« Networks | Small Things »

Boxing the 'Emerging Church'

21 September, 2003 10:48 AM

In the current Hot Topic Penny writes an interesting question/comment:

'I've been in the middle of moving and have missed a couple of months reading, but all of a sudden (it seems to me, at least), this exciting new stuff going on at Living Room and others has become labelled and to some extent, put in the box of 'Emerging Church'.

I read here some months back that there are now conferences on Emerging Church, discussing how they should be structured...AGGGHHHHH!!! Here we go again! I've been part of a church for 7 years that grew from nothing - it had no denomination requirements, no structures in place - the church was completely free to follow its own vision of building community. 7 years down the line, and it's hard to tell it apart from other 'new' churches. The people wanted the same leadership roles, the same Sunday and Wednesday meetings, the same accountability....

I'm frustrated that such a cool idea like Living Room has felt the need to align itself with others who are doing similar 'new' stuff - why not have the courage and vision to do your own thing and not harp back to the old structures (which come from the Roman Empire, not Christ)?

Will the 'Emerging Church' become just another historical ideal, like all the other denominations that have come and gone?'

Thanks Penny, there are some interesting questions there that I'd like to open up for discussion.

Pete Ward talks about the importance of 'Liquidity' for new churches - do we run the risk of solidifying as we develop relationships with other new churches, as we name our movement and even as we formalise what we do? How do we keep the spark of creativity, enterprise and life burning?



I seem to always find myself playing the apparent role of skeptic or cynic or "defender of the status quo" when I come here, but I hope my comments are received in the spirit in which I offer them: as a fellow believer, sharing an equal interest in knowing God better and become more like Christ each day. I'm planning on spending eternity with you guys, so I guess we ought to get used to one another! ;-)

With that in mind, I'd like to pose yet another question, in response to the other questions: is it really so hard to accept that God works in wonderful ways through the "mainstream" church? Yes, in spite of the woeful restrictions of meeting on Sundays and Wednesdays and owning a building and actually having paid staff, we're seeing people saved, people sanctified, people restored, people ministering, people going out to spread the Gospel unto the uttermost parts of the earth. These things are happening in creative and enterprising ways and methods. And, it's pretty dang exciting!

Our God is not a God of disorder. Structure is NOT inherently evil. Sure, we ought to do our very best to "do" church according to the example given to us in Scripture, but the freedom we have in Christ also frees us to create effective structures, organizations and schedules, if that's how people are reached and ministered to.

Nevertheless, I appreciate hearing the questions and challenges to old ways of thinking...we ought to always be asking God if what we're doing is what He wants us to be doing...and to be willing to change when He says to do so.

Eric » 21 September, 2003 12:45 PM

OK - the self-described "conference junkie" needs to respond!

To Penny I'd say the emerging church - type gatherings I've attended have never seemed to be "how-to-do-it-like-us" events. The issue is sharing - sharing our stories and sharing ideas. However God moves us to that place where we are no longer content with the status quo, you can feel like you are the only person on the planet thinking these heresies untill you meet others who are thinking EXACTLY the same thoughts. So I see these events as hugely liberationg for people. No "10 East Steps", no "40 Days to Anything".

And to Eric, I don't think everyone is saying God isn't moving in mainstream churches anymore. (My personal bias is there is too much else to keep us busy in many churches. Busy enough so that we miss seeing His moving. Whether its busy enough that He moves down the street to accomplish his purposes is not for me to say!) I will say that it is becoming less likely that those who are most comfortable in the postmodern culture that now exists outside the church doors are more and more unlikely to set foot inside. That should concern us all.

Mike » 22 September, 2003 1:33 AM

I'll confess to having put the em-church in a certain box, for example by defining it as an evangelical movement (which it is to some extent, as pointed out by Robbert Webber in The Younger Evangelicals, but not completely). There is charismatic influence, but there is also a large renewal movement from mainline protestant churches as well.

My tendency is to define the em-church as what I want it to be, fitting it into my mold. I like the term "emergent church," so I only apply it to churches or church movements that I like. This really isn't fair, but again, we run into the problem Darren mentioned earlier of defining the em-church more by what it isn't than what it is. Perhaps that's OK, though.

Justin Baeder » 22 September, 2003 7:57 AM

Mike, you make a good point about the "busyness" that seems to build within the "mainstream" church. This sort of overhead seems to naturally accrue to any growing organization, and it's seductively easy to convince yourself that you're doing Kingdom work when you're really only doing "busy work."

Eric » 22 September, 2003 10:37 AM

Email this entry to a friend:

Friend's email:

Your email:

Message (optional):