I had the joy of meeting Dr. Jim Belcher some years ago when he pastored Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, California. I cultivated a growing relationship with Jim, and his family, and spoke several times to his congregation. I was loved and honored and thus retain great memories of those days where Jim and I shared ministry together. Jim eventually wrote a great book that many of you have read – Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional (InterVarsity, 2009). If you have not read this book it is a must for a balanced and deeply thoughtful treatment about our present moment and how to think and live missionally and intentionally. I was able to contribute a very small part of my life to serving Jim in the making of this fine book, a book which received two awards in 2010: The Christianity Today Book Award winner and the Golden Canon Leadership Book Award. Again, if you haven’t read it then I profoundly commend Deep Church to you.
Now Jim has written a second book, In Search of Deep Faith (InterVarsity, 2013). This book, which I had the pleasure of reading about six weeks ago, is equally fine. The problem is that it is much less likely to get the buzz of the first title. This is sad for a number of reasons but none more so than the skill with which my friend tells a deeply moving and human story that many of us can relate to in a deeply personal way. This book may not have the same appeal/draw as the first one but it is equally good, if not actually a better story and better written.
Grappling with his own questions, after deciding that he needed a time of deep recovery from years in the pastorate, Jim Belcher set out on a quest to see how the Christian faith could face the challenges of the modern world and need for answers that fit the cries of the human soul. He writes about what then happened to his family in this way:
After almost 20 years pastoring two congregations, raising four children and finishing my first book, I was tired and worn down—out of gas. I needed to make a change, to find a way to regain my passion for my calling. While I was exhausted, my wife and I were also worried about our four children and whether they were developing a strong enough faith to last a lifetime. Were they being more influenced by the culture around them—the media, materialism and friends—than by the story of Christianity and its reality in their lives?
Jim landed on a rather unique idea – make a pilgrimage. He says of this idea:
We left the comforts of Orange County, Ca and moved to Oxford, England. We didn’t have any definite plans but upon arriving we discovered that a pilgrimage has three components: to rediscover our roots, to understand that life is a journey and to know our ultimate destination. These three ideas became our inspiration, shaping the themes we pursued, revealing the heroes we studied, and steering us across time and place. And as the pilgrimage unfolded, day by day, month by month, what we learned and experienced over the year would startle us and surprise us and change us forever.
The point here is that this is a moving story which is the narrative of a personal journey that relates to dads, moms and children in a rare and profound way. I believe this book could certainly be used by many thoughtful parents but it will profit anyone who hungers to relate their faith to modern stress and deeply formed questions. In a most unusual way this book will push you to make sure that you do not fall into comfort zones that keep you and your family from deep faith.
I loved In Search of Deep Faith and encourage you to read it. I think you will love it. In fact, get both of Jim’s excellent books while you are at it.