Depressing Emergent Complexity
I studied a fair bit today in preparation for both Sunday’s teaching, and an upcoming seminar at which I’m speaking with one of our ministry directors from Bethany. After finishing my preparation for Sunday, I spent some time perusing Emergent Church blogs. There are thousands of them, without exaggeration! I was surfing through them for several reasons, but one of the large ones is that this morning I had the privilege of hearing David McCullough at a business breakfast. He stood before us, grey and wise, pouring out his heart like a prophet with his plea that we work on recovering that which has been lost: a sense of history; the love of reading; matters of honor and duty; good conversation at the supper table.
As I sought to translate his talk into my world of service and leadership in the church I wondered if we in the church don't have things we need to recover too. I started asking questions like this. What would happen if followers of Christ read their Bibles and responded to the things God was teaching them? What would happen if they met regularly to pray for one another and their neighbors, and they practiced hospitality, developing relationships within their neighborhoods? What would happen if they were so captivated by Christ that loyalty to Him and His ethic far outweighed any other loyalties, national, political, economic, or otherwise? My blog surfing was driven by a curiosity regarding whether these things are being addressed. Here's what I found:
Though simple, these practices are rare commodities in today’s spiritual marketplace. The emergent church hopes to offer a new way of doing church because the old ways don't work. Has the church of modernity failed? In many ways yes, though probably not to the extent that her young accusers say. But now I’m wondering, after 40 minutes in the emergent blogosphere, if the cure isn’t worse than the disease. One blog offered over 60 links! I became weary and confused just scrolling down the sidebar! After a few blogs, one gets the feeling that the emergent movement has it’s own celebrities, it’s own inner circle, it’s own language (emergent, orthopraxy, orthoparadoxy; missional; trans-missional; deconstructive; post-emergent; post-deconstructionist hermeneutic; blah blah blah). This is ironic, coming from a movement that was formed, in part, because the gospel had become inaccessible to common people.
Could it perhaps be simpler than this? Instead of a whole new movement… how about:
Love God – Read the Bible, Pray, listen for God’s voice and if you’re having trouble hearing, check with a friend and share together about what you’re learning or not learning.
Begin to Live out the Ethic of God’s Reign – when He’s in charge of the world fully, there will be an infusion of justice, beauty, environmental transformation, healing, hope, and celebration. Why wait? Let the reign begin today.
Love People – love your neighbors. Invite them over for dinner. Start a book club or something. And (this is important) young Christians; love and honor old Christians. Old Christians, pass on the torch of responsibility to new generations. We need each other. We need history. We need new ideas, forms, and ways of thinking. We need good conversations.
It’s discouraging to see a whole new subculture rising up offering the ‘new way’ to ‘do Christianity’ with the implication that we’re finally going to get it right. No – we won’t – no matter how emergent or post-modern we become. We’ll continue to be a on a journey of transformation. But if we’re humble enough to learn from each other along the way, and stay committed to a path the embodies the ‘simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ’, perhaps there will be a quieter, broader based, longer lasting revolution. That, it seems to me, is what’s needed.