Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Emerging Church?

Scot McKnight has some great thoughts on the state of what is often called the emerging church. Kenny point this out over on the Resonate forum. I love Scot's acknowledgment that he doesn't need the term emerging to describe what is happening in the church today. Really that is what emerging is trying to label - something is happening, like it or not, and it is easier to deal with a label, to which we can attach definition(s), than just to say "there is something happening."

I know all too well how hard it is to speak with precision about the things that are emerging at the edges of the evangelical church. To make matters worse, other folks like Bruce Sanguin, are also using this same term to name what is happening in other parts of the Body of Christ. When I did my work I had to settle, that is land, somewhere that I was comfortable with and I knew would capture the folks I was concerned with investigating. If I didn't do that I could only go broad and never really go deep into what is making the folks I investigated tick.

I also hear the complaint that evangelism is not the highest priority of the emerging or missional groups. I think this is both true and not true. First off, in this disperate group there are some who are very committed to, even traditional, forms of evangelism. I know that is true of our congregation, although we tend to stay away from confrontational modes, favouring deliberate relational paradigms of evangelism. But when you read broadly from the emerging churches that actually contribute to emerging church literature (I'm convinced some of the best efforts are not even on the map, they are too busy doing the stuff to write about it or self-promote!) there seem to be bigger fish to fry. That makes sense, if this is really a movement to bring at least a part of the church into the post-modern present. I think that these are also very worthwhile contributions to the whole church, especially the challenges to the so-called sacred-secular split. But if you want to hear my arguments on that you have to wait for my paper.

I've become more and more comfortable with the term emerging. In fact I like that it puts off some people. I don't want them comfortably resolving my comments into something that fits their tight little categories. I want a sense of tension. The funny thing is I don't get that outside of the evangelicals. In fact my more mainline friends are quite interested in what it going on at the edges - and I think eager to have a dialogue partner that has the energy of the evangelical church without the head-up-assedness of the evangelical church that sees everyone else as an enemy of the faith.

1 comment:

kns said...

I have no problem with the word, and it doesn't strike me as unique or particularly noteworthy that a lot of debate surrounds the term, its meaning, and its use. If anything that shows just how significant it is.