The Wacky Emerging Church: Reason #54
March 20, 2008, 8:03 am
Filed under: blogging, denomination, emerging church, innovation

This post is part of a continuing series. You may want to read my list of disclaimers and intro remarks here, if you haven’t done so already.

Reason #54: Walking backwards

One thing I enjoyed about the recent New Conspirators gathering was that they kept asking the question, “What in the world is God doing?”  Sadly, much of the time, the emerging church walks around with a different question, which goes a little something like this: “What in the world is the church doing that we wish it would stop doing, so it can get back to the business of doing whatever in the world God is doing?”  The difference between these two questions is not subtle.

Yes, a big part of this “conversation” is deconstructing the church, and providing a prophetic critique to the many broken systems and structures that have been added over the many years.  It’s a very helpful thing to do from time to time.  But once again, that’s not the point.  When we spend so much time looking back at all the things we supposedly left behind, it’s all too easy to become a) arrogant, b) angry, c) lost.

I’ve covered the arrogant and angry pieces in other posts.  But the “lost” part is important.  When we focus on the things we’re leaving behind, we fail to properly attend to the things in front of us.  This new thing – whatever you want to call it – is still very young, and it’s still very experimental, but I’m confident that the only thing that will make it into a true renewal movement is if we actually start doing things differently. 

Thinking differently is not enough – it has to form us beyond the talk.  It has to take root in our souls.  And the only way that’s gonna happen is if we create and create and create and figure out different ways of living.  I submit for your consideration one quick example: If you’re big thing is to rail against the professionalization of pastoral ministry, then you’d better be spending some time figuring out how to teach and encourage and empower young accountants, software engineers, waitresses, school teachers, janitors, and city council members to become the replacements for all the professional pastors.  And while you’re at it, you would do very well to figure out how to teach all those soon-to-be-unemployed pastors how to be accountants, software engineers, janitors, etc., because most of them have non-marketable academic degrees and even less marketable resumes.

At the risk of talking like I’ve got everything figured out, please indulge me to give a personal illustration (yes, I’m still a narcissistic blogger).  Several years ago, when I was considering resigning my position on staff with a regular evangelical denominational church, I was trying to figure out the right timing to make the move.  One of the clearest signals that helped me take that step was when I knew I had a vision for what I was going to, rather than simply what I was getting away from.

It’s far too easy to be known by what you’re against.  This is a chronic problem for many of the critics of the emerging church – we’re just the flavor of the month pseudo-heresy for them to get all worked up over.  But it’s also a problem with us.  We’re just the younger, hipper version.  And by the way, one of my fellow team members here in Seattle is great to remind me that “THERE IS NO ‘US’ AND ‘THEM.'”

Thank you for your attention. That is all. Comment at will.


4 Comments so far
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“but I’m confident that the only thing that will make it into a true renewal movement is if we actually start doing things differently.”

An excellent point, but I think a good number of emergents are focused on doing things differently.

I do think, for a time, emergent was focused on deconstruction, but from what I see that “conversation” has moved beyond solely words into action. We have the small missional communities (Camden house, simple way, Andrew Jone’s deal in the UK), and we have house churches, and we have ecclesiastic groups reforming the way they “do”

I think we are still working through things, but can we really grasp where we are going, when it seems so hazy right now?

Comment by Matt Scott


I’ll agree that there seems to have been some good movement in a positive direction over the past couple of years. But there’s still a ton of talk about what has been left behind. What most emerging churches is really not that different yet. The examples you listed are legit, certainly, but those communities are still few and far between.

I’ll stick with my assertion that there’s still more talk than walk at this point.

Comment by steve lewis

Yeah, I guess I can see what your talking about.

But again, since there is no clear focus of where exactly where we’re headed, it’s difficult to see exactly where we should move into action.

For instance, I’m much more likely to let my religious views lead me down a road of social justice and action, but another may be more focused on communal living.

I think in the end it’s really going to be a person to person thing, I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of having, what is essentially, a headless/faceless group.

Comment by Matt Scott

Matt –

“I think in the end it’s really going to be a person to person thing, I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of having, what is essentially, a headless/faceless group.”

I get what you’re saying, but it’s also one of the most exciting things about this strange trip we’re on.

Comment by steve lewis

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