Friday, December 02, 2005

The Emerging Church

About two years ago, I read a book called When Bad Christians Happen to Good People by Dave Burchett. Now, those of you that know me know that I've always been a bit of a malcontent about many things, but church and how church is done in particular. Reading this book coalesced a lot of ideas that I had been having and really put into words these little issues I'd been feeling were going on.

From that I ended up reading The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball, which was kind of a gateway drug into A New Kind of Christian and the rest of the writings by Brian McLaren, who opened up a whole new group of people to read, especially N.T. Wright.

These people and many others have been a part of a movement called the Emerging Church, which is a loose affiliation of people who are trying to grapple with changes in society surrounding the shift from modern thought to postmodern thought and what role Christianity will play in that (there could be a whole blog on how to define modern and postmodern and if someone wants deeper explanation of what is meant by that, ask in the comments and I'm sure someone will give a good response). It takes a lot of forms and there are so many blogs and thoughts out there that to even try to categorize them would be foolhardy and time-consuming. Just put Emerging Church into Google and see what you get (Hint: 586,000 hits).

Now then, Brian McLaren has kind of become a spokesperson/guru/target of the whole Emerging Church deal, but as much as he tries to step away from that, it's just kind of happened. However, he doesn't like the term "The Emerging Church." He doesn't like "The" because it implies that it's "The" church, and he thinks we've heard enough of that. He doesn't like "Emerging" because it's a term that's completely dependent on whatever it's emerging out of. And he doesn't like "Church" because it's not really a church, it's more of a conversation going on between people in churches. So except for the name of it, he's got no issue.

McLaren has also become a major target in what people think is a pretty heretical movement in Christianity, particularly from the Calvinists/Reform theology side of things. Some extremely harsh things have been said about him for raising questions that many don't think should be raised at all. People have attacked him on issues like changing the Gospel, homosexuality, social justice, reducing the importance of the sacrifice of Christ, etc. etc. etc. etc. Just go to Amazon and look at the lowest ratings on his books to see the kind of criticism that people are offering.

However, there is a spirit of dialogue that is starting to come forward and all that stuff above is kind of a prelude to what the real point of this blog is.

Adam Ellis stayed with me and Sheryl (and Kinsey, who I think has a little crush) this week while taking a graduate course at Lipscomb and gave me a CD of a talk by Michael Wittmer on The Emerging Church, offering praise and criticisms with Brian McLaren in the audience. I did some digging and discovered that it was part of a series of lectures at the Grand Rapids Theological Seminary that Brian McLaren spoke at and had some dialogue with critics.

If you have interest in McLaren and/or the Emerging Church, I highly recommend that you listen to this series. Ever since my stereo got stolen out of my car, I've been listening to my iPod a lot and have really enjoyed the chance to listen to this series and hear some different perspectives and ideas. The absolute best thing about it is the spirit of brotherhood and love for Christ that comes from all three men involved in it. They disagree without being rancorous, they answer issues brought up, and most of all, they love Jesus all the way through it.

As a final note, in his lecture, Michael Wittmer offers the Top Ten signs that you might be emergent, and I offer them hear for a Friday laugh.

10. If you have never read Left Behind, never said The Prayer of Jabez, and never led the 40 Days of Purpose
9. If you think you saw a megachurch on VH1's I Love the 80s
8. If you wouldn't be surprised to find Gandhi in heaven, but would be floored to find Jerry Fallwell
7. If in a debate with Jack Van Impe you'd likely argue that the bear is America and the AntiChrist is Pat Robertson
6. If your preacher just cussed and it seemed appropriate
5. If you honored your pastor with a box of fine cigars and beers on the house
4. If your cool hair resembles a midwestern Ryan Seacrest and if you have no hair and still look cool, you just might be a leader of Emergent
3. If you use the word "groove" as a verb and don't sound like a dork
2. If you purchase church supplies from a Buddhist bookstore
1. If your favorite Carson is Johnny


Tony Arnold said...

I qualified for a few of those (10, 8, 6, 5, 1). Although I was interested in eventually reading the Left Behind series because I do enjoy science/fantasy fiction.

Is the writing any good if you don't take it doctrinely serious?


Phil said...

Tony, the writing in Left Behind is not good at all. I don't even recommend picking them up at all.

Malia said...

Tony - Okay, I must of have missed something the last few Sundays. Since when does Tim cuss from the pulpit? Although mabye you're not referring to a sermon...I still can't imagine hearing a cuss word coming from him. And the cigars I can understand, but isn't Tim more of wine kind of guy?

Sorry I guess I'm being too literal, must be the SUGAR HIGH!

Phil - Fajita had a little quiz on his blog a few weeks ago about being postmoderen/emergent. My score was basically that I'm an emerging emergent. Not there yet, but on my way.

DB Carden said...

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this but when I read that Top 10 list on the cohort blog it rubbed me the wrong way. It seemed to be a "hipper than thou" statement or an indication of "more enlightenment" than the unspoken alternative. I know it is just a fun novelty and I should take it in that light, but that feeling of being better than someone else in regard to my understanding of God is just something with which I struggle.

And you are right, Tim is a cussing, wine-drinking, coffee snob and the writing in Left Behind should be left behind.

The quiz on Fajita's blog was bad. But that is my post-modern response to it since it made me pin down my opinions to one option and only gave me two from which to choose.

Phil said...

David, are you sensitive because you perceive the list to be made by someone in "Emergent" or out of "Emergent"?

Tony Arnold said...

Phil, thanks for the heads up on LB. Saved me some wasted $ and more importantly, wasted reading time.

Malia: Let in no way my participation in Wittmer's humorous list reflect negatively on anyone. May or may not have been Tim, or been in recent weeks, or been from the pulpit.

My goodness this is the second week that I have had to include a disclaimer with a joke. Glad I am not in the comedian business, I would starve!

And BTW, surely the use of "sphincter" from the pulpit qualifies just as well as a cuss word in shock value. Better even. Just as breathtaking but no one can really object either. Ha!


Malia said...

Oh my word...I'm NOT criticizing. Should have done the *insert sarcasm* here thing!

Phil said...

OK. I hereby declare that on my blog (since most of us are sarcastic) that the use of the bold+italics font is to denote sarcasm.

For instance, Can you believe how Brandon led Days of Elijah last week? I'm sure that next time, he'll have a kickline!

If you have no HTML skill, start the section you want to be sarcastic with < b > < i > (removing the spaces, of course) and closing it with < / b > < / i >

This I declare. This I decree.

Tony Arnold said...

Maybe consider this?


Not to buck an official decree, of course

Amanda said...

Oh, wow. An official blog decree!

Now I feel pressured to say something sarcastic so I can follow it.


Malia said...

You had to go and get all official on us now didn't you? This sure is going to make commenting on your blog a lot more work. Hmm...maybe that's your evil plan!

Anonymous said...

Ridiculous. DB hit it on the head. This is a bunch of evangelicals who think they're cool. Emergent is simply the next step in liberal theology. It's the same thing with a hipper flavor. And the quiz? If you have to take a quiz to see if you're cool, I think the answer is...


Justin said...


after having some conversations with brandon about some struggles i'd been having with the church and our ideology, he told me to look into some stuff by mclaren and campolo.

My folks got me "ANKOC" and "Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God" for my birthday this year, and I flew through them. I think I read New Kind of Christian in about 3 hours. Twas amazing. I bought The Story We Find Ourselves in a few weeks ago and read it in about the same. I'm getting the third one for xmas.

ANyways, long story short. I realized I was emerging and didn't even know what emerging was. I'm much more comfortable with church now, and much more excited about being Jesus to others. And... I'm about to register as a libertarian (I just don't agree with socialism, and I'm tired of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and fascists running the party I used to identify with).

Shawn... have you read anything from Mclaren or others, or are you going by word of mouth?

Brandon Scott said...

You people!

sarcasm? You decide.

Please!! Half the fun of sarcasm is making people guess whether you're serious or not.

Tony Arnold said...

Good point Brandon.

I hereby state my defiance to the emerging shackles of bold and italic type. I will passively resist by being fundamentaly sound in my use of bold and italics adhering to the doctrinely and time proven uses of bold and italic. I will also confess and renounce my sins of using ;-), :), or other variations of such liberal type.


Jana said...

Love the list, Phil. By the way, CONGRATULATIONS to you and Sheryl and Kinsey!!!

Jana said...

Oh, and I'm with Brandon on how "Half the fun of sarcasm is making people guess whether you're serious or not." And then figuring out whether or not they're the type of people you can continue to be sarcastic with!

TCS said...

{On behalf of the blog police there is a effort to denote sarcasim with {} brackets}.

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