgrimage of faith right were they live—into the beauty, goodness, and heart of Christianity. Our hope is that the book leads more Christians to understand their faith, know their calling, and live heroically missional lives.
You left your ministry and traveled across England and Europe. Did this trip have the kind of spiritual impact on you and your family that you anticipated?
The pilgrimage had a profound impact on my family and me. When I started the trip I was wiped out—my desire for the kingdom was at a low ebb in my life. I had logged 15 years of church leadership without a break and I was out of gas. But by immersing myself in the lives and adventures of these heroes I got my passion back—I came to a deeper understanding of my calling and I was energized to pursue it. Although my kids are still young and our discipleship of them is not over, the pilgrimage laid a tremendous foundation. They got a taste of how deep, how beautiful, and how good Christianity is in this life. They will never be the same again. That is our hope for our readers and for the churches that study this book together.