A Quick Review of 'Liquid Church' by Pete Ward

This is a good book! Pete Ward gives a thoughtful and imaginative image of a flexible, missional, and relational identity for the church. Centralizing relationships, "fellowship," and encounter, Ward takes "congregation," church buildings, and worship services out of the center of church life and identity. Instead of identifying church with what happens in the four walls of the church building on Sunday morning, Ward identifies church with "informal relationships." As he writes in the introduction, "...the first move in imagining a liquid church is to take the informal fellowship, in which we experience Christ as we share with other Christians, and say this is church" (2). This seems to be the right move. Centralizing the person-to-person encounter over against the church program or worship service (and especially putting the latter in the service of the former instead of the other way around) is not only an appropriate contextual move, given the consumer culture of the US and the UK, but it is a throughly biblical and theological turn. Ward shows this by weaving together interpretive sociological examination of his context with normative theological claims. Ward attests to the missional shape of ecclesiology, orienting relationships towards participation in the mission of God.

This book, however, is not without its problems. It warrants all the appropriate cautions of missional theology and, most significantly, in its pragmatic applications, Liquid Church has perhaps too optimistic a view toward the culture at large, particularly consumer culture. Responding to the church's knee-jerk reaction against consumerism, I believe Ward is too quick to baptize consumerism and social media without giving significant attention to the pitfalls of these cultural phenomena. Although the pragmatic applications of Liquid Church raise questions, there is a critical apparatus built into Ward's normative move that allows us to accept the book's overall direction even with proper caution.

Again, this is a good book. Wonderfully practical and refreshingly theological.