An Emerging Church?

So it’s been a while since I’ve said anything here. After the winter quarter at Fuller I indulged myself with a wonderful spring break, which included my sisters flying into town. We spent some time backpacking in the foothills, and seeing the sights of LA including the beach. The week before that my sister-in-law was in town which was also quite enjoyable.

As for the winter quarter just finished, it was a challenge but an enjoyable endeavor. I took classes in Theology, the “Emerging Church” and Early Church History, the latter completing the first rather nicely.

It is the middle class, concerning the “emerging church” which was of particular interest to me though. I put the phrase “emerging church” in quotes because what it means and represents can be a bit grey.

Currently, in cities throughout the western world, a new missional approach is being taken to reaching out to people who would never darken the door of a church. The approach is often critical of the “seeker sensitive” model because it is largely confined to the suburbs, and caters to our ungodly consumeristic tendencies. The “emerging church” model usually relies a great deal on either postmodern approaches to theology, sensory oriented worship motifs, or both. Things such as movies, candles, incense and participatory styles of information dissemination factor heavily in this way of doing church. My professor, Eddie Gibbs, described the situation this way in one of his books.

“From living in the past to engaging the present.”
“From being market driven to being mission oriented”
“From following celebrities to encountering saints”
“From holding dead orthodoxy to nurturing living faith”
“From attracting a crowd to seeking the lost”

(for more info on what an "emerging church" is click here)

I for one am a bit critical of the movement. I appreciate many of it’s critiques regarding the former ways of doing things, but in many respects I think it may simply be a GenX, urban, seeker sensitive approach, a critique I think many of their leaders would not appreciate. I think the more important thing is to be missional, that is, to do church in a way that will reach out to people where they are. For the urban areas the “emerging church” may be great. But the principles behind it, applied to a rural setting, whether here or in another country, may look much different.

For too long the church has had a program called missions which it thinks about once a year and with any luck contributes to faithfully. This must change if a local church is to have any success in its God given mission of being a change agent within its local community. The church must embody the mission given to us by our Lord and Savior, to go and make disciples of all nations. Much of our failure in the area of evangelism and mission(s) is the way we think about, use, and do this word: mission(s) We have a false dichotomy. On one hand we have people, (definitely not us), who go somewhere else to do missions, and on the other hand we have no concept of what the “great commission”, our mission, is in the here and now. In effect we must abolish the word missions and begin to think both globally and locally about the mission of the church!

This concept of being missional seems to be a growing theme of my time here in seminary, where that will lead I’m not sure, but I’m excited about it just the same.


Kristen House said...

Hey David,

It's nice to hear that someone else is also working through the whole concept of being missional and questioning what that actually looks like. The majority of the classes I am taking at seminary are more focused on cross-cultural missions. However, I am taking a class, Church as a Social and Cultural Institution. This class is very interesting and discusses things from denominationalism, war vs. pacifism, and the role of women in church ministry. Just resently we read a book called "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian McLaren. He presents some very interesting thoughts on what a missional church encompasses. If your professors are like mine, you have more than enough books to read. In fact, your not sure if you will ever willingly read another book again (I might be overstating my point just a bit, but it's the end of the semester and since my time in seminary I have read more books than I can count) Anyway... if you get a chance, it's a great book that addresses many of the issues the church is facing in this postmodern time.

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