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.