Saturday, October 29, 2005

Maybe I am Emergent

I have been thinking a lot this week about why I identify myself with the emerging conversation. There are some things about emergent that I do not relate to and do not really care about.

I visited EmergentNo a few times, and I wonder how they can take such a definitive stand against all things emergent. Blanket statements cannot cover the broad spectrum of people who have joined the emerging conversation.

Honestly, some of the bigger names identified with emergent are not representative of the corner of the conversation I relate to. However, they seem to be the lightening rod for criticism of the entire (un)movement.

All that being said, one of the things I appreciate most is the freedom within the emerging conversation to be yourself and to be wherever you happen to be in your journey.

This post from Christianity Today was helpful for me to understand emergent and why I'm hanging out here. (My thoughts in purple.)

by Skye Jethani

"We all enter at a different layer," he (Brian McLaren) said, "but everyone should be welcomed into the conversation no matter where they may be."

Based on McLaren’s description, I’ve outlined the seven layers below.

I’ve added my own titles and used the imaginary “Seeker Community Church” to illustrate each point.

Layer 1: Style
Seeker Community Church realizes they’re ineffective at reaching the coveted 18-32 year old demographic. They send a few staff members to a conference and they come back with goatees and candles.
Like many other people, I'm tired of this stereotype already.

Layer 2: Evangelism
After trying every facial hair permutation, Seeker Community Church discovers that to actually communicate the gospel to a younger generation they’ve got to learn to speak their language. They hire a former youth pastor to start an evening worship service with an “x” in its name.
Emerging is much broader than just a youth movement.

Layer 3: Culture
It gradually dawns upon Seeker Community Church that the new challenges they are encountering are not limited to the younger generation. The entire culture is shifting away from the modern presuppositions their church was built upon. Some of the language and practices of the “x” service trickle into the rest of the church.
It is also broader than being relevant to changing culture.

Layer 4: Mission
The emergence of Postmodernism causes Seeker Community Church to reevaluate the effectiveness of their mission strategy. Altar calls and gospel tracks are left behind in favor of community groups and relationships. Conversion is accepted as a journey and not merely a point of decision.
This is where I begin to relate. Are we, the people of God, accomplishing the mission we were sent for?

Layer 5: Church
Seeker Community Church begins to wonder if a multi million-dollar building housing a theatrical production every weekend is the only way to do church. Drawing from new and ancient forms of church, they launch alternative communities—one meets in a bar on Sunday night, and the other is a liturgical gathering. The church also partners with an inner city monastic group to reach street kids.
It is exciting to listen to others who have a different vision for church, who are willing to venture beyond the status quo.

Layer 6: Gospel
The leadership of Seeker Community Church is stunned when the senior pastor confesses, “I’m not sure I’ve really understood the gospel.” He begins to wonder why Jesus never said God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life? And why Paul never asked anyone to invite Jesus into your heart? He starts to realize that the Good News is much more than he’d ever imagined.
I hope that we continue to get a bigger revelation of our identity as the people of God existing in the realm of His kingdom.

Layer 7: World
Maybe the mission of the church isn’t simply to become a bigger church? Maybe, like Jesus, the church is to engage the larger world to reveal that the kingdom of God has drawn near? To their amazement, Seeker Community Church discovers significant swaths of the Bible (such as the Pentateuch, prophets, gospels, and epistles) talk about justice, poverty, and compassion. The church begins to speak about social issues and participates in efforts to combat poverty, AIDS, and global injustice.
I want to see the church take the white gloves off and begin living theology. I see great potential for this from those in the emerging conversation.

So, how emergent are you?

I'm too emergent to go back. ;)


Sue said...

thank you for putting so clearly into words what I have been thinking now for a while. another thought to add; I'm tired of hearing how bad the church was. It served the purpose of it's day, Praise the Lord! Today a new day has dawned, the best of all it can be is before us. I praise Him for that too!

Shelley said...

I've been thinking about this stuff too. I thought I was alone in thinking that something wasn't working in church (I knew it when I didn't want to invite my neighbors to church--they would just learn how to live within the christian subculture...)

When I started reading about emergent stuff, I was so excited and relieved. People aren't having these conversations where I live (the Bible Belt, of course!) So thank God for the internet.

Most people around here who have heard of 'emergent' have a negative view...(even my husband...) but I can't help but feel my soul expanding with a new freedom and joy.

Thanks for writing this post. I'll be back to read your archives on spiritual abuse. I am intrigued.


Lorna said...

I'm too emergent to go back :)

Love it

but it's hard not to fall into the 'dissatisfaction trap' and keep pressing in for the Kingdom of God

thanks for this grace it's very timely!

Michael said...

i love this. well written.

Sense Light said...

I was sitting in a new small group we started for our youth (just last sunday) and it was called "Biblical Worldview". The guy leading it has a great heart for God and really has a desire to help Seniors in high school prepare for college. However, I kept getting more and frustrated the longer I listened. Until it dawned on me - he's coming from a modern standpoint. Then I realized how postmodern I had become.
I do agree though that the modern period has served a great purpose and pushed people on in there Christian life...I just pray we don't stop pursuing this life and if that calls for change I am on board.
Thanks for the post, Grace. By the way I think I missed that road sign on this journey that said exit

Robbymac said...

Glad to see you've posted links to your spiritual abuse series in the sidebar. The work you've done, and the value it will continue to have for your visitors here, is far too beneficial for it to become buried somewhere in the archives of your blog.

Great blog, Grace!

grace said...

Thanks for your comments.

While there will always be an element of dissatisfaction (otherwise what's the point of changing), I am beginning to see the focus shift to envisioning and implementing the values of the church we dream of.

I hope the spiritual abuse articles are helpful to anyone who reads them.

I am patting myself on the back for my technical accomplishments in posting the links.