Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

not the point

Having returned from a conference in San Diego last week where I spent time talking with people around the subjects of post-modernity and the emerging church, I've become increasingly convinced of two things:

1) the words "Post-Modern", "Emergent", and "Missional" are quite trendy, and because people want to be these things, the words are used increasingly by people who don't really understand them, thus deflating the value of these words and rendering them increasingly meaningless.

2) because they're trendy, people are making vast generalizations and prophecies regarding the death of modernity, and the death of the institutional church, as if these two things are some sort evils in need of banishment so that the 'real' or 'pure' world view(s) might be ushered in. There's so much wrong with that line of thinking that I don't have time to address it right now because it's too late at night and I'm too tired. But it reminds me of Jesus response to the Samaritan woman's question about which mountain people should worship on... 'this mountain' or 'that mountain.' Jesus answer? "It doesn't matter, as long as you're actually worshipping." Apparently you can be spot on or miss the point, on either mountain. Can we carry the analogy out say that you can miss the point in a post-modern or modern church...or hit the target in either too? Emergent or traditional? Cathedral or living room? High Church or Hip Hop?

We're still looking for the silver bullet - thinking that moving out of the building will make us a better church. Maybe. But probably not, because the church, or the mountain, or the particular world view that is the contextual construct in which I do church life are all nothing more than wineskins in which the wine of the gospel is held and from which it is poured out to bless the world. Too many conversations are still about the wineskin. When the day is done though, they're still just skins... the important thing isn't the skin. but what's in it.

Do I...

1. Do justice?
2. Love mercy?
3. Walk humbly with God?

It is enough. Of course, we need the conversations about modernity and post-modernity, because without them there are generational divides in the church that fracture it and weaken it. But let's recognize that modernity and post modernity aren't two world views competing for king of the evangelical hill. They're two ways of looking at the world, both of which have value and dangers inherent in them. But you can live out the three elements above from either world view... thanks be to God. The gospel is way more generous and flexible than the wineskin cheerleaders and advocates on either side of the isle!


At 4/12/07 16:03, Anonymous donte said...

I’m not in these conversations enough to really know anything, but I will give my opinion as a layperson. Based off my limited understand of the Emerging Church, I believe it to be a progressive and good theological shift. If being Emergent means that we (the Church) seek to be relevant to a changing culture, then I am all for it. As long as our relevance to ‘the culture’ is pointing people to Christ, I see no wrong in being prophetic, transformative, or relative.

Paul said the same here in 1 Cor 9:19-23: Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

I think the greatest tension here is deciphering how relevant should we be. What are the truths that we hold with a closed fist, and what if anything should be left open for question? I am content in knowing that all Truth is God’s Truth, manifested through Jesus Christ. I am also challenged to accept that, “All that we know now is partial and incomplete (1 Cor. 13:12).” Therefore, if my only desire is to preserve what little I know, the transforming power of the gospel can never fully take root in my heart. We have to be open to accept the fact that God does not reveal Himself to everyone in the same way, nor do people respond or express their love for him in the same fashion.

Although it is the desire of some that the Church should control and dictate culture, I don’t believe that is our calling or duty as Christians (historically we don’t have a great track record when we controlled or dictated anything). However, I do believe that we have the responsibly to make the invisible Christ visible through praxis.

At 5/12/07 20:42, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I will be the first to admit my ignorance when it comes to the true meaning of the words "Post-Modern", "Emerging", or "Missional." And thankfully I am fully uninterested in being trendy, but I would love to know what they refer to in the context of today's church.

At 6/12/07 23:04, Anonymous Davey said...

Two things:

You know the frustrating thing about the church? No matter what attractive title it has it's still made up of people...and people are far from perfect.

You know the amazing thing about the church? God still chooses to use the broken church to convey His gospel to the world, an idea so ludicrous that it just might work...


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