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The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World's Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian

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The Christian story, from Genesis until now, is fundamentally about people on the move—outgrowing old, broken religious systems and embracing new, more redemptive ways of life. It’s time to move again. Brian McLaren, a leading voice in contemporary religion, argues that— notwithstanding the dire headlines about the demise of faith and drop in church attendance—Christian fait The Christian story, from Genesis until now, is fundamentally about people on the move—outgrowing old, broken religious systems and embracing new, more redemptive ways of life. It’s time to move again. Brian McLaren, a leading voice in contemporary religion, argues that— notwithstanding the dire headlines about the demise of faith and drop in church attendance—Christian faith is not dying. Rather, it is embarking on a once-in-an-era spiritual shift. For millions, the journey has already begun. Drawing from his work as global activist, pastor, and public theologian, McLaren challenges readers to stop worrying, waiting, and indulging in nostalgia, and instead, to embrace the powerful new understandings that are reshaping the church. In The Great Spiritual Migration, he explores three profound shifts that define the change: ∙ Spiritually, growing numbers of Christians are moving away from defining themselves by lists of beliefs and toward a way of life defined by love ∙ Theologically, believers are increasingly rejecting the image of God as a violent Supreme Being and embracing the image of God as the renewing Spirit at work in our world for the common good ∙ Missionally, the faithful are identifying less with organized religion and more with organizing religion—spiritual activists dedicated to healing the planet, building peace, overcoming poverty and injustice, and collaborating with other faiths to ensure a better future for all of us With his trademark brilliance and compassion, McLaren invites readers to seize the moment and set out on the most significant spiritual pilgrimage of our time: to help Christianity become more Christian. (less)


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The Christian story, from Genesis until now, is fundamentally about people on the move—outgrowing old, broken religious systems and embracing new, more redemptive ways of life. It’s time to move again. Brian McLaren, a leading voice in contemporary religion, argues that— notwithstanding the dire headlines about the demise of faith and drop in church attendance—Christian fait The Christian story, from Genesis until now, is fundamentally about people on the move—outgrowing old, broken religious systems and embracing new, more redemptive ways of life. It’s time to move again. Brian McLaren, a leading voice in contemporary religion, argues that— notwithstanding the dire headlines about the demise of faith and drop in church attendance—Christian faith is not dying. Rather, it is embarking on a once-in-an-era spiritual shift. For millions, the journey has already begun. Drawing from his work as global activist, pastor, and public theologian, McLaren challenges readers to stop worrying, waiting, and indulging in nostalgia, and instead, to embrace the powerful new understandings that are reshaping the church. In The Great Spiritual Migration, he explores three profound shifts that define the change: ∙ Spiritually, growing numbers of Christians are moving away from defining themselves by lists of beliefs and toward a way of life defined by love ∙ Theologically, believers are increasingly rejecting the image of God as a violent Supreme Being and embracing the image of God as the renewing Spirit at work in our world for the common good ∙ Missionally, the faithful are identifying less with organized religion and more with organizing religion—spiritual activists dedicated to healing the planet, building peace, overcoming poverty and injustice, and collaborating with other faiths to ensure a better future for all of us With his trademark brilliance and compassion, McLaren invites readers to seize the moment and set out on the most significant spiritual pilgrimage of our time: to help Christianity become more Christian. (less)

30 review for The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World's Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian

  1. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book provides an articulation of a positive and progressive view of Christianity that calls for migration toward a way of life defined by love and away from being a religion about beliefs. This includes rejecting the image of God as a violent supreme Being and embracing the image of God as the renewing Spirit at work in our world for the common good. McLaren describes this as identifying less as organized religion and more as an “organizing” religion consisting of spiritual activists dedica This book provides an articulation of a positive and progressive view of Christianity that calls for migration toward a way of life defined by love and away from being a religion about beliefs. This includes rejecting the image of God as a violent supreme Being and embracing the image of God as the renewing Spirit at work in our world for the common good. McLaren describes this as identifying less as organized religion and more as an “organizing” religion consisting of spiritual activists dedicated to healing the planet, building peace, overcoming poverty and injustice, and collaborating with other faiths to ensure a better future for all. McLaren’s message will come as welcome relief to progressive Christians who are frustrated with the way right wing politics has highjacked the widely perceived meanings for the word “Christian” as well as the related adjective “evangelical.” Somehow conservative activists have caused these terms to become synonymous with “anti-poor, anti-environment, anti-gay, anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant, and anti-science (not to mention pro-torture, pro-inequality, pro-violence, pro-death penalty, and pro-war).” McLaren in this book encourages Christians "to rediscover their faith not as a problematic system of beliefs, but as a just and generous way of life, rooted in contemplation and expressed in compassion, that makes amends for its mistakes and is dedicated to beloved community for all”, migrating “from defining their faith as a system of beliefs to expressing it as a loving way of life.” So how does the author explains all those people who understand differently from him? His explanation is that they are at different Christian maturity levels. A person's understanding of God can vary from God 1.0 to 5.0. Unsurprisingly, the author is at 5.0, the other people with differing understandings are at the other levels. The various levels are roughly described as follows (my shorthand descriptions):God 1.0—God's role is to provide whatever you demand. God 2.0—God 1.0 plus wants you to be a good person. God 3.0—God 1.0 and 2.0 plus obey authority figures and rules. God 4.0—God 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 plus commit to service for others. God 5.0—A God of the inclusive we In order to elaborate further of God 5.0 McLaren provides the following statements by Jacqueline Lewis:We need God 5.0 to lead us away from the precipice of cataclysmic war. We need God 5.0 to save us from paralyzing polarization. We need God 5.0 to teach us to wisely revere and care for the earth upon which we all depend. We need God 5.0 because we now realize we have evolved together with all other forms of life on this tiny, fragile planet, which means that all creatures are our relatives, our relations. We are all part of one family tree, one web of life, and we need our understanding of God to embrace that reality.McLaren addresses the various approaches to the Bible with the following grid. Presumably "Integral/Literary" is the author's preferred approach. (I tend to be more "Critical/Literary".) In the second part of the book McLaren describes some the damage that conventional, unconverted understandings of God have caused and are causing. In the third part of the book he develops a fresh understanding of communities, institutions, and movements so Christians can migrate from organized religion to organizing religion (i.e. organizing for the common good).

  2. 4 out of 5

    MG

    I love Brian McLaren and have been greatly influenced by him--especially by the two NEW KIND OF books, CHRISTIANITY and CHRISTIAN. But his latest one disappointed me. First, I felt the main metaphor--a grand spiritual migration taking place--seemed more asserted than described in any detail, let alone proven. Also, he seemingly sees this emerging shift as between those who think Christianity should be about love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and justice and those who are mean and angry; these two I love Brian McLaren and have been greatly influenced by him--especially by the two NEW KIND OF books, CHRISTIANITY and CHRISTIAN. But his latest one disappointed me. First, I felt the main metaphor--a grand spiritual migration taking place--seemed more asserted than described in any detail, let alone proven. Also, he seemingly sees this emerging shift as between those who think Christianity should be about love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and justice and those who are mean and angry; these two groups also seem to break down cleanly between progressives and conservatives (also called fundamentalists). Being in the progressive camp myself, I still felt this breakdown was way too simplistic. Further, I really wanted to know which institutions and communities were giving reality to this emergence--because I would love to support them but have had a very difficult time locating any thriving examples (besides conferences where Brian speaks). Finally, one of the migrations is moving away from a conception of faith as obsessing over getting our beliefs right to focusing on incarnating the faith in community and caring (amen!) and then Brian spends the rest of the book obsessing over the beliefs of this new group. What? I read Brian to be challenged and to see the familiar in a wholly new light (one of his many gifts), but I have to say that I learned very little in this book despite being very sympathetic to its goals.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Randal Martin

    Liberating book. Some parts are challenging for a recovering Baptist like myself but that's the beauty of Progressive Christianity. It's less about having the correct beliefs than it is the fruit of your beliefs. While many churches get caught up in maintaining the old practices even in the face of new questions and challenges, Brian's book challenges you to allow questions to be asked. Re-look at the way you have just accepted some things about your faith in the past. Remember that Jesus starte Liberating book. Some parts are challenging for a recovering Baptist like myself but that's the beauty of Progressive Christianity. It's less about having the correct beliefs than it is the fruit of your beliefs. While many churches get caught up in maintaining the old practices even in the face of new questions and challenges, Brian's book challenges you to allow questions to be asked. Re-look at the way you have just accepted some things about your faith in the past. Remember that Jesus started this great migration away from being bound by the law; why have we as a church chosen to re-incarcerate ourselves insides those very same walls?

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Robertson

    Its difficult to describe in a few words how bad this book actually is! And I am astounded that anyone is taken in by its smug pseudo-spiritual waffle. Mclaren demonises those he disagrees with, sets himself up as some kind of guru leading a new movement (hence the need for follow up study guides and leaders guides), attacks the Bible he purports to believe in, demonstrates a spectacular ignorance of history and is illogical in his arguments. For example the fact that he argues against those who Its difficult to describe in a few words how bad this book actually is! And I am astounded that anyone is taken in by its smug pseudo-spiritual waffle. Mclaren demonises those he disagrees with, sets himself up as some kind of guru leading a new movement (hence the need for follow up study guides and leaders guides), attacks the Bible he purports to believe in, demonstrates a spectacular ignorance of history and is illogical in his arguments. For example the fact that he argues against those who have beliefs, on the basis of his own beliefs! Perhaps the greatest sin of all is that he is just so unoriginal - this is just 19th Century Liberal Protestantism re-incarnated into the language of American broad evangelicalism. Embarrassingly bad. I have written a much fuller review here -https://theweeflea.com/2017/09/06/the...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marty Solomon

    I find that I am often personally drawn to two kinds of nonfiction books. There is the practical, useful book that is full of readily practical insights, well packaged and delivered clearly. Then there is the poetic, romantic, idealistic writing that inspires my soul and fills me with hope and energy. McLaren has bridged the gap (again) with this book. This very, very timely read could be a monumental shift for so many people trying to navigate a Church/Christian (?) subculture that just doesn't I find that I am often personally drawn to two kinds of nonfiction books. There is the practical, useful book that is full of readily practical insights, well packaged and delivered clearly. Then there is the poetic, romantic, idealistic writing that inspires my soul and fills me with hope and energy. McLaren has bridged the gap (again) with this book. This very, very timely read could be a monumental shift for so many people trying to navigate a Church/Christian (?) subculture that just doesn't feel like home anymore. McLaren take us on a journey of describing what could be the next great spiritual migration. The book starts with a very profound and thorough reflection of what's wrong and what needs to be done; he does this with a generous and noncritical spirit that is so unexpected and refreshing. He moves on in the last half of the book to talk about what this looks like to actually do something about practically. And showing that it is A) totally daunting, but B) also quite possible. McLaren has always been an author that has shaped my life, ministry, and thinking with his contributions. The way that he has been able to keep growing, learning, listening, and staying on the front edge of culture is really something that I admire. His work here did not disappoint.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul C.

    Speaker and former pastor Brian McLaren has given us a book which will prove provocative to many Christians. In The Great Spiritual Migration (Convergent, 2016) McLaren utilizes superb communicative skills throughout all 205 pages (228 counting the three Appendixes), speaking into the dissatisfaction among “Catholics, Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Orthodox Christians…that there must be a better way to be Christian” (p. 3-4, Introduction). While I agree that such a dissatisfaction is ev Speaker and former pastor Brian McLaren has given us a book which will prove provocative to many Christians. In The Great Spiritual Migration (Convergent, 2016) McLaren utilizes superb communicative skills throughout all 205 pages (228 counting the three Appendixes), speaking into the dissatisfaction among “Catholics, Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Orthodox Christians…that there must be a better way to be Christian” (p. 3-4, Introduction). While I agree that such a dissatisfaction is evident and needs addressing, McLaren has some interesting “solutions.” Get rid of doctrine This is a sentiment throughout all of the book. Although I very much was intrigued by the opening pages of the book (I’ve never encountered a book by this author), it became very apparent that McLaren is not a fan of doctrine but actually seems nauseated by it). Doctrine, according to him, needs to be replaced by love, by inclusivity, by living like Jesus. McLaren is of course reacting to the serious problem in Christianity in which believers are more consumed and concerned with believing the right things than they are living the right way. But why cannot right living and right believing coexist? Are they really incompatible? The New Testament (NT) seems to hold both in balance. If some Christians highly stress doctrine and neglect right living, should we really throw the baby out with the bath water? Become a Relativist Besides flirting with universalism (p. 91-92), McLaren pushes for Christians to wander from what he perceives as close-mindedness and into the realm of anything is possible here as he hints often that there may be no absolute truth (see especially p. 211 where he equates an openness to absolutely anything with an openness to the Holy Spirit as well as makes more implicit here his stance that there is no absolute truth). I happen to be a big advocate for maintaining mystery in our relationship with God as it has nurtured my awe and wonder of him. I don’t, however, throw a staple of Christianity (=Scripture and doctrines extracted from it) out the window. An open mind is never a bad thing. But once you wander into relativism, it is not too speculative to say you’ll never return. McLaren shares stories of his personal faith journey and of how he has almost left the faith. In reading the book I honestly did wonder if he in fact hasn’t already left the faith and replaced it with relative ambiguity. Use your experience as the lens through which you read Scripture I’ve never used the phrase “a low view of Scripture.” It’s a phrase that many fundamentalists may use when they disagree with you. Nevertheless these words are what my brain came up with when writing this review. McLaren implies greatly that our culture (as well as our emotions and experience) act (or rather should act) as a lens through which we read Scripture rather than Scripture being a lens through which we view culture (and our experience). Spiritual Migration disregards the importance of the Bible left and right, a confusing thing to ponder since historically this book has been a great anchor of our faith. Throughout the book the idea is put forth of moving on from what we know (doctrinally) and moving into the unknown and mysterious. I am very much an advocate of maintaining mystery in the Christian faith; but I cannot enter the relative oblivion that McLaren holds on tightly throughout the pages in Spiritual Migration in which there may not really be any truth, only love. At the start of ch. 2 he uses an analogy of the changes made in science, stating that just as there new discovering which change how we view science, so we need to let our beliefs undergo change and evolve… To what end do Christians evolve? I’m all for being subversive, something that is sadly not always happening in the church’s interactions with culture because of the dichotomy between the “sacred” and the “secular.” But what McLaren calls for throughout his new release is not just an evolution which calls Christians to be subversive; but rather McLaren seems to call Christians to give up on Christianity (historical Christianity) and yet still call it ‘Christianity’! (This really is mind-boggling to me.) To give up on doctrine and just love people. McLaren will use Scripture at times to prove points but then will contradict himself by making statements which downplay Scripture and doctrine. He constantly pits love and doctrine against one another all the while quoting from the likes of Jesus and Paul. What McLaren needs to realize is that Jesus and Paul are both Jews and therefore doctrine is a given, as the Jews historically held very tightly to their “doctrines”; that there is one God, that the Law is from God, that it is a light to Israel’s feet, etc. Paul and Jesus are not products of America in the 70’s and the “make love not war” era; there were Jews (from Israel) from 2,000 years ago. One section, noting many terrible things done in the name of God (by apparent Christians) implies that because much in the past was terrible, we cannot trust the past exegesis of church history. Once again this is an example where the author throws the baby out with the bathwater. Many of the terrible things noted in his book (conquests, slavery, etc.) of course arose from different factors, one of them being a mistreatment and abuse of Scripture; a projecting of cultural norms onto Scripture to make Scripture align with our own twisted (or fallen) agenda. This happened in America when “Christians” used Scripture to justify slavery (=a cultural norm) and what McLaren does throughout Spiritual Migration to justify his modern agenda full of modern cultural norms (of inclusiveness, universalism, relativism). *(When I refer to “inclusiveness” I mean by it the support of gay marriage.) Ultimately McLaren’s new release scoffs at the idea that both love and values can be held in high and equal esteem, utterly rejecting such a notion. In closing, I am happy to have read this book as I have been interested in what Brian McLaren has to say (as I hear him quoted often among progressive Christians). This book does seem to indicate that he has given up on the church as we have known it for 2,000 years. That said, I am grateful to have a voice which stresses the importance of social action/justice and calls for us to reexamine not just what we believe but why we believe it. (I received my copy from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest assessment.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Laura Beard

    I read it on audio. Definitely good to get overview but would need to listen again or read it to really think deeper about some of the things brought up. It helped me feel like I’m not alone in some of the things I’ve wondered about/struggled with Christianity. I liked that it highlighted that churches are doing a lot of good things, but that there are things that can “migrate.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julianna

    Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Brian McLaren has been on my radar since he came to my attention as an occasional contributor to the Sojourners blog. I enjoyed what he had to say in those posts, and as a result, I’ve had more than one of his books on my TBR list for a while. Our church book club chose The Great Spiritual Migration, and even though it wasn’t one of his books that I’d had on my list the longest, I was very eager to read it. I found it interesting that both Rev. McLaren and I c Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Brian McLaren has been on my radar since he came to my attention as an occasional contributor to the Sojourners blog. I enjoyed what he had to say in those posts, and as a result, I’ve had more than one of his books on my TBR list for a while. Our church book club chose The Great Spiritual Migration, and even though it wasn’t one of his books that I’d had on my list the longest, I was very eager to read it. I found it interesting that both Rev. McLaren and I come from similar faith backgrounds. We were both raised in a more fundamentalist atmosphere, but later in life, have gravitated toward a more progressive view of Christianity. This is why I very much appreciated the chapter of the book titled “God 5.0,” in which he explains how each individual’s view of God changes dramatically from infancy into adulthood and it’s not until we reach the 5.0 version of God that we’ve truly climbed to the pinnacle of understanding. That’s where I’m trying to go right now, although it’s sometimes a steep trek to getting there. This also ties into Rev. McLaren’s discussion of how many Christians are seeking to define themselves through lives that are more about expressing love toward others, while leaving behind rigid lists of rules and regulations. I very much enjoyed the chapter on “Learning How to Love,” in which he talks about moving away from dehumanizing and scapegoating others and into humanizing them and seeing them as our brothers and sisters in the human race. If we take this tack, we’ll always want what’s best for others and focus more on the common good, rather than just on ourselves or our own little “tribe.” If churches put half as much effort into simply loving each other in a generous and selfless way as they seem to put into trying to get people to believe a certain way (which BTW is pretty pointless IMHO, considering how may different Christian denominations there are out there), then we could really change the world for the better. The chapter titled “The Genocide Card in Your Back Pocket” was particularly eye-opening. I knew that ever since it allied itself with empire during the reign of Constantine over the Roman Empire, the Christian faith has had a long sordid history of human rights abuses. But Rev. McLaren managed to enlighten me on a few new ones I wasn’t familiar with, and let me say, it’s truly stomach-churning stuff. In light of this, I can’t help but feel that my faith has a lot for which it needs to repent and atone. And I’m not just talking about the past. Many things are still going on today, such as Christian ties to white supremacy, Christian exceptionalism, Christian alliances with politics, and more that we really need to clean house on. In order to do so, we must first give up our view of God as a violent Supreme Being and embrace a new view of God as a sacrificially loving and renewing Spirit. Lastly I very much enjoyed the chapter on “The Bible in Labor,” which seeks to explain the different ways of reading the Bible. Some subscribe to an absolute literal interpretation, while others view it as a literary work that contains artistry and has deeper meanings to glean from its pages. Rev. McLaren shows that reading of this holy text can be done in more than a simple binary way, and in fact is a two axis system. I loved the little chart he provides in which literal vs. literary are on the horizontal axis, while innocent/critical/integral are on the vertical axis. It really helped me to understand these different way of interpreting Biblical texts and served to convince me that more people need to look much deeper than the surface. In doing so, we can come to an understanding that what we might see as tensions or contradictions between certain passages are really contractions or the equivalent of a woman being in labor. Many worry that rethinking their approach to Bible-reading may call into question whether Jesus still matters, but in reality, looking at it from this perspective can make Jesus even more beautiful by disarming both our understanding of the Bible and of God. Overall, The Great Spiritual Migration is an excellent book that challenges readers to open themselves to a more generous orthodoxy, which coincidentally is the title of one of Rev. McLaren’s other books. It invites persons of faith to rethink their old – and perhaps, in some cases, outdated – views of God to take a fresh look at theology. And since so many of the faithful are beginning to look for ways to ensure a better, more peaceful future for us all, it also dares us to move away from organized religion and into organizing religion to help others through collaboration. Basically it’s time to migrate and change just as the faith has done several times down throughout history, and I, for one, am ready for that journey.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert Irish

    For those who have been struggling to find their place in a church that seems increasingly irrelevant or to be masterfully missing the point, for those who are complacent in a church that is comfortable holding onto its conceptual beliefs while ignoring its issues, for those who have already rejected anything that smacks of church because it seems hate-filled and narrow-minded, for those who are upset that the KKK can claim they are "Christian" while spewing their hate-filled bile, this is a boo For those who have been struggling to find their place in a church that seems increasingly irrelevant or to be masterfully missing the point, for those who are complacent in a church that is comfortable holding onto its conceptual beliefs while ignoring its issues, for those who have already rejected anything that smacks of church because it seems hate-filled and narrow-minded, for those who are upset that the KKK can claim they are "Christian" while spewing their hate-filled bile, this is a book to read. I find McLaren's writing style quite frustrating, I confess. Too often he is dropping names of his friends or those who think like him. I find this distracting from the point. He is also somewhat self-indulgent in his personal narratives with dubious relevance to his point. However, in spite of these annoyances, I am giving this five stars because I think it is an essential read. McLaren is here taking on a huge task that pushes to the next step of his earlier projects in A Generous Orthodoxy and Everything Must Change. Here, he is talking about how the church needs to move or die. The goal is to re-claim a faith based in a more accurate view of God and the Biblical objective. Perhaps most useful was his paradigm of reading from literal to literary (one axis) and innocent to critical to integral (on the other axis). This is a helpful way of thinking about how one comes at reading, and how one might benefit from rethinking one's approach. He privileges the literary, but makes the basic point that we MUST move away from the innocent reading, whether literary or literal. He also establishes that the church needs to separate itself from the military industrial suicide machine and stand with the disenfranchised (including the environment). This is easier said than done, of course, but McLaren also talks about communities that are growing around exactly such a new message and way of being. He is not naive: he recognizes that things could get ugly as this proceeds. Both within the church and within the military-industrial complex, there is great resistance to a church that is more concerned with relational beliefs than with conceptual beliefs. McLaren does define both types of belief, and it forms a useful paradigm for thinking about what is essential as one interprets the Bible and as one approaches God and the concepts associated with God. As someone who has often struggled with "systematic" theology -- with its emphasis on the correct beliefs (conceptual beliefs) -- I found McLaren's casting of theology as needing to move from correct belief to living a deep and meaningful life grounded in God's Spirit inspiring and empowering as very refreshing and an essential corrective to the problems of the religious system as it currently exists and as it catechizes those enquiring into the meaning of faith. I know I will come back to this one, and would encourage others to read it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Schut

    This is a really challenging book to review. McLaren is advocating for much-needed change in the way that Christians approach their beliefs and their practices. In many ways, I would put McLaren in a similar place that I would put Rob Bell. I genuinely appreciate the concerns he expresses and the questions he raises, but I struggle to accept his answers. The value in this book is that it forces all Christians to think about their way of being Christian and whether or not they could be doing a be This is a really challenging book to review. McLaren is advocating for much-needed change in the way that Christians approach their beliefs and their practices. In many ways, I would put McLaren in a similar place that I would put Rob Bell. I genuinely appreciate the concerns he expresses and the questions he raises, but I struggle to accept his answers. The value in this book is that it forces all Christians to think about their way of being Christian and whether or not they could be doing a better job. It challenged me in this regard, and I am a better person for having read the book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy Juhnke

    I didn’t grow up conservative fundamentalist as the author did, and since I didn’t, the entire premise of the book didn’t make sense to me. His point was moving away from a set of rules and religion to a loving way of life; from a violent God who needs to be appeased to a loving concept of God. In my faith, I haven’t experienced or believed God to be a violent and angry God so the idea to throw out rules or any organized religion seems way too extreme and unnecessary.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Mackey

    A surprisingly good, profound and important read. The first book in years that my wife and I have read together AND enjoyed. This may sound overstated, but I wouldn't be surprised if we look back on this book in a decade as contributing to one of the most positive turning points in the history of the Christian Church, when it migrated from a religion of exclusivity, hyper-focus on "right belief" and consumption, to a movement of humility, gentleness, love, peace, compassion, generosity, continuo A surprisingly good, profound and important read. The first book in years that my wife and I have read together AND enjoyed. This may sound overstated, but I wouldn't be surprised if we look back on this book in a decade as contributing to one of the most positive turning points in the history of the Christian Church, when it migrated from a religion of exclusivity, hyper-focus on "right belief" and consumption, to a movement of humility, gentleness, love, peace, compassion, generosity, continuous learning and justice.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alyssa Foll

    I've been familiar with McLaren's work for a while now, but hadn't read a book of his. A friend of mine recommended "The Great Spiritual Migration" to me and I'm glad to have read it. I certainly have points of disagreement with this book, but overall, I think McLaren raises some really important questions about movements within Christianity vs. institutions (and he concludes that both are necessary). I'm looking forward to discussing this book in a small group in the near future and teasing out I've been familiar with McLaren's work for a while now, but hadn't read a book of his. A friend of mine recommended "The Great Spiritual Migration" to me and I'm glad to have read it. I certainly have points of disagreement with this book, but overall, I think McLaren raises some really important questions about movements within Christianity vs. institutions (and he concludes that both are necessary). I'm looking forward to discussing this book in a small group in the near future and teasing out more of the implications for a movement-based Christianity. 4.5 stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    My Sunday school class has read a few books by McLaren. McLaren believes that the Christian church needs to change in order to better reflect Christ's teachings. His ideas would probably seem radical (and unacceptable) to conservative Christians, many of whom are content with the status quo and have no desire to change. While I agree with many of the things he says, I think he is idealistic and overly optimistic. My Sunday school class has read a few books by McLaren. McLaren believes that the Christian church needs to change in order to better reflect Christ's teachings. His ideas would probably seem radical (and unacceptable) to conservative Christians, many of whom are content with the status quo and have no desire to change. While I agree with many of the things he says, I think he is idealistic and overly optimistic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Camille Olcese

    I've stopped calling myself an evangelical for political reasons. However, I have a high view of scripture. Therefore, this book seems theologically radical. Nevertheless, I couldn't find anything in it to disagree with. In fact, McClaren is starting a movement, and I'm in. I so want to discuss it with my friends. Please read it and let me know your thoughts. I've stopped calling myself an evangelical for political reasons. However, I have a high view of scripture. Therefore, this book seems theologically radical. Nevertheless, I couldn't find anything in it to disagree with. In fact, McClaren is starting a movement, and I'm in. I so want to discuss it with my friends. Please read it and let me know your thoughts.

  16. 5 out of 5

    peter

    In this book, Brian McLaren pulls together several areas of concern that I have been exploring over the past few years and presents a coherent, grace-filled, and hopeful vision of the future. Finding this book at this point in my own story has been a gift and an inspiration. I'm sure I'll be coming back to it frequently in the days ahead for insight and guidance. In this book, Brian McLaren pulls together several areas of concern that I have been exploring over the past few years and presents a coherent, grace-filled, and hopeful vision of the future. Finding this book at this point in my own story has been a gift and an inspiration. I'm sure I'll be coming back to it frequently in the days ahead for insight and guidance.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Marlies

    5/5 at the beginning, 3/5 toward the ending. This is a great book that the Christian community needs to take in and soak with. How did a religion based on love lose its way and how can it get back on track? McLaren has some great ideas.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    McLaren offers characteristically compelling stories alongside fresh models for interpreting faith. I especially enjoyed the reflections on the impact of "movements" on "institutions." McLaren offers characteristically compelling stories alongside fresh models for interpreting faith. I especially enjoyed the reflections on the impact of "movements" on "institutions."

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Smith

    A hopeful and enlightening read

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tim Olson

    An essential read for those trying to discern the future of faith, religion and spiritual life.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bythos

    When you propose scrapping 2000 plus years of Christian tradition, belief, and practice, you need to replace it with something more than what can easily be gleaned from: the evening news, social media, sitcoms, dramas, academia, popular music, cinema, publishing, old media, new media, the Academy Awards, The Grammys, The Tony Awards, graphic novels, etc. Simply adding one heaping cup of Jesus to the foregoing ingredients then stirring to combine thoroughly and placing in the oven for 25 minutes When you propose scrapping 2000 plus years of Christian tradition, belief, and practice, you need to replace it with something more than what can easily be gleaned from: the evening news, social media, sitcoms, dramas, academia, popular music, cinema, publishing, old media, new media, the Academy Awards, The Grammys, The Tony Awards, graphic novels, etc. Simply adding one heaping cup of Jesus to the foregoing ingredients then stirring to combine thoroughly and placing in the oven for 25 minutes won’t result in a Christianity cake. Realizing this might be a problem, the author devotes an entire paragraph to it on page 217: “One response...has been to throw barrels of conceptual beliefs overboard, like excess ballast or baggage that threatens to sink a ship in a storm. Taken to an extreme, this ejection of beliefs indeed saves the ship from sinking, only to leave it without any meaningful cargo and therefore reason to exist after the storm.” Which is exactly what he achieves with this book, though I feel certain that’s not what he intended. I went ahead and gave the book two stars because it is well written and accessible to just about anyone interested in Christianity (or anyone else for that matter). I also really liked the questions for thought and discussion placed at the end of each chapter.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I started reading this book and couldn’t help myself from highlighting all the amazing points made by the author. McLaren writes about how we should be making more strides to advance our faith in love and focus on adding to some of the pillars that currently exist in the Christian community. It makes you think deeper about the difference between faith and beliefs within the Christian community, also how we all need one another as members of the same body to progress on this spiritual migration. I started reading this book and couldn’t help myself from highlighting all the amazing points made by the author. McLaren writes about how we should be making more strides to advance our faith in love and focus on adding to some of the pillars that currently exist in the Christian community. It makes you think deeper about the difference between faith and beliefs within the Christian community, also how we all need one another as members of the same body to progress on this spiritual migration. One of my favorite quotes from the author was a reminder that love was not only the heart of who Jesus was but the heartbeat of His daily life. As Christians, we should be showing others love and grace each day, just like God gives to us.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Read this for my study group at church. Very enlightening. Love the perspective of focusing on the way we live as opposed to dividing ourselves by what we believe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    Progressive Christianity. You either love it or you hate it. Well, there’s a third option where you aren’t interested in Christianity, so it leaves you cold. For me, having identified as a Christian for over 50 years, it’s hard to remain neutral on the subject. I like reading McLaren’s books because they challenge me to think about what I believe (more coming on the subject of beliefs). I like his approach to Christianity, despite some alarm bells about “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” Progressive Christianity. You either love it or you hate it. Well, there’s a third option where you aren’t interested in Christianity, so it leaves you cold. For me, having identified as a Christian for over 50 years, it’s hard to remain neutral on the subject. I like reading McLaren’s books because they challenge me to think about what I believe (more coming on the subject of beliefs). I like his approach to Christianity, despite some alarm bells about “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” going off in my head as I read. These alarm bells are a legacy of my conservative evangelical upbringing. Not surprisingly, McLaren argues that I need to push past them and into a new experience of God and my faith. Lots of people don’t like McLaren’s books. You don’t have to search very hard to find reviews accusing him of heresy. Here’s the thing, though. Two hundred years ago, people used the Bible to justify slavery and oppress whole nations. One hundred years ago, people used the Bible to justify the oppression of women. Nowadays, most of us who call ourselves Christian would distance ourselves from these views - we have a different understanding of the Bible, one we would say is truer. Slavery is wrong. Male and female should be treated equally. What drove me to books like those McLaren writes is the simple view that if we have moved forward from past interpretations of the Bible, what gives us the right to think we now have it sorted? Surely we should learn exactly the opposite and recognise that it is most likely we still have things wrong. In one hundred years from now, it is likely that people will read books about us and say “Can you believe they thought that then?”. I suppose the prime example of this in the modern church is the LGBT community (I am speaking of my own experience of church - I know that in many parts of the world there are other issues that dominate). The question is where you draw the line. McLaren raises this question right at the start of the book when he says And what are the qualities of Christian faith that really matter, regardless of the packaging? McLaren’s opponents would say he does not include enough. Take, for example, the initial argument in the book. McLaren discusses the subject of belief. He contends that the church needs to change from being defined by belief to being defined by action. This is a very Biblical statement (e.g. Jesus said “by their fruits you shall know them”, and James wrote “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds”, an Old Testament prophet said God required “mercy not sacrifice”), but McLaren asks what it really means. If Christian faith can be redefined in this way, if our prime contribution to humanity can be shifted from teaching correct beliefs to practising the way of love as Jesus taught, then our whole understanding and experience of the church could be transformed. He then moves on to examine what might be required to take the church forward from being an institution with the Bible as its constitution (belief based) to being a movement with the Bible as its guidebook (action based). Of course, for many people, they are content with the church as an institution. For many, I should not have used the word “forward” in the first sentence of this paragraph. And if, like me, you have a 50+ year background of church as institution, some of the ideas are challenging. But this is what I enjoy about reading these books. Some of it might make me feel uncomfortable, but I would rather that happened, and I spent time thinking why I am uncomfortable, than that I ignore different viewpoints and potentially miss something. Maybe I will decide McLaren goes too far. Maybe I will decide I need to change some of my views. Maybe it will be a mixture of the two. The spiritual migration of the book’s title is the Christian church as a movement, it is the church less concerned with “organised religion” and more with “organising religion” - spiritual activists dedicated to healing the planet, building peace, overcoming poverty and injustice and collaborating with other faiths to ensure a better future for us all. This is a very interesting and challenging book. I know many people will disagree with it, but I found it thought provoking.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Brian McLaren joins others with evangelical Christian backgrounds (i.e., Jim Wallis, David Gushee) who remain in the Christian faith but have moved into what some are calling a “progressive” Christian movement. In McLaren’s case, he calls for Christians to focus on living out Jesus’ love rather than emphasizing correct beliefs. He states: “What I care about is whether they are teaching people to live a life of love, from the heart, for God, for all people (no exceptions), and for all creation.” Ho Brian McLaren joins others with evangelical Christian backgrounds (i.e., Jim Wallis, David Gushee) who remain in the Christian faith but have moved into what some are calling a “progressive” Christian movement. In McLaren’s case, he calls for Christians to focus on living out Jesus’ love rather than emphasizing correct beliefs. He states: “What I care about is whether they are teaching people to live a life of love, from the heart, for God, for all people (no exceptions), and for all creation.” However, it is not, he says about “pledging mushy allegiance to an undefined spirituality without religion.” He sees Christians continuing on a trajectory they have always followed: Many Christians used to defend slavery; now they do not. Some used to believe that the conquest of “pagan” lands and forced conversion of natives was God’s will. Few champion that path now. He calls for Christians to migrate to a higher level once again. McLaren strikes a middle path. Conservative Christians have rightly championed family relationships but also supported patriarchal domination. Liberal Christians have disowned patriarchy but failed to teach family skills. He calls for movements within our institutions rather than new institutions. McLaren’s emphasis on migration and growth rather than division is welcome, not only for new ideas sparked by his book but also for the book’s practicality.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steven Nordstrom

    There is a movement afoot, and Brian McLaren makes the reader want to be a fellow traveler. I'll definitely be rereading this one soon. At times idealism outpaces realism, but McLaren sets for a vision of what could be, and seems to even recommend some definitive steps towards making that vision a reality, and which seem to be worth giving a shot. The alternative doesn't look pretty--our worship of individualism, our acquiescence to economic, political, social, and religious systems that only en There is a movement afoot, and Brian McLaren makes the reader want to be a fellow traveler. I'll definitely be rereading this one soon. At times idealism outpaces realism, but McLaren sets for a vision of what could be, and seems to even recommend some definitive steps towards making that vision a reality, and which seem to be worth giving a shot. The alternative doesn't look pretty--our worship of individualism, our acquiescence to economic, political, social, and religious systems that only end up hurting us and the planet all are leading humanity toward self-annihilation, unless something changes in us. Ideologies and misinterpretations of philosophies and doctrines from ages past must be challenged and newer, healthier organizing principles need to emerge if we as a planet are going to survive the next hundred or so years.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    As I am legally blind I used two different technologies to help me read this book. Slow and difficult, but I manage. I enjoyed this book. It was informative and well written and explained. really how I've been feeling for a bit. As I am legally blind I used two different technologies to help me read this book. Slow and difficult, but I manage. I enjoyed this book. It was informative and well written and explained. really how I've been feeling for a bit.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Garber

    In his continuing series of personal reflections on his changing theological views, Brian McLaren focuses his description of changing Christianity in the 21st century using the metaphor of migration. In his preface, “Swallow-Tailed Kite,” McLaren begins his book with an outline of the migration of humans from Africa throughout the world, indicating his acceptance of the standard scientific anthropological model. He mentions his love for science fiction and his growing up in the fundamentalist Pl In his continuing series of personal reflections on his changing theological views, Brian McLaren focuses his description of changing Christianity in the 21st century using the metaphor of migration. In his preface, “Swallow-Tailed Kite,” McLaren begins his book with an outline of the migration of humans from Africa throughout the world, indicating his acceptance of the standard scientific anthropological model. He mentions his love for science fiction and his growing up in the fundamentalist Plymouth Brethren, and how evangelicalism (which many mainline and liberal Christians see as synonymous with fundamentalism) felt refreshingly free. But, as his writing and career show, McLaren did not stop at evangelicalism, but moved on a trajectory from seeing religion as based in belief to seeing it as a relationship with God. McLaren frames the book in the three days of Easter weekend: the Good Friday of realizing the death of old ways of belief; the Saturday of recognizing Christianity’s historic harm; and the Resurrection Sunday of religion as a social movement rather than a static institution. Chapter One begins with a slightly over-dramatic story of McLaren’s conversion from fundamentalism under a tree, a la Buddha or Jesus. He sees two competing traditions in Scripture: the prophetic/mystical/poetic and the priestly/scholarly. McLaren tries to say that we need both, but clearly he’s more in tune with the prophetic/poetic side. More substantive analysis follows in Chapter Two, which contrasts religion as static and religion as an ongoing method. Chapter Three proposes churches as “schools of love,” with an explicit curriculum on how to love yourself, your family, and your neighbors. Part II is the history of Christianity’s harm, including the Doctrine of Discovery, racism, undeveloped theologies of God, and literal/naïve readings of Scripture. Finally, Part III has a long (and sometimes overworked) conversation with movement theorist Greg Leffel, where McLaren traces the migration of the church between static institution and dynamic movement. (McLaren also spends a lot of time pumping his Convergence movement here, which seems more like distracting advertising than relevant to his argument. But it might help some folks get connected.) I have some quibbles with McLaren’s overgeneralizing of God as loving, healing, and reconciling all the way through Scripture – but these are norms that I share as an Anabaptist, so I’m down with it. I have a more serious problem with his generalizations about organized religion, but he does better with this in part III with the movement theory. In the end, McLaren summarizes his principles of interpreting Scripture this way: “Rather than satisfying a wrathful God, we could say, Jesus deconstructs the conventional concept of a Supreme Being who is capable of murder, genocide, or geocide. Through his life and teachings, in his compassionate interactions with individuals and groups, in his profound nonviolence even to the point of enduring a violent death, Jesus reveals a generous God, a God in profound solidarity with all creation, a God whose power is manifest in gentleness, kindness, and love.” That’s a God that will preach, and the God I believe in, worship, and teach. McLaren’s outline of the history of such a God migrating through history would be an excellent introduction for anyone on a theological migration of their own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    D

    Reads like a book by an author who wants to sell books. Salvation isn't a contractual relationship of filling in the right theological answers or behaving the correct way, but an ongoing covenantal relationship with our Creator. This understanding can move us away from religious systems as our pathway to God as we understand that union with God simply 'is.' Salvation is about your NOW life, not your afterlife. God's Kingdom is power under, not power over; invitation, not coercion. 10 Ideas: Welcome Reads like a book by an author who wants to sell books. Salvation isn't a contractual relationship of filling in the right theological answers or behaving the correct way, but an ongoing covenantal relationship with our Creator. This understanding can move us away from religious systems as our pathway to God as we understand that union with God simply 'is.' Salvation is about your NOW life, not your afterlife. God's Kingdom is power under, not power over; invitation, not coercion. 10 Ideas: Welcome: Welcome, everyone! Prayer: to grow in love, address obstacles like selfishness, greed, addiction, lust, pride, racism, nationalism, trauma, fear; seek patience, kindness, nonviolence, gentleness, humility, hospitality Confession: turn from unloving acts, and name our hurts, where others have wounded us so we can process our pain and respond in a way that doesn't give in to revenge or resentment Creeds with love in the spotlight: We love... Communion: celebrate the Eucharist as a family table, a love feast Sermons: address people struggling to love their neighbor, stranger, themselves, the earth, God Offering: teach about giving as an expression of love Songs: give praise and sing about love and justice Church Design: design church with symbols and quotations about love Holidays: emphasize love. Advent, prepare our hearts to receive God's love; Epiphany trains our eyes for expressions of compassion; Lent: examine ourselves for maturity in love and renewal to grow; Easter: revolutionary power of love Many forms of supremacy -- Christian, white, male, heterosexual, and human -- are deeply embedded not just in Christian history but also in Christian theology. We come to see a radical rejection of dominating supremacy in all its forms. Spiritual migration is difficult, start to finish, from the intrapersonal level to the interpersonal, institutional to cultural. It's difficult to doubt, deconstruct, or decenter the system of beliefs you've worked so hard to perfect. You can't learn to love people w/o being around people. You can't learn patience that love requires without experience delay and disappointment. We respond to trauma by saying: Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Richard Rohr says: Pain that isn't processed is passed on. Pain that isn't transformed is transmitted. Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Brian McLaren is a favorite author and although this isn't my favorite book of his (mostly because the issues he addresses are less relevant to my life), he is so full of wisdom that you can't help but find wonderful ideas. This book seems more personal about how he went from a conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian to someone who is helping to redefine Evangelical Christianity in the US today. He is open about harm the church has done in society and tries to refocus us on what Chri Brian McLaren is a favorite author and although this isn't my favorite book of his (mostly because the issues he addresses are less relevant to my life), he is so full of wisdom that you can't help but find wonderful ideas. This book seems more personal about how he went from a conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist Christian to someone who is helping to redefine Evangelical Christianity in the US today. He is open about harm the church has done in society and tries to refocus us on what Christianity is all about, rather than just a system of beliefs. One chapter is entitled "From a Violent God of Domination to a Nonviolent God of Liberation," which gives you a flavor of his themes. Here are some favorite quotes from the book: Of the many radical things said and done by Jesus, his unflinching emphasis on love was most radical of all. Love was the greatest commandment, he said. It was his new commandment, his prime directive—love for God, for self, for neighbor, for stranger, for alien, for outsider, for outcast, and even for enemy, as he himself modeled. The new commandment of love meant that neither beliefs nor words, neither taboos, systems, structures nor the labels that enshrined them mattered most. Love decentered everything else; love relativized everything else; love took priority over everything else—everything. Many of us suffer the shame of self-hatred or self-rejection, while others suffer from self-centered conceit or pride. Both inner maladies spread like an infection, and both can be healed when we learn to love ourselves for God’s sake. The primary concern for many of us Christians is our churches. We see how they’re wrinkling and shrinking, how they’re aging and experiencing numerical decline. We know how important church has been in our lives and we want to save our churches from going the way of the phone booth, cassette tape, or landline. But whenever I find myself in conversations about ‘saving the church,’ I can’t help but recall Jesus’s words: if you want to save your life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. Jesus’s words make me wonder: could our desire to save our precious religious institutions and traditions actually hasten their demise? Could it be that the Spirit of God is calling the church to stop trying to save itself, and instead to join God in saving the world? Could pouring out itself for the good of the world be the only way for the church to save its own soul?

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