While some of you may have heard of it already, perhaps most of you haven’t previously heard about the Blue Ocean Network. A few of you may have seen my friend Bill Tammeus’s recent “Faith Matters” blog article titled “Diving into ‘Blue Ocean Faith’,” but allow me to tell you more about it.
LEARNING ABOUT BLUE OCEAN FAITH
Last year on April 10 I made this entry in my diary/journal: “Interesting Sunday School class with a video of a talk by Rachel Murr. Learned about the Blue Ocean church movement for the first time.” Ms. Murr is a member of Blue Ocean Faith Ann Arbor, a church in Michigan. Her partner, Emily Swan, is co-pastor of that church.
This month I have read the new book titled Blue Ocean Faith. It is a compelling work written by Dave Schmelzer, a former atheist who in 1998 became the founding pastor of Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Cambridge, which grew into a large church—and eventually changed its name to Reservoir Church.
That church, near Harvard University, formed the Blue Ocean Network. In 2013 Reservoir Church left the Association of Vineyard Churches—and Schmelzer (b. 1962) and his wife Grace, who is his co-pastor, left to start a Blue Ocean church in Los Angeles.
The website of the latter says their church seeks to be alive in God, diverse, inclusive, politically nuanced, and attractive & comprehensible (to non-churchgoing people.) Good stuff.
The name of this new movement seems to have come from the book Blue Ocean Strategy (2005), which is about economics not about religion. But that book, as well as Schmelzer’s movement, is about connection rather than competition (which causes a “red," as in bloody, ocean), and about dynamic movement rather than boundaries. (More about the latter shortly.)
DISTINCTIVES OF BLUE OCEAN FAITH
There are eight chapters in Schmelzer’s book, and chapters two through seven set forth the six distinctives of Blue Ocean Faith. They are:
1) Our primary framework is SOLUS JESUS.
2) Our primary metaphor is CENTERED-SET.
3) Our approach to spiritual development is CHILDLIKE FAITH.
4) Our approach to controversial issues is THIRD WAY.
5) Our approach to other churches is ECUMENICAL.
6) Our approach to secular culture is JOYFUL ENGAGEMENT.
All six of these deserve careful consideration, but it was the second of these that I found most instructive, so let’s look at it a bit more.
UNBOUNDED BLUE OCEAN FAITH
Schmelzer contrasts “bounded set” mentality with “centered set” mentality. The former draws a circle that separates those who are “in” from those who are “out.” The latter emphasizes a center but no boundaries. Rather, there is constant dynamic movement toward or away from the center.
This illustration shows those contrasting viewpoints:
(This is not the illustration in Schmelzer’s book, although it is nearly the same. The only difference is that at the center of Schmelzer’s centered set is a cross rather than the target labeled “God.” I like this image better, and one of my few criticisms of Blue Ocean Faith is the emphasis on “solus Jesus” rather than upon “solus Christus”—in the broadest sense of a “cosmic Christ,” not as articulated in the Protestant Reformation.)
Blue Ocean seems to be a very attractive new Christian movement, which I hope will grow and become increasingly influential. Its distinctives could, with intentional effort, be incorporated into churches of most any denomination—and I pray that that will be increasingly done.