"Liquid Church"

by Pete Ward

Reviewed by Jackie Alnor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first clue that Liquid Church presents an aberrant vision of church is its title. If something is liquid it is not solid. Solid is a term used theologically to refer to something that is sound. "Solid teaching" is truthful – the opposite is unsound. Pete Ward does not like absolutes, so his "liquid church" takes no solid stand on anything. The biggest heresy, according to Ward, is being certain about anything spiritually speaking, and what he calls "solid church" is dogmatic and must change in order to be relevant.

Ward, like many "Emerging Church" innovators, are voices springing up from within mainline denominations that suffered spiritual death long ago. One must keep that in mind in order to see where the author is coming from while reading Liquid Church. Ward’s bio on the back cover of his book identifies him with King’s College in London where he teaches theology and culture. An on-line bio says he worked for "Archbishop George Carey as his advisor for youth ministry." The now retired Archbishop was hailed by the Vatican for his "commitment to fostering and deepening Anglican-Catholic relations." Can anything relevant come from the state church of England with the Queen as its head and Prince Charles as its "defender of faiths"?

If the Anglican Church is what Ward knows to be "solid church" it is well worth reforming. But he does not lead it to the infallible Word of God – the Bible -- where it needs to go. The Church of England is so far off track from its inception and Ward only wants to take it even further off the rails. His biggest blunder is assuming all western churches are like the one he’s a part of. He says today’s church needs to get with the times in communicating with the world and that may be true in some churches. It’s a given that advances in communication technology changes the mode of communicating today, but the message of the gospel is timeless – it never changes.

The emerging Liquid Church is one that caters to the modern-day culture and is commodified to appeal to the unsaved masses. Ward wants to provide them with a religious experience to keep them coming back for more. He points to culture’s obsession with the supernatural and its proclivity to shop at the malls as his inspiration to re-package church services toward their desires.

Ward gives zero biblical inspiration for his vision. In fact, he uses only one scripture verse in the book and that isn’t applied to his vision. Instead, he bases his vision on his own imagination. He sums up his dream in the last chapter called "Inside the Liquid Church." He has some good ideas such as: leadership from example, living in community, forming networks. But this new church is only as good as the people associated with it. True believers would bear good fruit abiding by these three points – in fact, true bible-believers do this already. But a church filled with unconverted people who come to church for all the wrong self-centered reasons will wind up looking like a hag instead of the bride of Christ.

Ward put the bottom line this way: "Instead of opposing materialism and treating consumer choice as evil, we need to begin to embrace the sensibilities of consumption. This means that we must develop a church life that connects with what people want, and one vital ingredient will make this change possible. The church must change its emphasis from meeting people’s spiritual needs to stimulating their desires. Solid church is set up to convince people of their need of God and then deliver salvation in response to this need. Liquid church replaces need with desire." (Liquid Church, pg. 72)

Ward needs to keep his Liquid Church entertained since it will be filled with fickle consumers. In his dream he envisions his church services to include:

  • Medieval Labyrinths

  • Eucharistic Adoration

  • Icon Kissing

  • Chanting

  • Candles & Bells for Atmosphere

Ward says that these things will offer "a deep encounter with God." This seems to hold true to his Church of England tradition but is this progress? On the contrary, it looks like a reverting back to its Catholic/Pagan roots. The Liquid Church is an undoing of the Reformation – this road leads back to Rome.

Pete Ward
Weird Ward

[Reviewers note: I chose to review this book because I found it displayed in the bookstore of a Calvary Chapel. It is astounding to see the Emerging Church ideas leavening a Bible-believing fellowship of churches.]