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