Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Step In The Right Direction

There is much talk about the "death of the Emergent Church". While it is true that there is a LOT of conversation about changes going on, I don't view this as the "death of a trend". The emergent conversation was more than just a new model. Indeed they are modeling the idea that the Church needs to be in a constant state of flux. The church has not emerged it is always emerGING!!

In light of that, here is a post from Jonathan Brink over @ EV talking about the "5 things the emergent church has done right". I agree that these are HUGE steps forward in the Christian faith and practice. We are always emerging, always dying to our old and being reborn anew. (thanks to our Bible study discussion group for helping me form that last statement!:)
I wanted to identify five things the emerging church got right. And to be
fair, these are simply my observations, but I’m willing to take the risk that
these are bigger than me.

1. A Commitment To

The emerging church is committed to an honest conversation
about what is good and what is broken about the body. Both of these
conversations need and do take place. The church can no longer ignore the
reality that people are leaving the institutional
embodiment of what we
traditionally call church. People are leaving and not
coming back. Ignoring
the problems simply no longer works. We need new
expressions that include a
more holistic understanding of what it means to
follow Jesus into mission.

But this conversation needs, and has (at least in my circles), included
a glorious dialog of what is worth fighting for. I find this to be true in the
cohorts I’ve participated in, the conferences I’ve attended, and the
conversations with so many who lead and participate in the emerging church. I
found this to be the central theme of Rob Bell’s “Isn’t She Beautiful”
conference almost 20 months ago and as relevant today as then. This was a
conference of 2,000 pastors leading the way towards repentance.

In some
ways, the institutional church and the conversation about what isn’t
has been slowly brewing for decades, some would say for 1,700 years. But
emerging church has been working to take these issues and deal with them,
seeking not just the questions but also the answers.

2. A
Commitment To An Honest Theology

The emerging church is committed
to an honest
understanding of theology. Much of our theology is not just
communal but also
individual, meaning my interpretation is completely bent
according to my own
context. I see it in different shades of color than the
next person. To speak
this out loud, that I’m not quite on the same exact
page as the next person, has
been refreshing and liberating. And what is
true is that I’m simply being honest
about what has always been true.

This is why generative dialog has been so important for so many people.
Historically the ability to be honest has simply not been there. We need to be
official, have all the right answers and all our ducks in a row. Disagreeing
with the official opinion has been shameful, drawing a ridiculously stare from
the ruling class. “What do you mean you don’t think like us.” Well, we just

Theology is simply a logical understanding or image of God, but
that image is deeply shaped by our the story we have experience, which is
different for everyone. And as we engage God’s story we’re always rubbing up
against our current perception of reality. And if we don’t have a place to be
honest about our own brokenness, about our questions, our angers, about our
frustrations and perceptions with God, then we
have no place to tear down
the obstacles that actually keep me from engaging
relationship with God.
Because isn’t God really bigger than our questions?
Hasn’t truth always
stood out head and shoulders above half-truth? Isn’t truth
most revealed in
the face of those questions. And if we can create a space
to deal with these
obstacles and remove them then that is Good News.

Will we get stuff
wrong? Absolutely. But we’re also under grace, working
out our salvation.
We’re no longer pretending we’ve got it right. But we do
think truth is to
be had. And it looks like Jesus.

3. A Commitment To Love
The emerging church is committed to the practice of love. It is
sad to me that people get upset when we talk so much about love. But
this is the
great commandment. Everything was boiled down to this one great
thing. It’s the
first fruit of the Spirit. It’s the magnificence of His
reflection in our lives.
It is what draws us to Jesus. In love we are made

And as we wrestle with this idea, the very concept of being love
to the world around us, we are discovering the brilliance of what Jesus did. In
attempting to be love,
we discover how much we can’t. We’re just bent a
different way. We’re prone
towards the immature self, a broken cistern
leaking water. And this attempt
actually brings out our brokenness. It puts
us at odds with the reality of our
separation from God. But it also invites
us into the arms of the Father, where
we can receive His Spirit.

This doesn’t mean that we’re not committed to truth. It means that in
love we find the truth. In love we are the perfect reflection of our God. In
love we are the fulfillment of our humanity. In love we also listen to how God
wants to be truth to the world around us. But in love we recognize that if we
never gain credibility to be heard, if our lives don’t first reveal that truth,
people will likely never listen.

4. A Commitment To The
Footsteps Of Jesus
The emerging church is committed to the
footsteps of Jesus. Many are calling this a missional incarnation of the Gospel.
It’s not just the speaking of the Gospel, but the embodiment of it. But what
this really means is that we’re taking up what Jesus said and did as a teacher
and trying to follow that. And as simple as this may sound, it has a surprising
way of putting us at odds with what we’re currently doing as a larger
specifically in the United States. When we look at what Jesus did and we
compare it with what we do, it creates a strange dissonance that is
unfortunately unresolvable for so many people.

We’re left with the
strange question of what it would mean to leave the current model of church
without giving the impression that we’re abandoning the body. Our heart is with
Jesus but not the current structures that support the very complacency we’re
looking to leave behind. We’re looking for what is real, and reflects His

Some see this as leaving tradition. Others see this as
returning to the original ways. The emotions of this are deeply stressful,
giving some the feelings that resemble a refugee. But we’re just trying to
discover the very thing that history has revealed changed the world and make it
real for us. Does that make us dreamers, or idealists, or fools when we say
things are not as they were, nor as they could be? We’re just choosing to take
the risk to find out which one.

5. A Commitment To

The emerging church is committed to the idea of change as a
constant. What is
interesting is that science supports this principle.
Nature changes
seasonally. Our bodies change every seven years at the
cellular level. Ideas and
ethics change with generations. We’re constantly
becoming or retreating, but
we’re always changing because we’re always
living into the next moment. New
information arises that changes how we
think and respond to the world.

What this means is that people will see
life differently as time progresses. The Internet has radically reshaped our
lives and our ability to be influenced by new information. Some of this has led
to a consumer mentality and desire for everything new. But some of this has led
to a recommitment to everything mentioned above, to what has always made the
church the reflection of God that draws people in.

In a lot of ways this
puts us at odds with traditions. But our desire isn’t to simply destroy or leave
these traditions behind. It means that we’re looking for an opportunity to
rediscover their value without the expectation that accompanies them. And many
within the emerging church are deeply committed to these ideas (no pun
intended). This was part of the smells and bells that led Dan Kimball to
integrate candles and incense into his worship services. But we’re not willing
to simply passively participate without meaning and intent. We’re not willing to
just show up and close our minds down.



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