May 18, 2004, 6:47 am
Filed under: uncategorized

Some thoughts on unity in the emerging church . . .

Even a simple reading of the New Testament will bring about a clear understanding that the body of Christ is one, and that it should be our aim to live in agreement with this oneness. And while there may be, at times, disagreement over the particulars of where we should go or what we should focus on (i.e. Paul and Barnabas’ split), there should not be a turning from one another in order for us to pursue our own directions as ends unto themselves.

I fear that fragmentation is far too easy, even within the emerging church that so many of us have become members of. I mean, think about it – we’ve got the emerging church types who light candles and incense and drink coffee, but other than that are just like every other church in town. We’ve got the emerging church types who have rejected this “model” and decided that church in a simple, home environment is better for them. And then there are the bloggers . . . What the distinctions at this point (or any other point in the future) look like is not what I’m getting at.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve attended several events designed to get emerging church people in conversation with one another, and moving in new and exciting directions . . . hopefully as a “unified” movement. Sadly, at every one of these events, I’ve heard things that run completely opposite to oneness in the body of Christ. I can say this with confidence, mainly because I have said many of the statements myself.

It’s important for those of us who are going a “new” way in the faith to be able to chart our own stories, which will necessarily involve saying things like, “I left the traditional/organized church because . . .” or, “I realized that the systems I was helping to promote by working on staff at my church were bankrupt, and so I began . . .” But there is a very fine line between charting our stories and taking pot shots at other brothers and sisters in Jesus. Heck, it was only a couple of days ago that I blasted one of the more prominent pastors in America, right here on my blog.

Where is the space where we can confess our failures in participating in foolishness, without saying harmful things about or toward those who continue to participate? Where is the place where I can say “the traditional church sucks” without saying “the people I am called to love and pray for and encourage, who still participate in the traditional church suck”? I mean, what is the traditional church if not the collective of people, who by my description must suck?

I have too smugly sat here, hammering at my keyboard, thinking myself enlightened because I found a way to break out of the system. Clue #1: It wasn’t my idea to break out of the system in the first place. It was a righteous hunger for God, that was put there by God himself, for his own purpose and glory. Clue #2: God did not get me out of the system so that I could launch foolish rants against those still in the system. It was so I could repent of loving the system more than God himself, and pray for and encourage others who have done the same.

It’s ironic to me that even people and groups who strive for unity within the body of Christ often fall victim to the thing they strive against. Unity is easy when you’re with a group of people who agree that unity is a good thing . . . but soon you realize that there are people out there that disagree. Now you have an “us” and “them” situation. How do you make pleas to “them” without setting yourself up against them?

I offer no answers here. Just hard questions. I pray for God’s grace, discernment, and wisdom. All I can do is prepare myself to warmly greet fellow citizens of the Kingdom wherever I meet them, and resist categorizing them. Any thoughts?


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