Friday, June 26, 2009

Be like the cool kids, be emergent

So. The emerging church. All the cool kids are doing it these days. It's become one of those buzz phrases in religious circles and especially those on these great interwebs. But what the crap is it?

I have no idea. And you know what, neither does anyone else.

Sure you can look up things at emergent village or at wikipedia if you'd like to know some history behind this very VERY intentionally unorganized and unspecific 'movement' amongst modern Christians. You can do all kinds of searches, read plenty of books "about" it and just end up scratching your head. So many experts on this movement have different things to say, different presumptions that are being brought to the table, different conclusions and at the end of the day just plain end up contradicting each other about what the emerging church actually IS.

It's even popular now to say that the emerging church movement is dying or already dead. Which is neat considering that most accept it to be less than a 20 year old movement.

It's hard to define a movement that doesn't have structure. Sure you can look at the personal theologies of the more prominent pastors/authors in the movement such as Brian McLaren or Rob Bell. But the ideas they present are echoed by far more than just those who would refer to themselves as "emergent" or "emerging."

There is one thing that the emerging church most certainly is: liberal. I've found liberal to be a funny word, mostly being that I most often hear the word from the lips or the writings of those who would be mortified to be classified as liberal themselves because of how they view it. Usually using the word to describe someone else or an idea contrary to their own. And a majority of the time, using it with a connotation that the word "liberal" is actually some sort of an insult. I've yet to figure out why that would be, other than just a misinterpretation of what "liberal" actually means.

I enjoy what liberal actually means. Go ahead if you don't believe me, look it up. I prefer personally. The first of the many definitions found there is "favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs." That is why it is so difficult to define the emerging church movement, it is constantly in a state of progress or reform.

There seems to be little requisite to consider yourself "emergent" other than looking at "the Church" and thinking to yourself that something is not right. That something needs to change. Some reform must happen here. That you can look at the modern Church and compare it to the Church of the New Testament and even to the teachings of Jesus and say to yourself that something doesn't quite add up. To feel a conviction that this is not how things are supposed to be, and this is NOT ok to continue on like it. There are "emergent" churches tucked away in all kinds of denominations, and many who don't even realize they are a part of this "movement." There are "emergent" Christians in all kinds of congregations and I'm willing to bet that they are the first ones burnt out, and the ones that are the hardest to hold onto.

I didn't know there was even such a thing called the emerging church until a few months ago. I have unknowingly read many of the authors associated with it...but they don't really associate themselves with the movement (Don Miller and Mark Driscoll come to mind). So I have very little information actually on it. But what I do know, is that I identify with a lot (not all) of what these authors and pastors have to say. It resonates with me. Is it because I am so disdainful of what I interpret the modern Church of having become that I'll attach to anything that demands it be different? Am I just gullible or easily manipulated by hippies?

A person that I follow on twitter posted this today, "After a talk w/ Christian coworkers this morn, it amazes me how ppl who claim to study & follow Jesus can b so hateful & judgmental!" Jenny (my wife, not the person who wrote that above) is constantly bemoaning the hatred and bigotry that she witnesses at her work from fellow Christians. All you have to do is turn on television or do a quick search online to get a view of what the 'unchurched' sees when they look at the Church. It's not love, that's for sure. I can say that is what I think of when I think about "the Church" and I'm even a part of it. Imagine what someone who is not a part of it thinks when they don't have access to 'the good parts.' Hate. With a capital "H."

To me it's not about using post-modernism to redefine Christianity. It's not about embracing culture and syncretizing it with religious beliefs and practices. It's not about some pure social justice and saying "who cares what the motivation is behind it." It's not about taking modern science, pitting it against Christianity and demanding that one trump the other, and damn the consequences or how stupid we look! It's not about claiming a moral or ethical superiority over those whom you judge to have 'lost their way' or are 'going down the wrong path.' It's not a matter of us and them.

It's about authenticity. It's about truth. It's about compassion. It's about changing lives. It's about Love. With a capital "L." At the risk of being cliche, it's only found in Jesus. Only. And we're not progressing his kingdom if we can't share and exhibit his traits of true authentic compassionate love. That's what being "emergent" is. Progressing and reforming and trying as hard as possible to become more and more like Jesus.

Jenny, Brooke and I have been lucky enough to find a place in Springfield that does that (i'm not saying there are not others). Where the authenticity of the leaders is so palpable that it smacks you in the face. Where it is all about changed lives. Where the church's only goal is to assist in whatever way possible in helping God reconcile the world to himself through compassion and love as opposed to intolerance and hate. We've been lucky enough to stumble upon an "emerging" church that happens to be cleverly (albeit poorly) masquerading as an Assemblies of God church at the epicenter of the AG denomination.

If you're interested, i'll let you know where it is.

1 comment:

  1. Julie6:14 PM

    thankyou, thankyou, thankyou Danny. Every point you made was on the mark!

    I am as lucky as you and your family to be a member of North Point Church.