Over the years, Phyllis Tickle has found a niche for herself identifying the changes and important developments within American religion. She has often been interviewed and quoted by the New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Time, CNN, C-Span, and PBS. Much of the information she has gleaned comes from her days as the founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly. Tickle is a lay eucharistic minister in the Episcopal Church and a senior fellow of Cathedral College at the National Cathedral in Washington. In this book, she points to the great upheavals that have taken place every 500 years within Christianity. Three-quarters of the text covers these past reconfigurations and only a small portion deals with a contemporary "Great Emergence."

She begins with a look at the split between Catholicism and Protestantism and the ways in which Christianity became a global religion as a result of the Great Reformation. At the heart of this event was the question of authority. Tickle looks at a host of contributing factors that have moved us toward the contemporary soulscape: Albert Einstein, the automobile, the marginalization of grandma, the influence of Karl Marx, the spiritual strand and Alcoholics Anonymous, the drug age, the erosion of Sola Scriptura, and the reconstituted family. Perhaps the most interesting material is found in Tickle's observations on technology's impact on Christianity through the shift from performed to participatory music and the changed ideas about the priesthood of all believers resulting from widespread use of the computer and Internet.

In the slim and rather undeveloped last section of the book, the author looks at the contemporary Great Emergence with North American Christians classified into four groups: Liturgicals, Social Justice Christians, Renewalists, and Conservatives. She outlines the differences between them and then ponders some of the lineaments of what she calls "the Emergent or Emerging Church": global, relational, non-hierarchical, paradoxical, and mystical. For a more systematic and invigorating assessment of a transformed Christianity read Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change.