Beyond The Pale

Afraid of Emerging

Of all the different types of post that I’m going to put on this blog, today’s will probably be an example of the most informal besides memes, which I haven’t actually decided if I want to use or not. Usually I want to post something that either falls into a series that I’m working on, or that stands alone as an example of the best musings that I can pull from my paper journal for the week, but because the last week was so ridiculously busy with WTBD, and because next week will be worse with JICTC, I’m going to fall back on simply posting some notes on what me week was like.

WTBD stands for “Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills,” and it was the first of the two weeks that I have been dreading the most since I got to Goodfellow Airforce Base. I’ve heard horror stories about the sergeants in charge forgetting that we aren’t in basic training anymore and thinking that what they are teaching us matters when it actually doesn’t. It turned out that that the sergeants we were working with last week took a much more relaxed view of things, and a lot of what we went over was stuff that we went over was stuff that we will probably need to know at some point. Regardless, it was good review. We touched on the basics of first aid and calling in a 9 line, CASE reports, movement formations, reaction to ambush and contact, dealing with indirect fire, running radios, and using PRD. All basic stuff, but a good refresher.

But all that’s neither here nor there. It’s what happened, not what I’ve been thinking about, and what happened isn’t usually that interesting to me. What I’ve been thinking about, what I want to mull over here (I don’t say “what I want to write about” because that would imply some sort of structure, that I’ve been planning this, and I haven’t), is this fear of the Emergent Church that Andrea keeps on telling me she is hearing from my Dad and brother at their Church.

When I called Andrea this afternoon, the first thing she did after saying “hi” was to ask me to explain to her exactly what the expression “Emergent Church” really means. I thought this was a weird question because I know good and well that she had a pretty good grasp on the concept, but I indulged her, and because I wanted to be precise as possible, rather than explain it in my own words, I read her the Wikipedia article while adding in explanatory commentary. Basically, to boil it all down though, the emergent church could be described as: a movement where we try to live out our faith in this postmodern society by embracing the decentralized nature of our societal ideals and focusing more on the conversation of Christianity than on the sameness of it. I know, that doesn’t really say much, so let me explain what some of the really important aspects of this whole thing are. We live by Trinitarian based values, we want to imitate Jesus, even if it isn’t cool and the institutional church doesn’t like it. We want to be hospitable, welcoming outsiders just as they are. We want to be coparticipatory in creation, emphasizing expressions of the creativity that God has built into us. We want to live missional lives, taking the gospel to everyone. We embrace a generous orthodoxy…I could go on forever, but you probably get the point, and if you don’t, there are plenty of places that you can go for a better explanation than I can give here, though I might try to explain it in some future posts that are better thought out.

Andrea told me, “I thought that’s what it was.” She told me that this morning in service, Dad was talking about the emergent church, and he talked about some guy who got a thousand people to follow him, and they all went and either killed themselves or tried to (she wasn’t clear on that). Now, I don’t know what Dad was talking about, but it wasn’t the kind of church that I think of when I think about the emergent church.

I also don’t think about really good music or stylish hair, though good music might make me more inclined to come back to hear more of the teaching. What I think about is the fantastic fascination with Jesus and what he was trying to do when he came to share God’s love with us.

So maybe there was some confusion, but hey, that happens.

However, this wasn’t the first time that I’d heard comments like that coming from that direction. A couple of weeks ago, Andrea sent me a text asking what exactly was wrong with the Emergent Church model. I told her that nothing was wrong with it, that it was probably the best thing that had happened to the evangelical church in the last hundred years. She said that is what she had thought, but she had heard my brother telling someone in the hall at church that an Emergent church was exactly the kind of place that they wanted to stay away from. Seeing as I don’t have any problem with starting fights in my family (we generally all have a good time, and no one, or none of the males at least, gets all butt-hurt about it), I texted Chris and asked him why he had said that. He sent back a text saying that a lot of the movement’s leaders deny Christ as the only way to heaven, and he gave Rob Bell as an example. Now, Rob Bell might deny heaven as the goal that we all think of it as because he believes that the mission that Jesus gave us happens here on earth, and salvation is about this life before it is about another one, but the last thing that he does is deny Jesus as savior (I listen to the sermons coming out of Mars Hill by Podcast every week, and I read his books. If anyone has seen or heard a comment by Rob Bell that might seem to negate what I am saying, let me know). Rob Bell affirms the work of Christ on a level that I have never seen from anyone, certainly not from any leaders in the movement of which I grew up and still consider myself to be a part.

The main difference I see is that the Emergent Church seems much more interested in meeting people here, where they are, where Jesus also met them. And that seems to frighten other evangelicals because we have spent such a long time saying that the whole point of what Jesus did for us was all about what happens in some life to come, not in this one. We took his good news and twisted it into some sort of institutional suicide complex where the greatest thing we could say was “when I die hallelujah by and by, I’ll fly away.” And now there is a new movement that doesn’t necessarily deny that life in the world to come but affirms that first, before anything else, and above all, Jesus wants to give us fulfilled life in the here and now.

Why is this so frightening?

Note: I know this might sound like an attack on my brother and Dad, and I guess on this particular issue it is in a way, but I don’t mean it that way. For me the issue is that there seems to be this fear among what we might call “the old guard” that this new generation of believers are really going to ruin things, that things are going to just deteriorate until God can’t do anything but step in and start over. And yeah, things are bad, but if I’m going to continue to believe in this Christianity, then I have to believe in and affirm the work of Christ here and now, and I think that they want to believe in this too, but they fail to make the connection.


March 8, 2009 - Posted by | Christianity, Church, Journal Style Entries

1 Comment »

  1. So, have you read A Generous Theology by Brian McLaren? You mention generous theology, which is why I ask. I haven’t yet finished it, but I love the first chapter, “The Seven Jesuses I Have Known.” I am grateful that someone has put into much better words than I ever could how they have come to know so many aspects of this same Jesus.

    I think traditional churches are detrimental to our faith (in the long run) with their “ends justifies the means” sort of thinking about Jesus. It’s very sad that the purpose of belief is the final result: the heavenly prize. What about between now and then? How can believers not be drawn to Jesus’ message and mission while he was on earth, and how can they not see past the Great Commission into the simplicity of daily life with our Savior?

    You will have to blog about how you’ve come to such a radically different position from the one we had growing up.

    Oh, and I don’t have any blogs on my site; I set that up for a worship course I was taking and have removed all the blogs since then.

    Comment by It's Just Me | March 20, 2009 | Reply

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