Saturday, February 04, 2006

EC vs. IC?

With Barna's book Revolution sparking discussion about this topic among believers, I think it is going to be really important that we avoid polarity as much as possible.

As I discussed in my post about the Emerging Bug, people who are satisfied in their current churches do not have the context to relate to the emerging conversation. Perhaps they are exactly where they are supposed to be.

In Jim's post, The Baby and the Bathwater, he expresses his concern that the emerging church is taking things to an extreme.

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.

This was my reply to his post:

Overall, I would have to say that I agree with you that it would be a mistake to throw out everything that we have known as traditional church. I believe that much of the emerging church will grow alongside traditional churches and that God will be present and at work in both, if hearts are set on Him and His kingdom.

I think this will require care and respect from both sides. As the emerging people “deconstruct” and attempt to build something completely different, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of devaluing and trashing everything that has come before.

And as the traditional churches observe emerging churches doing things in a way that is foreign to them, they could acknowledge that the emerging churches are also valuable in building the kingdom.

I honestly believe that many of the people who have left traditional churches are following Christ. And their intent is not to abandon the church, but to allow the Lord to develop their expression of church in a way that is authentic for them.

I also hope and believe that many of the values being discussed in the emerging conversations, such as the three in my post, will make their way into existing congregations.

I think that existing churches can be more particpatory and can function at a higher level of one-anothering. I also believe that God will stir in the hearts of leaders to shift their focus more missionally. I believe some of this stirring may come as they begin to hear more about the issues being discussed in the emerging conversation.

A lot will depend on whether their hearts are open to what they hear. I don’t have my heart set on any particular model of church. My dream is just to be involved in what God is doing and to follow Him.

Cindy Bryan hid these excellent thoughts in the comment section of her post about why the spiritually mature are leaving church. The post was a link to a post at Out of Ur called Exit Stage Left.

Offended or not, the institutional church has some decisions to make (not an exhaustive list, just on quickly thinking it through):

1-Either acknowledge the exodus or don't.

2-If it is aknowledged, choose to care or not.

3-If the choice is made to care, then decide whether to vilify or love those who are leaving.

4-Finally, if the choice is made to love them, to reach out and do so tangibly--without malice.

The Institutional Church is under no mandate to care about those who are leaving. But they are leaving, and railing about their selfishness, shallowness, arrogance, etc. isn't going to convince them to come back anymore than going into a crack house and screaming that everybody is going to hell is going to get them into church on Sunday.

The people I know who have left the church, and I talked on the phone with one such person at length last night, are much more concerned about their departure than their critics give them credit for. They aren't whiners and takers. They are givers and servers and lovers of God who are heartbroken they can't find a place.

If we see ourselves as emerging, perhaps more important than making ourselves understood, we should attempt to be understanding. Those who are invested in a traditional model of church might feel defensive and threatened by the conversation. We can be careful to not make this an us vs. them issue.


Cindy said...

Thanks, Grace. And thanks, too, for adding that missing comma! ;-)Even what I write sounds better on your blog. sigh.

grace said...

I can't believe you noticed that comma!!!

You made such an important point, and I wanted it to be sure it was read. (no guarantees that it'll be read here, but at least it's out of the comment section)

I hope you are OK with the context I put your quote in.

Now I'm off to do the fun stuff... cleaning and laundry.

Cindy said...

I'm perfectly okay with the context. About the comma, Keith would roll his eyes (not smiling) and say, "Believe it." To tell the truth, it was really bugging me, so I was glad you fixed it. I just didn't want to copy/paste/publish/delete the whole thing a second time. Now I have to get to my stuff- worship prep for tomorrow, plus laundry of course.

Robbymac said...

J. Lee Grady (editor of Charisma Magazine), in his book What Happened to the Fire, wrote that by 1990 there were 92 million people worldwide who described themselves as post-charismatic.

I think the Pentecostal/charismatic church needs to also look at the Exit Stage Left questions (which are "spot on", as Andrew Jones would say).

These are the kind of issues that prompted me to write "Detoxing from Church" a few years ago. Both EC and IC need to dial down a bit and listen at least as much as they talk/rant/pontificate.

Pam Hogeweide said...

amen and amen and amen. preach on grace. good stuff.

grace said...

Yes, it's too bad comments can't be edited once they're posted. Funny how I never notice the mistake until after I hit submit.

Hi Robby,
I think many post-charismatics are turning away from deeper teaching in order to get back to a more authentic expression of the basics.

I'm working on the dialing down bit.

Thanks Pam. :)

Robbymac said...


I didn't mean you had to dial down. You've always been a wonderful example of your blogging name: grace.

I only meant the "dial down" comment as a general observation. Hope it didn't come across as personal; that's the last thing I'd think of you or your writing here (which is honest and insightful, as always).

grace said...

I didn't take it personally, and I'm glad you think that I come across moderately.

What I meant is that I often struggle against my own tendency to be black and white, and I have to continually remind myself that others often see things differently.

Thanks for your encouragement.

Robbymac said...

Hey, what happened to your feet pic? That was one of the most creative avatars I've seen in a long time!

Steve Sensenig said...

Great to see these thoughts here. I stumbled on your post sort of by accident. I was checking my logs and someone had found my blog by using Google's blog search to search for the term "house church". I followed the same search path and yours was another one on the first page of hits, pointing to this post.

You might be interested in some of the discussion that has taken place on my blog in the past few days on the topic.

Like you, I am concerned that we avoid "polarity" in the wake of Barna's book. I am very concerned that I not come across as anti-IC, and yet it's hard to criticize what is going on there without people assuming you're anti.

sigh....anyway, keep writing! I'll have to add your blog to my bloglines!

steve :)

grace said...

Hi steve. It's nice to meet you.
I popped in at your blog and it looks like we're talking about a lot of the same stuff. I look forward to reading more there.

David Cho said...

Your reply to the "bathwater and the baby" post was outstanding.

I am sick of that analogy. Can somebody come up with a more original and creative analogy than that? It has become so tired and predictable. Perhaps that is indicative of the massive brain drain that the traditional church has suffered.

At this point, it has become impossible to tell where the dirty bathwater ends, and the baby's body begins. The basin may very well be full of the dead baby's decomposing body.