I am so not up-to-date on the emergent church issue, so I guess it's jeopardy for me.
Great thoughts Tony. The church would do well to learn from the "secret" of the Emerging church, that it is not about models and formulas. I really appreciate the emphasis on community within the Emerging church. I believe it is a much more accurate picture of the New Testament church.
We are trying to make it hard, formulated, and exact. It is about commmunity, intimacy with Jesus Christ, and deep relationship with each other and the Father. It's simply about loving God and loving each other...whatever form that takes, whatever style that conforms to, whatever the name on the door you enter...it's about gentle goodness that oozes Jesus Christ through every pore.Your writings are wonderful.
interesting, I will admit I'm one of those emergent ignorants, or more likely I understand "emergent" but just don't know that I understand it because it seems to be such an elusive idea to pin down, and yet that seems to be the point (am I talking in circles yet because that is what happens when I try to understand "emergent"). So my point, what was my point? Oh yes, interesting stuff here, I obviously have not done the research that I should to really try and understand this "movement", "model", "vision", or whatever it actually is that I don't understand. Thanks for more stuff to chew on as I try and process something I not sure I can even define.
Until I started reading other people's blogs last fall, I'd never even heard of the Emergent church. I did some reading and looked into it. I could not understand what the fuss was all about. But what I determined was that the Emergent church really wasn't doing anything new; I believe the way they "do church" is modeled after early Christians in Acts, Romans, etc. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember reading anywhere that the early Christians were sitting in pews in a church building. There are some occassions where they met in the Temple in the public area... But for the most part, we read about "community" - meeting in believer's homes, etc. I don't remember reading about salaried staff or church kitchens or family fitness centers. I remember reading about Paul being a tentmaker so support his own ministry. I do remember reading about the apostles meeting people where they were whether it be at the main Temple in the town or out in the middle of nowhere when Philip met the Eunoch. I have finally concluded that most of the anti-Emergent rhetoric I've heard coming from mainline churches is just a symptom of problems rooted deeper in their own frustration that "out of the box" thinking actually accomplished something that they have been unable to do for many years! And the model they followed has been right in front of us the entire time. No denomination or church congregation is perfect. We all have something that probably falls short of what God calls us to do and be. Emergent may be doing some things wrong. But if Christians truly want to accomplish "community" - we all need to remember we are on the same side. The Emergent Church is not the enemy just like doctrine and tradition is not the enemy. Satan is our enemy. Just as you can't spell the word with out it - "Unity" has to come in order for "Community" (in the global Christian sense) to happen.
Great post Tony. I agree with Melanie's comment 100%.
This is all good... for me the question boils down to whether or not you can adequately define what the Church is or not. Because if you can define it, you can figure it out... and you just may end up trying to market it out of your confidence/arrogance.And if you can't define it, you can't figure it out... and you just may end up knowing what it isn't and losing your ability to proclaim what it is.Fine line either way.
Tony, this is my first comment on your blog. There is just so much I want to say to you man. I've been reading your blogs for the last months and I can really relate to many of the things you address in your blogs. I always enjoy reading them. You see, I've worked with teens for about 19 years. I was bi-vocational until 1999. I've seen it all. Small church, big church, old church, new church. I grew up in a smaller church, worked with the youth there, moved on to a bigger church. I worked at Integrity Music for nine years, moved up the ladder and always did youth work on the side. Then, God allowed me to be a part of a new church plant in 1997. We started with 70 people. Two years later they hired me full time. We were the fastest growing church in Alabama for a couple of years. We grew from 70 to 1700 in six years. It was an amazing journey. When I left the church I had a nervous breakdown. You see, in those few years I saw over 2600 students come through my ministry. We had 300 active students. I had 3 paid interns, a huge budget, and we were building a $2.5 million dollar student building with a $16000 rock climbing wall. And I walked away. We were not a church anymore. We had become a machine, an empire-planning, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, market-based, money-raising, ego-stroking business that sold Jesus as it's main product packaged neatly each Sunday morning on a big stage for everyone's enjoyment. However, unbeknownst to me, the month I left that church some guys across town were starting a new church. These guys were former youth ministers from very big churches who had "gotten smart," as you say. They came to terms with the fact that church was being "done" wrong. They entered the emergent conversation. They opened a coffee house, the Mars Hill Cafe. And the gathering of people became the People of Mars Hill. For the first TWO YEARS the pastor preached verse by verse through the book of Acts. More people began to come. My wife and I attended. It was a stark contrast to what we had been used to and I can't describe how refreshing it was to hear someone else describing the same concerns I had been having for years. Slowly, and I mean slowly (18 months), I began to heal from that last church position. The last two years have been an amazing experience. This past March 1st we started our first meeting for teens on Wednesday night. We had fifteen kids. Isn't that great?! (We only started with five at my last church) But this time is going to be different. How do I break all my bad ministry habits and keep all the good? Which are good? And by the way, which ones are bad? Do we make a logo? Do we start a Sunday School? Do we name Wednesday night something like "Fusion" or "Edge" or "Impact"? You know where I'm going with this... Those are not questions to be answered. The answers don't matter. What matters is what has always mattered. It's about Jesus. It's about relationship. It's not a formula. When I started my own blog a few months ago I began to read what people were saying (arguing) about the emergent thing. My head spun around in circles as one side of the argument debated against the other side, point by point, verse by verse, theory by theory. I was beginning to get discouraged, when someone looked me in the eye and said "Just minister. Stop trying to figure it out. Go and flesh it out." And your posting today summed it all up. You hit the nail on the head. There is no formula. The secret is: there is no secret. So I'm excited to be a part of a community of believers. We might be emergent. We might be postmodern. Who knows. All I know is that once I was blind and now I see. I can say this: It's a lot more simple this way than the old way. So I'm going to let my previous church jump from fad to fad, try to re-invent Sunday School, plan multi-site venues, start cell groups, and do another capital campaign. After all, they are just injecting artificial growth hormones. I want the real deal. I want authenticity. I want Jesus. I think there are some other people out there that want him too.
Wow... you have no idea how amazing this was for me to read! Thanks for staying true to the journey and being willing to become fluid as God leads you. When it comes to following the Living Water that seems make more sense.I'd be interested in hearing more about your story. What does your faith in God look like today versus a few years back? Also, as it relates to the two churches in contrast to each other what made on more outstanding one way versus the other? Pros and cons of each? Etc.
First of all, you have to understand when I left that church I felt like a failure. Even though we had one of the biggest youth groups in the city. Even though we were reaching kids who had never been in church. Even though I had kept the main focus on relationships. Even though there were so many things that were right and God-honoring. I can't say I would do anything differently, really. After all, we were only six years old. I would have made a few changes, but overall it was great. What happened was man got in the way. I no longer believed in the direction the senior leadership was taking the church. For all the reasons I listed above I had a sinking feeling something was wrong. So many things were out of alignment. Not in the student ministry, but in the church at large. I began to see that what the senior staff was doing was not what was important in the Scriptures. The Church of Acts looked more and more and more foreign. But the student ministry was in it's own little world. The senior pastor didn't care too much what went on as long as there were no complaints. I tried to keep the student ministry close to what I felt the Bible taught, but eventually couldn't withstand the pressure. Comments from the senior pastor to me began to eat away at my soul..."you need to do this, after all, you like what you make (salary) don't you?" and "I want the rock climbing wall for the wow effect" and too many others to mention. The ministry staff was under so much pressure all the time. It got to the point I would have panic attacks (I found out later I wasn't the only one). There were cover-ups, secret meetings, no checks-and-balances, no accountability, and a growing sense that all the senior pastor wanted was a bunch of "yes" men. Group think was taking over and it really was a frightening place to work. People on staff began to notice that we worshiped the church more than we worshiped Christ. The staff was discouraged and worn out and helpless to do anything about it. You felt like you were never doing enough. It was never good enough. And if you spoke out you were "disciplined". And the numbers kept increasing, and the money kept pouring in. In fact, we hired a church growth firm and fed the numbers to them. They told us when to start a new Sunday School hour, a new worship service hour, and a state-of-the-art student facility. So I bowed out. Didn't make a fuss, just backed away. And it was the most difficult thing I've ever been through. (...it's a much bigger story than I can tell you in a blog...) Two years later and people from that church are just now beginning to see what is really going on. At first, some were a little confused by my leaving. Let me assure you, they are getting clarity now. Rest assured that God will not share His glory with a man. So, I left confused, hurt and abused. I was deeply discouraged. I had just walked away from people I cared about deeply, had spent every day for six year with. Some reactions were horrible and misinterpreted and, short of causing a huge split, I couldn't tell the real reasons I left. The staff was lied to. The staff was told to back away. My best friend in the world was on staff as the middle school minister. He told me "I know what I'm doing is wrong, and one day I'll give an account for it, but I can't afford to lose my job." And he and his wife turned their backs on us. My wife and I had just gotten married, we had just bought two new vehicles, we made a comfortable living and now we had nothing. We had the inner knowledge that we had done the right thing and were glad to be out from under that leadership, but it was so painful. Now people were wrongfully turning their backs on us. We hadn't counted on that. It hurt. I did a lot of soul searching. I had many knock-down, drag-outs with God. I had to change a lot of my perceptions about faith and about God. I had learned some erroneous things. Like, God is interested in our happiness and comfort. No, God is interested in joy amidst suffering and pain. Things like that. So, you ask what my faith in God looks like now? It's stronger than its ever been. It's deeper and more mysterious. I grew up in a Christian bubble. For 30+ years I've lived in that bubble. And two years ago that bubble was popped. In some ways the bubble was safe and kept me safe, but in some ways the bubble distorted how I saw the world around me. Now I see with different eyes. Okay, you want some pros and cons? That'll be my next post. I have to each something, I'm starving! Stay tuned...
I feel like I know you and your heart better now. Thanks.
I have to "each" something? I guess low blood sugar had set in on my last blog. Sorry, where was I? Okay. A few years ago, when I was hanging onto the caboose of a run away train, my faith in God was small. After all, who needed God, really. We had it all worked out. We gave lip service to God while all the time being BUSY doing his work. We had marketing plans, church growth experts, building plans, fundraising campaigns. And when things got slack on the spiritual side we had pick-me-up sermons on the Prayer of Jabez, or monthly campaigns like Purpose Driven Life, 40 Days of Purpose, or a year-long commitment to Discovering God's Word. We read all of Maxwell's books. We read Wild at Heart, and now I hear they're reading Barbarian Way. It's funny, we'd stand up and say "It's not about you" and then turn around and do everything for you. But that is now. What was it like then, when things were small and God was the most important thing? When the church started, everything was God centered. My faith was huge. We need His guidance, His wisdom, His help and we sought it at every turn. We only had 70 men and women, but they were united. They were equipped. Most of them were Sunday School teachers, deacons, leaders. They were the movers and shakers. It was great to start with solid people who knew God's word. But six years later, a church growth company is telling us "you've hit your mark, it's time to start a new Sunday School hour." We are barely staffing our existing SS. Now, we don't have any solid people who know God's word. But did that stop us? We started it anyway. When the church started, we prayed a lot. Real prayers. Prayers where we listened, too. Gut-wrenching, soul-searching prayers. Six year later, we asked God to bless what WE were doing. We told God what we wanted. Wasn't He impressed with all we had done?When the church started, sermons were from God's word. Prayed through, humble, ouch-envolking. Six years later, sermons were "this is what I think...see, God's word backs me up on this." Sermons were prepared by a team that sometimes included the pastor. We thought of the catchy titles, great fill in the blanks. We designed the powerpoint slides and video clips, drove a motorcyle on the stage, gave out key chains.When the church started, we discipled people who came to the Lord. You could walk the aisle and everyone was happy and excited to see what God was doing. Six years later we hired a team of body builders to come in and break blocks of ice with their heads, invited the community, promoted the church. After all, we wanted to see people get saved. But we didn't plan how to disciple anyone who came forward. We did away with walking the aisle and if you wanted to join the church you signed up for a two-hour class. We just didn't have time to squeeze that part in during the three worship services.When the church started, it was about people and relationships. Six years later it was about policy, the end justified the means, and task outruled any relationship.In the beginning we just needed some place with a roof. In the end, we had to hire the guys from Disney World to design our kids facility.In the beginning honesty and weakness was okay. In the end, nothing could be further from the truth. In the beginning was the Word. In the end, it was the master plan.In the beginning God.It's harsh, but true. Comparing the early days of that church to the latter days when I left, are like comparing day to night. Polar opposites. Who would have thought it could happen. How could it get to that point? Man. That's how. Pride. That's how. Ego. That's how. Taking eyes off Jesus. That's how. But it is so subtle. So gradual. And don't you dare sit on your high horse and think it could never happen to you. Because these men and women on staff, the leaders in that church, the people sitting in the congregation are thinking they are doing okay. They love Jesus. And doesn't Jesus want a big church? Look at all the dying churches, aren't we doing something good? If they thought they were doing it wrong, wouldn't they leave?Maybe they're afraid to leave. Maybe they are afraid to face the two years of pain my wife and I faced. Maybe they are afraid to give up their big salaries (they can't go anywhere else and make the same money). Maybe they are afraid to lose their friends. Maybe they're afraid to engage the lost world. Maybe they're afraid that they won't find another church they like. Where else would they go? No other place is as cool, hip, fun. Maybe they're afraid that it's all a big scam. Maybe God is just a bunch of smoke and a little man behind a curtain. Maybe God doesn't fit in a nice little box. Maybe He wants more from me. Maybe I'll have to give up something. Maybe it's not about me.As best as I can tell, this emergent thing is all a reaction to what I've described. A reaction to all that is wrong in the market-based church. In reaction, the pendulum has swung to the other side. And there is a lot I like here on the other side, but it's not all good. Here's one example. When the People of Mars Hill started, the leaders were very anti-structure. But now, two years later, they see the need for structure. I believe that it's not bad when structure serves the people. It's bad when the people start serving the structure.So, now you wanna know the pros and cons? Between ministry at a modern church and ministry at a post-modern church? I don't know, yet. I'm not too far into the postmodern thing to know much. But I have my observations. Many of which are being fleshed out now as we start this new ministry to our teens. So, the jury is still out. Only time will tell. It's a journey, not a formula after all.For more on this journey as it unfolds, visit my blog. It's http://thatcoffeeguy.blogspot.com, read along and send me comments.Tim, let's keep this conversation going. What do you think?
Well... I'll assume you mean Tony. :) But yeah... really good stuff, bro. I think that postmodernism is simply what comes after modernism. In organized reaction, we first found ourselves dealing with the "emergent church" out of that. Today I find "Emergent" (as a group of ministers/thinkers) is less deconstructive and more proactively constructive without the trappings of modernism. However, it remains to be seen what its trappings will become. I think that's a key point, by the way... that some "emergents" are reactive and some are proactive.Your journey sounds like mine... it's almost scary how similar. I find myself looking at how God is using the modern church, but I also know that it's just simply not who I am anymore. Coming from a guy who was saved and served at Willow Creek back in the day I think that's been an interesting shift. My family and I really enjoy Mars Hill (in Grandville, Michigan - not sure which one you meant) and have been blessed by its ministries. I know they are restructuring, too, though... so we'll see.Maybe the sign says it all - "emerge gently."
Yes, Tony. Who's Tim? I'm retarded, sorry. But you're right, it's just not who we are anymore. So we'll see. Interesting journey, huh?It IS VERY scary how similar they are. No, the Mars Hill I was refering to was the church my wife and I now attend. Don't tell me the name of the church you're attending is Mars Hill, too? And did you notice that the day your son accepted Christ is the day we started the youth ministry at Mars Hill? I'm going to stop now.So, are you thinking about starting a church?
Hmm... I think God has weaved our paths together for such a time as this. Or at least, when I post and you read. Or when you post and I read. Those times work, too. :)As per if I am thinking about starting a church, no.Do I want to join the Church that is already in motion? Yes.Am I willing to partner with others in creating an outlet for that Church in a local setting? Yes... amazingly, yes. I can't believe it, but yes.In the past month and a half, God has clarified this in my heart. See my "crazy things i recently said" post for more.
I KNEW IT!! I knew you would stay up until 1:02:03 am 4/5/06. I knew I would check this today and find a post from you at 1:02. I just knew, LOL.I laughed so hard at the mustache and baby diaper ones. You really said that? Clever!Yeah, two years ago I said I would never do ministry again. God has a way of putting up with our "nevers" and overcoming our fears. I'm glad for that. So, what's your story? Are you leaning toward full-time, bi-vocational, or volunteer? That's been on my heart lately. You know, wondering if I'm supposed to do this full time. Doesn't a lot of the emergent literature make an argument for no paid staff? What are your thoughts?Blessings to you today my friend.
No doubt on the "never" theology. It was never on my radar and now I can't think about anything else.We're going to be assessed on it in a month by our district/denomination and if we're given the green light we hope to be a part of birthing a new community of Christians who are concerned about each other and pleasing the heart of God. It would be great to be full-time and paid so I can give it my complete focus, but we're willing to do whatever it takes.So as you think about it pray for us to have clear wisdom in this endeavor. If it happens, sweet! If not, we're trusting for God to open another door.
Man, know that I am praying with you about this opportunity.
good to catch up on you Tony and to meet you CoffeeGuy. I'm scared to ask where you are in Alabama. I grew up in Montgomery. :-) But Bama, Tejas or Cali, God's people do and have done the same stuff.
len: Why are you scared to ask?
i knew it wasn't my home church but thought i might know it. that's all
You say...In short, the emergent church isn't about models in as much as it is about values.As a potential church planter, this is good news for me. Having come off of a 16 years in student ministry I have seen the need to be fluid in my approach to reaching students based on who they are and where I served. Why wouldn't the church at large be any different? If we were committed to internal values that were biblically breathed instead of external concepts that had copyright symbols next to them, perhaps we'd "get it" and the Church would invade the church.What will it look like for the church to be less married to a model and be more interested in the character behind the looks?I say...As long as the value NEVER wanders away from the CLEAR teaching of scripture and the hardlined truth of the gospel and the preaching and teaching of it. The church is good. But, the biggest definition and problem of the so called "Emergent Church" is one thing, their support of Postmodernism. Which is to say... "There is no definitive truth".But there is, The Bible, God's Word and if you can't hold to it's value as a church. If you can't teach the hardlined truth about sin and repentance, then you are doing church wrong. It's not about preference, it's about Truth it's a fight for Truth.You wanted definition, there ya go :)
Actually... there's a really good sermon here that I think you should listen to...Emerging Church - Lecture to TMS studentsand an article at pulpit magazine
I agree with your conclusions, Frank. However, I think there is a big misunderstanding that all postmoderns reject absolute truth. This has been published in a few books trying to sum up the emerging church and postmodern culture, but it's false info.Think about it... it's hard to find a good atheist these days. While they are out there, the more dominant reality is agnosticism. The criteria there is not a denial of absolute truth as it relates to God but rather that "no one can know what it is for certain."So be clear, I see postmoderns not rejecting absolute truth in as much as they are rejecting the idea that you can know what it is. Perhaps this sounds like the same thing, but one deals with the conclusion while the other deals with the pathway.In this manner, I believe relational ministry will trump programs in the emerging church. A program tells people to "come and see what we have figured out" whereas relational or missional ministry lives out the faith in front of others and hopes that by our lives we will show people that:1) Absolute truth does exist... only God is mysterious and so there will always be parts of it we are still pursuing (see the appeal to an agnostic?).2) Our lives are convinced and convicted of it (in spite of our faults).3) If we can embrace the journey without having all the answers, maybe they can, too.My two cents. Or four. Or twelve. :)
I'm pretty new to the emergent conversation, but I think it might be important to clarify a key point. The term "postmodern" is not a religious term. If we started calling some churches "Ice Age Churches", the term Ice Age refers to a measure of time with certain characteristics. Ice Age is defined outside of the religious realm, and preceded our coining of the term "Ice Age Church". In like manner, "postmodern" describes an age. It has characteristics outside of the religious realm. In fact, if the term "postmodern church" was never created, academia would still be defining the ideas and characteristics of postmodernism.So, being new to this, is Frank correct when he says the Emergent Church is in support of postmodernism? Does the Emergent movement really support the ideas and characteristics of postmodernism? Does the EC really reject the notion of absolute truth? Or does it just recognize the inevitability of these characteristics being adopted by our society at large? I support Tony's assertion that not all postmoderns reject absolute truth. But the rejection of an absolute, "big T" Truth is a MAJOR characteristic of the postmodern society that is developing around us. The church is going to have to address how it's going to counter that belief. Isn't the Emergent Church trying to tacklet that issue, or are they really in support/agreement of it?Please clarify this for me.
Frank: Thanks for the links. I listened to John MacArthur's message. Very good message, but I felt he jumped to some conclusions as to the motives of these men, maybe exagerated some of their tenets, and used non sequitur arguments without a lot of evidence and faulty analogies. I mean, just because someone says that the scriptures may not be clear in one area doesn't mean they believe that it is unclear in all areas. Or that you can't or shouldn't believe what the scripture clearly says. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, after my last post I just couldn't rest until I had some more answers. I don't want to be associated with any movement or label like "postmodern" or "emergent" until I know what is at it's core. I like what I've seen and read when it comes to its approach to the how of ministry and church expression. But like I said I'm new to this scene. What I would not like one bit is a weakening of the foundation of what it means to follow Christ. I would not like it one bit if they asserted the Bible is incomplete or falliable. If what John MacArthur says in his message is true, I want no part of that. But here is what I found on The Ooze website at http://www.theooze.com/articles/article.cfm?id=1151Now, this was written before John preached that message, but maybe John was not privy to this information, or it has since been recanted.RESPONSE TO RECENT CRITICISMSby Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Spencer Burke, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Andrew Jones, Chris SeayThursday June 2, 2005 ..."Sixth, we would like to clarify, contrary to statements and inferences made by some, that yes, we truly believe there is such a thing as truth and truth matters – if we did not believe this, we would have no good reason to write or speak; no, we are not moral or epistemological relativists any more than anyone or any community is who takes hermeneutical positions – we believe that radical relativism is absurd and dangerous, as is arrogant absolutism; yes, we affirm the historic Trinitarian Christian faith and the ancient creeds, and seek to learn from all of church history – and we honor the church’s great teachers and leaders from East and West, North and South; yes, we believe that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior of the cosmos and no one comes to the Father except through Jesus; no, we do not pit reason against experience but seek to use all our God-given faculties to love and serve God and our neighbors; no, we do not endorse false dichotomies – and we regret any false dichotomies unintentionally made by or about us (even in this paragraph!); and yes, we affirm that we love, have confidence in, seek to obey, and strive accurately to teach the sacred Scriptures, because our greatest desire is to be followers and servants of the Word of God, Jesus Christ. We regret that we have either been unclear or misinterpreted in these and other areas. emphasis mineinteresting journey, don't you agree?thatcoffeeguy
:)Tony says... The criteria there is not a denial of absolute truth as it relates to God but rather that "no one can know what it is for certain....So be clear, I see postmoderns not rejecting absolute truth in as much as they are rejecting the idea that you can know what it is. Perhaps this sounds like the same thing, but one deals with the conclusion while the other deals with the pathway."You are right, I was unclear, but regardless of whether or not you say "there's no definitive truth" or "you can't know the truth for certain". The premise of being without Truth still stands. In order for someone to repent they have to KNOW they are wrong first, and then KNOW what the corrective action is. Somehow there has to be some kind of head knowledge or something that will translated to action.Paul says to the Ephesians in Eph 1:15-18... "For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints"With the aid of the Spirit there is a way to ultimately know the truth. And yes living relationally and missionally is key, it's one of the last commandments given to us by Christ, Himself before he ascended to Heaven. So we must do that, but that doesn't mean that gathering of believers should be without sound Biblical teaching. And there might be many "ways" to do that I guess, as long as the hardlined Biblical Truth is presented.Tony also says... 3) If we can embrace the journey without having all the answers, maybe they can, too. Off the top of my head I might not have all the answers, but the Word is guaranteed to have all the answers. thatcoffeeguy: Thanks ;) I need to do some looking up, but somewhere I saw McLaren say something quite contrary. And I highly doubt MacArthur would quote (or talking about) something of McLaren's without doing some research. I've listened to a lot (and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT :) of MacArthur and he is not the type to jump to conclusions. He is a well studied and researched man.I don't mean to make this sound like I'm jumping at anyone's throat. Because I'm not, I just have a huge passion for truth because I know it saves :).I've been in a few churches that has called themselves "Emergent" and everytime you start talking to them about the preaching and teaching of the gospel (which is quite evident as something done in the New Testament) a red flag gets put up and everyone gets defensive, as if teaching the Bible was a sin. Or bust out the Bible to see if what is being taught is accurate, it's as as if I commited a crime.Have a great one!
"It IS as bad as you think, and they ARE out to get you."I got this in my email today and I think it sums up the fears we all have... including me.However, postmodernism is simply "that which comes after modernism." It isn't a rejection of modernism per say, just like being post-adolescent isn't a rejection of our teenage years. We're just past it... and into something new that has been launched off of it.As I see it, "emergent" churches are sometimes rooted in postmodernism, whereas in many other cases they are rooted instead in Christ (my personal preference) and seek to minister in a postmodern context. The whole "in the world but not of the world" mindset.Keep in mind, though, that the modern church is the same way. Many modern churches are rooted in the "seeker sensitive" or "program" mindset instead of Christ. Sometimes our culture - even that within the Christian bubble - can become as much of an idol as anything else.So it goes both ways.I think conversations like this keep us sharp. In a time where we're all seeking to understand something like the emerging church we must remember that there aren't any labels that adequately sum up anything or anyone. Think about it - what labels can sum up any of us as individuals, let alone the church?I also agree that the Word of God has revealed all things. However, to say that man can fully understand God in all of his mystery is a trap the modern church fell into. Granted, we must stay anchored in the fact that we can "know what we know," which is a fear that many of us have the emerging church will fall into.For more thoughts on this, refer to one of my favorite posts (on my side bar) called "I Figured Out What The Emerging Church is!"
All this talk of "postmodernism' and "Emerging churches" gets confusing to the average person. We should not be emerging from anything but rather penetrating society with the GOOD NEWS that Jesus died for our sins and we can get victory and forgiveness for our sins and experience freedom from guilt. I agree with what has been said about too many programs and regimentation but we need to recognize that "He which is for us is not against us."
Joe: I agree with you. Yes, it does get confusing and yes, it is imperative that we impact society with the good news of Jesus. However, none of us are "average" people. We are ambassadors for christ. It is important that we better understand our culture so as to be best equipped for how to share the hope that is within us. As some of us are being called to start new churches, it is important for us to engage in this conversation. Thanks for joining in.
I realy injoyed all of your coments but as I was reading them this thought came to me. I was a part of one of those Mega churches and now I attend a much smaller church and I fine good points for both. I know that God can show His power and Glory no mater how man tries to give the good news message. We might be spreading the Word for the wrong motive or reason but the plain and simple truth is that the salvation story is still being shared an people are being saved. I find real rest in this following scripture. Phil 1:14-1914 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,19 for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
I don't think we should focus on "the emerging church" in as much as we should try to understand what has happened in the past and what is growing out of it. By understanding our roots, we can better discern what pruning needs to happen for the best fruit to bloom.
Tony: Exactly! The culture of our society is changing. And we are a part of that culture. We are to be in the world, but not of it. Maybe it has creeped in a little too much in some churches, and that would need to be pruned. Only by talking and exploring this together can we better gauge what to cut and how much to cut. And, maybe, what might need to be grafted in.Johan: I agree that Christ can work in big and small churches. It's not about size. To me it's more about message. I know that there have been some people that have walked away from the church hurting and confused because of the mixed message a church was sending. I would caution a "motive doesn't matter" mentality because eventually that motive can leak over into the message. And that is exactly what happened in my last church and many people are hurting and confused as a result. It doesn't happen all the time, I guess, but sometimes. Just a thought.Iron sharpens iron. And multiple perspectives allow for stronger insight and wisdom when making decisions. That is what I appreciate about this conversation. After all, I don't know it all. Your insights give me perspective that I might not have otherwise considered. Blessings!
I've long thought that the church is more outward reaching community than about models or even theology. Sometimes our theology gets in the way of living the truth of Jesus Christ.
'Good call on these thoughts... it's odd, but theology informs our practice and yet it can also distract us from it. Weird, eh?
Do I know you? You commented on my site about my kids and their "language..." it's all their own! :)
Great blog Tony!But remember, Christ gave us the "Great Commandment" before He gave us the Great Commission.Remember that always.It will serve you well.
I think the church needs more potential church planters who think that way. Around my part of the country, all of the church plants look the same and that just bugs the crap out of me. Why can't we be creative and do something our own way, to fit our own people? Good words.
Tony, on a much earlier blog dated November 2005 (I think) you said the following: God is still on the throne and has an ultimate plan we're heading towards. No one gets to tell us what the Church looks like other than Him... what we get to do is join Him in a union unlike any other. So who knows... perhaps the Church will emerge within the church in all of this hub-bub... supernaturally. On this blog you said: I don't think we should focus on "the emerging church" in as much as we should try to understand what has happened in the past and what is growing out of it. By understanding our roots, we can better discern what pruning needs to happen for the best fruit to bloom. I believe you have insights that are important concerning the supernatural element that must be present if the church of tomorrow is to truly be different from the church of today or yesterday. Your insight regarding 'pruning' is also important. You have hit on two aspects of the current transformation that I seldom hear mentioned in the emergent conversations - supernatural intervention and the necessity of pruning. These two subjects could take the conversation to a deeper level, which is my hope. I am someone who is listening intently to the conversation, but thus far, I haven't added my voice because the conversation isn't at the spiritual depth at which I want to converse. I'm hoping to meet more people who wish to dialogue about the role of the supernatural element and the act of pruning - or 'the removing of tares from the wheat field.'
Thanks for adding to this... and for reminding me of those thoughts. Doesn't it just make sense that God would have something to say about His Church that might collide into the version of it we understand it to be (or will become)?Since God is eternal, He was modern AND post-modern (not to mention pre-modern and post-post-modern) befoe any of us. :)
Tony, I'm a member of one of the emergent cohorts. Is it possible to dialogue briefly through email?
That would rock - firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow. Lotta comments here, and lotsa long ones.Good post, and good thoughts. I don't know if I'm emergent or not, although I would say I'm postmodern (I think I'm emergent by your definition), but I know that I have done a good job offending people, good servants in the church, who feel like we're lumping them all together and saying they're all doing a bad job. But not every traditionalist or seeker-service or Sunday School are doing bad jobs (which is what they often hear because of how we are communicating). I'm excited about what's happening. It's another culture, and the Church, as it always has done, is infiltrating (badly in some ways and well in other ways).
I think the main objection to the Emergent church is that they've lost sight of scripture. Well, that is the only credible objection in my opinion.A "typical" emergent church (which is ridiculously hard to pin down) tend to have the problem of being experience-sensitive vs. seeker-sensitive. We need to remember what Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, that there is nothing new under the sun...just endless repackaging. There is also a danger in re-wording everything. We are so afraid to say rebuke or criticism (in love), that we say comments. Instead of saying Bible studies, we say spiritual formation. Instead of fellowship, we say community.The issue is that the way God says it in scripture isn't good enough, because "we have a different culture"... or scripture or God is a mystery, and we can't be certain on anything.The post-moderns get one thing right. The US modern church is broken. It's a consumerist, seeker-sensitive, bible-weak, self-centered, and shallow production. They've created a Jesus package they want to sell you for three easy payments of $19.95. This is clearly wrong. The emergent, post-modern movement is the new reformation...its just they're foundation is a little off-center. Universalism (McClaren) is not the answer. We need a re-emphasis on scripture.Look up these two links:http://www.monergism.com/http://www.notemergent.com/
Thanks for these thoughts, and I appreciate those links. I'm wondering which churches specifically you're referring to - you mention Brian McLaren so I don't know if you just mean him or others. Keep in mind that the emerging church (and even Emergent Village) are more conversation based that denominational or organizational. It's like a group of pastors who get together for lunch in the same town - they don't all agree on everything because there is no denominational statement - and yet they can eat lunch together and have great chats.So again - when you talk about those churches and "seeker" ones are you thinking of a few specific ones?
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