Emerging Church

Perhaps you all have heard of the ‘Emerging Church’ phenomena that is now popular among young (white, not that there is anything wrong with that) evangelicals. Brian McLaren is big in this movement (we talked about him in a previous post). Basically it is a ‘postmodern’ movement that supposedly has nailed a ‘postmodern’ way of doing church and evangelism. For more look at www.emergentvilliage.com for a sample.

I have mixed feelings about this, though there is a great church in Denver www.pathwayschurch.org that has intrigued me for some time.

30 thoughts on “Emerging Church

  1. What bugs me about e-church is that it seems focus totally on making the people who come “feel good”, rather than focusing on worshiping God in the beauty of His holiness.

    Christianity ain’t about feeling good. It’s about taking up a cross daily and following Christ. He was dissed, spit on, rejected and crucified. We should expect a little of that if we really are following him.

    Anyway. I should shutup now.

    Aside:
    Gall – I finally posted something re: the status anxiety post, around comment 20.

  2. I am similarly shy of this approach. It is a path for seekers, not finders. I’ve been on the seekers path. It is cluttered with blind alleys and wrong turns. It is travelled by lots of people whose syncretic instincts keep them dragging into the conversation lots of stuff that I experience as smoke, not clarity.

    I have the McClaren book out and am not reacting to it well, on just a cursory examination. I haven’t actually read it. I’ve just sampled, trying to decide if it is worth the time. So far, it isn’t calling to me.

    I think the world is attracted to energy and wants answers, not questions. We just want to make sure our energy and commitment and answers are visible. It doesn’t have to harmonize with postmodern confusions. It just has to have lots of entry points for interaction with our orthdoxy.

  3. Ched Myers says that Jesus’ strategy was to break the spell of credulity (a disposition to believe on slight evidence) that the social order casts over its subjects and so to force a crisis of faith. Jesus engages the listener with disturbing and disrupting quandaries that animate toward change, rather than with logically satisfying answers that pacify.

    Of course, the church over the years, instead of learning to do the same, instead of asking questions that move people toward changing, has fallen into the roll of coming up with answers that make everyone just feel good instead.

    Myers says that Jesus isn’t the answer to our questions, but is rather, the question to our answers…”

    from one of my pastor’s fabulous sermons.

  4. I recently got “A New Kind Of Christian,” by McClaren, took it to Star Wars to read it, and left it at the theatre. It never made it to the lost and found. Father Neo, is this a sign from God?

  5. Dan,

    You said, “Myers says that Jesus isn’t the answer to our questions, but is rather, the question to our answers…” I like that. I am also attracted to the ‘apophatic’ approach to God. But is it possible to have a ‘wrong’ view of Jesus altogether? We all put Jesus in a cultural (or subcultural) box, but is there such thing as flat out ‘heresy?’

    Wily,
    Was this the first or second time you saw Star Wars?

  6. Father Neo, I am embarassed to say, and proud to say, that I have seen Revenge Of The Sith THREE times. I lost the book the second time through.

  7. Imagine two balances. The first balance has the desire to be culturally relevant on one end, and on the other end is the desire to be historically grounded. Orthodoxy is surely weighted far to the end of being historically grounded. Not much is ever emerging in Orthodoxy. On the other end of the balance Liberalism has a tremendous desire to be culturally relevant, far too much in my opinion. In terms of this balance, I think the emerging church movement is trying to be more culturally relevant, especially compared to the evangelicalism of the 70’s through 90’s.

    A second balance would be a balance between depth on one side, and surface on the other side, (surface not being a bad term, simply a designation). I think the emerging church movement is genuinely trying to find more depth, and put more weight on the side of depth. They believe the evangelicalism they are coming out of is too surfacy and not deep enough, and does not move the heart enough. They are trying to move from surface, to depth.

    Now here is the tension. For me, to go deep means to get more historically grounded, not more culturally relevant. The emerging church movement is trying to get more culturally relevant and more deep at the same time. They are going in two different directions. I think this is a fundamental tension and problem for them. Maybe it can be done, but it certainly won’t be easy.

    What would it be like, for all of us, to seek the middle of the balance in all areas?

  8. What should we make of the fact that the “Emerging Church” phenomenon is primarily white middle class movement? Does this bother anyone?

  9. Different groups of people are attracted to different styles of worship, etc…and we need to be sensitive to that. But unless the services are deliberately being designed to discourage and exclude participation by people of color I don’t feel it is a problem.In fact, I think that the “middle class” is more of an issue with me than the fact that it mainly attracts White people. But all of the statistical data on the movement could have a much simpler explaination, such as the socio-economic and racial make-up of the communities in which the e-churches are located. But eventually, if they are really doing what they say they are doing, all of the statistical data should eventually change to reflect more diversity.

  10. Languages were confused at the Tower of Babel, the Spirit united all at Pentecost because Christ had broken down the walls of hostility (Eph. 2) Jesus prayed that we should be “one so that the word world would know” (John 17) I believe that the Emerging church movement will do more to divide the church by class, generationally, racially. If your church was doing something to put up a barrier to other races would you even know it? Do you even desire to be united in Christ with other races? Why is the church still as racially divided today as it was before Martin Luther King said that “Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America?”

    Could it be that we have allowed the business strategies of marketing into the church? To market a product well you must segment your market first, you must divide one group from another in order to get their money. The church is always emerging everywhere, in every country, in every segment…but why do we only hear about the emerging church in middle class white segment…because it is the one that can sell the most.

  11. Theophilus – What you are saying may very well be true. My statement that the statistical data should change was a very important one. If it is truly a move of God, it should eventually become diverse. I know that “time” is a touchy subject, but I can only give the example of the church I attend. My pastor came to our church 30 years ago. Our church is located in the inner city in an African American community. The congregation was less than 100. For the first twenty years of his ministry here, his congregation was basically comprised of African Americans, but this has finally within the last ten years begun to change. We now have many white and Hispanic families that attend our church, even though the community where the church is located is still African American. Usually when you find a church that is racially diverse, it is located within a racially diverse neighborhood. We had 17 Hispanic families join in one year alone…It does happen…but it does take time. But our congregation is very focused on this happening. It is very intentional. And I think that you are very right in asking the question, ” If your church was doing something to put up a barrier to other races, would you even know it?” Very important question. As I have stated before, racism can be very subtle…something which indicates the importance of open dialoque.

  12. Angevoix, What an interesting website. If you hadn’t metioned it was a Catholic parish, though, from the site I would not have been able to tell…

  13. Ha Ha Ha!I don’t know if you meant to, but you made me laugh out loud. Yes,we get that quite a bit. But we are more Catholic than some would like, and less Catholic than other’s think we should be. We just try our best to be disciples…Is that Catholic enough?

  14. What does ‘being deliberate’ about ethnic diversity mean, and what are ‘barriers’ to ethnic diversity? I have found that attempts to being ethnically diverse sometimes end up being patronizing at best and offensive at worst. I endured a ‘mariachi mass’ in seminary that is case and point

  15. I think the most important element of bringing about diversity are a willingness to communicate, learn, and be open.I think when people come together in humility, acknowledging that no one group or person has all of the answers it doesn’t come across as patronizing. But it is really hard work. When you bring different groups together there is always plenty of room for conflict and misunderstanding.It takes commitment by everyone involved.I guess the element of being deliberate is that our Pastor began to speak about our church becoming more diverse long before it began to happen. He taught and prepaired the parish beforehand, and it just started to happen. When people came they felt comfortable and welcome.

  16. Fatherneo asked Dan:
    Is there such a thing as flat out heresy?

    Sure. I’d think so. Any time we put words in to God’s mouth that God wouldn’t say, anytime we take actions on God’s behalf that are anti-God, might qualify as heresy to me.

    Myself, I think there’s a lotta heresy going around. Just hope I’m not taking too much part in it.

    Maybe part of it is the very action of putting God in a box when God, as CS Lewis pointed out, is not a tame God.

  17. angevoix, I do look forward to visiting your church someday. I agree that diversity is not something you make happen but that you can stop it from happening…and perhaps the best we can hope for is churches that match their geographic setting, (though you have to admit that these are rare as well). For some reason people will drive 15 miles to go to the mall on the other side of town but not to worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

    The diversity question when it comes to the emergent church is even larger than racial diversity. The emergent church is Christian community created by rejecting ones elders. Doesn’t the 25 year old need the 85 year old? Doesn’t the 25 year old need to hear the 85 year old pray? Doesn’t the 85 year old need to be prayed for by the 25 year old?

  18. I hope you do come visit some day. We do actually have people who drive for hours to come to our church!

  19. Here’s the struggle Lover of God: Aren’t churches built on hotties (guys and gals), success, boomers with cash and sweet music? That seems to be the recipe in Emergent or boomer churches. Where the ‘beautiful people’ are, so is the growth, regardless of ethnicity (though white folks usually fit the bill). Call me jaded, but that’s what I observe.

  20. Seraph, it’s a mixed bag isnt’ it? I believe that churches are built upon the gospel, good news preached to the poor, life among the least of these and sacrifice. But your are correct that often times what grows a church is a certain recipe…I just wouldn’t confuse church growth with church authenticity.

  21. Amen Amen Theophilus! “I just wouldn’t confuse church growth with church authenticity.” How many mega-churches do we have now that are full of people who come week after week to hear what Jholder calls the “feel good” message and or prosperity theology…? I would also add that with authentic church, the gospel isn’t just preached to the poor, but it is demonstrated to them as well.

  22. angevoix,
    Agreed…preached & demonstrated…I was just be lazy with my words to have left that out.

    Seraph, your verbage is familiar to me…heto?

  23. As far as the heresy question, yes, I think there is such a thing as heresy. We might be able to disagree on different styles and methods of worship, and having church, etc…but the basic doctrines of morality and faith should not be tampered with. The church is called to impact society and renew the World to conform to the standards of the Gospel, not conform the Gospel to the standards of the World…

  24. Although my family is mixed racially, I draw back from the direction taken by most churches who put “inclusive” in their mission statement. They don’t know where to stop. Pretty soon “tolerance” and “inclusivity” are not just their mantra, they are the congregation’s mission statement. The most inclusive and successful sermon in church history was Peter’s Pentecost sermon, echoed by apostles who spoke to all, in their language. I think this is the problem I’m worried about. My wife went to a seminary whose denomination is known for its diversity. The biggest problem they faced each week was in chapel. There the cultural differences became huge. As one of her friends stated in the middle of the weekly worship committee meeting, “I don’t have trouble with inclusiveness and diversity as long as I can choose the music!”

    Different people need different cultural expression to “grok” the gospel fully and deeply. One size does not fit all in the body of Christ. All the spice of cultural diversity is removed and bland pablum is substituted. I can hear the guitars now. It can be done, but is usually done badly.

    This may be a semi-heretical thing to say in this Orthodox-friendly site, but cultural matters are very serious and deeply real. Visceral even. The incense may be great for me, but I wonder about those brothers and sisters who need to “handle snakes”, hug, raise their hands, clap and shout Amen? In my experience, the Holy Spirit likes cultural diversity and is “ho, hum” about inclusiveness.

  25. My pastor speaks about this all of the time. He is very much anti – melting pot theology, and speaks a lot about retaining our individual uniqueness. But Morpheus, I would really like to hear you more clearly define the difference between inclusiveness and diversity. For my own part, except for the snake bit…I like it all…I am just as likely to sing in Latin as I am to shout and clap…I don’t think God gets hung up on matters of style, I think we do.

  26. Ange,

    Smells, bells, yells, and Latin Rite–I could go for that!! I agree with you. However, there may be some Orthodox among us (Ortho-‘right’ Doxa–‘glory, or worship’) who would argue that orthodoxy not only includes faith and morals, but also ‘right worship.’ They might take issue with you and Morpheus. How about worship, are there boundaries? If so what are they and what is the criteria?

  27. Check out a very good book by the late Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann called Introduction To Liturgical Theology. Schmemann would say there are some clear practices that are ortha doxa.

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