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Bash the Bride - face the Bridegroom

10 June, 2004 2:59 PM

Have been having a number of email and real conversations today about Emerging Church with friends. One recurring theme is that many 'Emerging Churches' and 'Emerging Christians' are very negative towards 'the Church'. The idea of 'Church Bashing' is something that we observe happening more and more. Here is something I wrote in an email this afternoon...

'One piece of advice I give is that the 'discontent' that many of us feels needs to be watched carefully. I think its good to have some discontent about church, but there comes a point where we can get very bogged down in it.

The key is to continually challenge ourselves and those around us to do something with the discontent. Its very easy to pull things down - anyone can do that - but the challenge is to force oneself to thinking about what we'll build in its place.

Someone (I think it was Neil Cole) once said to me, 'if you bash the bride (the church) you've got to be willing to face up to the bride's groom' (Christ).

One of the big problems I see with many 'emerging churches' is that they form out of an atmosphere of discontent. If this is the foundation of building something new then it will infect what is built.

I've seen a couple of groups start like this - they did not last long and they ended up leaving some of their members feeling even more disillusioned with Church than when they started. They came to a point when they realised the main thing they had in common was their critique of the Church.

We're working hard to create a space with Living Room where we can critique the church, but don't allow that to become our major focus. Our focus is Jesus and his call to love God, our neighbors and each other.

Some days 'the Church' does frustrate me and I do feel discontent and angst towards it, but deep down I love the Church and want to see it reach its potential.

What do you think? Is it healthy to have some discontent? How much is too much?

Comments

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I was thinking about this topic a few weeks ago myself. In a Malaysia, few know about emerging churches but there are some of us who are waking up, so to speak, and are more 'in tune' with our dissatisfaction with the church.

I think it's good to come to this point of disillusionment as it teaches you a lot of truth about the true nature of the church - that it is not a building or an institution but a gathering of Christians - but yes, there was a point when I became too critical of churches in general. I found myself complaining more about it rather than pointing out good things about it.

John Clark also highlighted recently, how a man who worked for Campus Crusade got lambasted by an Emergent leader for 'being part of the system'.

I think it is easy to get so caught up by our disillusionment and our desire to change status quo that we forget what Jesus commanded us to do: to love one another.

Messy Christian » 10 June, 2004 10:52 PM

Good ending question, Darren... I think that discontent is fine -- it can lead to helpful criticism and reevaluation. BUT, we shouldn't let discontent stop us from mingling and cohabitating with the rest of the Church. Whatever are feelings are towards our backgrounds/upbringing/preconceived notions/etc., we should always be willing to take part in other church's activities, allow them to take part in ours and have an understanding that our actions (love, patience, compassion, understanding, etc.) determine the course of the Church as a whole (i.e., our actions speak much louder than our criticisms).

Be discontent, but welcoming. Be critical, but loving. Allow others to change because they liked what they saw in us. Don't be so stuck on what we think it "right" that we can't change if we like what we see in others.

timsamoff » 10 June, 2004 10:58 PM

Hey, I'll criticise 'the church' as much as the next guy. But I'm still part of it, wherever I am and whoever I mix with. Because I am a member of the body by virtue of Christ, regardless of whether I'm emergent or mainstream by virtue of association. And as head of the church, I am pretty sure Jesus knows what is going on and has all things under control.

saint » 11 June, 2004 1:26 AM

Great post. I've found myself going too far sometimes in bashing the church. Cynicism has a life of its own, but it can kill at the same time.

I'm guessing it's part of a phase. I hope those of us who have become disillusioned with the established church are filled with humility and trying to affirm everything we possibly can while remaining honest, while trying to do something ourselves besides complain.

Darryl » 11 June, 2004 2:08 AM

I think it goes beyond discontent. I know a lot of people who have a lot of latent anger towards the Church. They feel the Church has mislead them about the nature of God and in doing so, has controlled and surpressed them. What's more, some of them don't even recognise that they're angry or know why they hate the Church.

The good news is that it's possible to get past your anger and make a positive contribution to the Church; provided you avoid becoming bitter. I think the key thing is to understand why you're angry, why the Church works the way it does and how to find ways of expressing that anger in a positive way. Then you can stop hating the people who surpressed you and start pitying them - and that makes a huge difference.

Dan » 11 June, 2004 7:58 PM

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