Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bit by the Emerging Bug

There is such a broad variety of people who consider themselves emerging. I've been thinking about what makes a person emerging.

The most basic description of an emerging person would be someone who has a dream for a new way of doing and being the church.

But how does this happen?

It seems to be like a virus. Once someone is infected with the virus, a dissatisfaction for current forms of church begins. This dissatisfaction isn't necessarily malicious.

Recently, a friend of mine was cursing his ability to see things differently and longing for the naivety he enjoyed before he was infected with the emerging virus. It would seem there is no going back.

How does one handle this dissatisfaction without simply being a critic? What do you do when you can no longer be someone who blindly follows? Dissatisfaction is a necessary step in moving away from the status quo.

Like being an adolescent, this is often an awkward stage. You no longer fit the current mold, but you may not be in a position to be involved in something new.

In the time that I've listened to the emerging conversation, I've identified some things that I question about current church structure.

1. I believe that the clergy/laity model hinders church as it should be. I believe that power structures are detrimental to kingdom life.
2. I believe God is grieved with our generous building/salary budgets at the neglect of the poor among us.
3. I believe that our program-driven models produce a separate culture that has little impact on the world we are sent to.

I don't know if I will have the opportunity to be in community (locally) with others who share these beliefs. For now, I simply attend our local church with an acceptance that I see things differently than they do.

It is helpful for me to remember how differently I saw things in my pre-emergent days. When I viewed the church with institutional glasses, I would not have seen or understood any of the emerging conversation. It was simply out of context to my belief system.

For those who haven't contracted the emerging virus, there is no ability to see. It is like color-blindness, in that what is visible to one person, doesn't even register to another person.

The traditional model is so entrenched in our Christian culture that the idea of "coloring outside the lines" is threatening to them. Unfortunately, those who haven't been infected with the virus will either ignore or oppose everything that doesn't fit the traditional model.

I think it is important for us to understand, that many emerging church critics simply have no context to understand or see the things that seem obvious and logical to us. Often, conversations with the critics are as unfruitful as debating color with a colorblind person.

Let's face it, in the minds of those who have not yet grown weary of running on the program-driven treadmill of institutional church, we simply don't make sense.

In the meantime, even if we have yet to see "where we fit," we can be busy allowing God to shape us into the person He wants us to be and trust that He has the ability to place in the Body.


Tonya said...

Thank you Grace, this was a helpful reminder to remember how I used to think. I am not angry either, just longing for something different with God. I agree wholeheartedly...

"In the meantime, even if we have yet to see "where we fit," we can be busy allowing God to shape us into the person He wants us to be and trust that He has the ability to place in the Body."

Aj Schwanz said...

Man, this is SO what I've been thinking about today! Graham Cooke describes it in terms of "Close Encounters": how do you stay in the worship gathering you're called to when you've heard that "noise" (know there's something more out there) and yet no one else has heard it?

My local church and regional organization are going through structural changes. People are grieving and not necessarily being kind. I fear we'll keep our eyes on the structure stuff rather than God, and that burdens my Spirit.

Thank you for posting: I needed to hear from a kindred spirit.

Cindy said...

Excellent post, Grace! I can't add a thing to what you said except, Amen.

Lily said...

Well I had a big long post but, alas, it seems it was not meant to be. Lost in the blogosphere...maybe it will turn up yet.

The short version: Thanks Grace. I appreciate your ability to articulate what we are all thinking...experincing...hoping.

Here's to "Living Outside the Lines".

Traci said...

Excellent post. Case in point: We went back to our old church after being gone for 9 months. I had to whap my husband because he was going on about stuff that the couple he was talking to just didn't get. It was like speaking French to my 2 year old. Their brains couldn't handle the info and I'm sure they thought he was nuts. This is why I am up at 3:30am. I couldn't sleep thinking about all of the hurts and yet seeing people I still care about and had relationships with. But we are so past the place where this church is still at.

grace said...

Hi Tonya, AJ, and Cindy,
I pray that God will give us all the "grace" to walk through the awkward places we find ourselves in and the faith to hope as he brings us into the next thing.

I'm sorry you lost your post. I hate it when that happens. Thanks for the link at your place.

I could certainly relate to what you said. I had to hit my husband with my purse 3 times during church to keep him from whispering. Finally, I had to remind him what I wrote here and told him they just don't have the right "eyes" to see yet.

Maintaining relationships in our former church has been difficult. There are those who won't relate with us because we left. That is what hurt the most. Others have endured the tension of no longer sharing beliefs, and are being re-established just on the basis of caring for one another.

It's not been easy, and I've had my times of being up at 3 a.m. also. My thoughts are with you.

Writer's Blog » Blog Archive » The Baby and the Bathwater said...

I admit it—I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the emergent movement. Maybe it’s because I’ve almost always been in churches that have their acts together, that are active both in ministering to the Body and in reaching out to the community, but I honestly don’t see where it helps to trash the structure of the traditional church simply because some churches are not doing what they are called to do. To me, that’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I appreciate Grace’s openness and honesty as she struggles and searches to find an answer to something that has been a source of great heartache for her[...]

grace said...

Above is a link to Jim's thoughts about this. Thanks for continuing the discussion Jim. I think there is great benefit in discussing our structures and the things that are working.

I plan on responding in Jim's comments as soon as I get a chance. I would like to say that in spite of my questions about current structure, I haven't thrown anything out yet.

Whatever model is espoused, these are just some of the values that matter to me.

Bruce said...

The difficult thing about getting infected, at least for me, is the decision on when to leave the traditional church we've been a part of for 18 years. We have so many friends there, and teach a great group of 20+ year olds. But I'm starting to see the same unhappiness and discontentment in their eyes that I feel. Great post. Keep the conversation coming.


Jim said...

I do recognize that you haven't thrown anything out, grace, so I hope I don't come across as saying such. Mostly, your article sparked some more thought in my mind in relation to the overall emerging conversation I've been following lately. I'm an analyst, so I notice trends and find patterns and relationships in the things I run across, even if they don't seem related initially. Those are the sorts of things I write about, and if I have the opportunity to relate my articles to the things that other people think and write about, so much the better. I can only hope that other people see the relationships as I do, and don't feel like I'm attacking them or being condescending.

It might seem weird, but I hadn't had much exposure to emergent thinking until I switched over to Writer's Blog this past fall and found a whole new blogging world, so I'm enjoying the new exposure. Thanks for being willing to share your thoughts and allow the rest of us to interact with them.

grace said...

I am sure you are praying about whether leaving is the right thing to do. Can you bring some of the things that you value into the 20 year old group?

A part of me wants to tell people not to leave, but I don't want to get in the way of whatever God is leading them to do. It's just that leaving is harder than you will ever imagine.

All I know is that for each of us, we have to follow God as best as we know how and rely on His grace to bring us through the rough spots.

Blessings to you.

I enjoy discussing this too. I'll save the rest of my comment to post at your place.

Blogging opened my eyes to a whole new world also.

Sally said...

Thank you Grace for voicing the pain, the problems and the journey of emergence in such a thoughtful way...

grace said...

Thanks for stopping by. It's nice to meet you.