Scot McKnight Resurrects Emerging Church Terminology from the Grave

After several people advocating the death of the term “emerging church” Scot McKnight makes the case that movements are not limited by the terms used to describe them. See his post here.

Dan Kimball Reflects on Emerging Church

Dan Kimball is taking a few posts to reflect on Emerging Church and what has changed in his perspective over the last 5 to 7 years. What he has to say is really interesting and I thought many of you might be interested in reading his thoughts and what he thinks is down the pipe.

Parchment and Pen Clears Up Some Misconceptions About Emerging/Emergent Church

With Phil Sanders, Matthew Morine, and this blog discussing Emerging Church and Churches of Christ it seems there are A LOT of misconceptions out there. C Michael Patton clears up a lot of things in his most recent post at Parchment and Pen. I would highly suggest anyone wanting to know more about Emerging/Emergent church to read his post. It is very informed and informative. It also clears up a lot of misconceptions. He describes different strains of it, how and why it is not one size fits all, how it is more of a cultural phenomenon that is impacting views on Christianity rather than a particular church, and much more. Very helpful. Thank you Michael Patton!

Dan Kimball on the Importance of Dialogue in Reaching Post-Christians

I really thought this quote from Dan Kimball hit the nail on the head,

“We must cultivate a culture that allows dialogue. Evangelicals have been criticized–many times rightly so–for being dogmatic and closed-minded. For too long we have been doing all the talking, without any dialogue. We are now serving new generations that have serious trust issues, and trust is not earned by takling just one-way. We must disarm this criticism and regain trust. We need to encourage, not discourage, people to think, to question, to discover. Why are we so afraid of encouraging people to think for themselves?…At the very least, we need to constantly encourage our listeners to check out our teaching for themselves, measuring them against Scripture. We must avoid, at all costs, giving the impression that we have all the answers and they don’t. We may indeed have answers, but if we appear to be arrogant about it, we’ll lose our voice. We need to encourage people to think. We need to encourage dialogue, even encourage people to challenge what we say. This can disarm people and prompt them to study more to see if what we are saying is true…We must be creative and have dialogue as a core value for how we communicate to and teach emerging generations. This is a huge necessity for being a missional leader in the emerging culture.”
Emerging Church, 192-193

There is a guy who gets it. I have decided to buy this book for each member of our 20s & 30s leadership team. What really makes this book great is his willingness to challenge things while keeping close to scripture and a respect for the church.

Churches of Christ and the Emerging Culture

As I read Dan Kimball’s book on the Emerging Church a few things stand out to me that I thought I would mention here:

1 – There is a cultural shift that is taking place and more people are unchurched in America. We are one of the largest mission fields in the world. Missionaries will tell you that if you are going to reach people in another culture you have to contextualize yourself to that culture. You cannot expect to take our models of ministry and map them onto other cultures. So what do we do when the models for ministry and worship we have are based on a modern culture while the culture in America that is rapidly growing all around us is post-modern? Wouldn’t it make sense that our ministry models would reflect the growing culture around us? You see this lack of understanding of cultural transitions and the opportunities they open up when predominantly white churches are located in a neighborhood that is undergoing what some people have termed “white flight.” Those churches that turn themselves into a fortress and protect against their neighborhoods die while those who make the transition and continue to reach out to the changing culture around them can thrive. We have to taking the surrounding culture seriously in how we reach out to them. It is a lot more obvious when it is black/white/asian, etc but a lot more subtle when people of our own race live with a dramatically different worldview and culture that we do. This is clear on the mission field but is often unclear in our safe haven worship environments where we have tended to do things the same way for a couple hundred years.

2 – People want authenticity. Many Christians have mistakenly thought that the world needs to see faultless Christians. Because that is impossible and presenting yourself that way a fraud, people have labeled Christians hypocrites. People don’t need to see flawless Christians. People need to see that we mess up in a lot of the same ways they do but the important thing is how we feel about that (remorse) and how we let God deal with it through repentance and forgiveness. This allows us to be genuine about our sin and about a God who is able to deal with sin and forgive us. This shows people God can forgive them too. This also breaks down the old stereotype that Christians think they are better than everyone else and are “holier than thou.” At the same time, preachers who seem to flaunt their sin to show they are like everyone else just won’t cut it either.

3 – Churches of Christ have a lot going for them in reaching the emerging post-modern culture. Kimball makes the point that seekers don’t want seeker sensitive services (removing religious imagery, taking down the crosses, etc). They want an authentic and ancient forms to bring in an experience with God. They want something with roots that go back to the beginning. They want people who take Jesus and his teachings seriously. They want people who are kind and compassionate. The Church of Christ has been like that for years. I think we have a lot going for us in reaching the lost. Kimball writes, “How ironic that returning to a raw and ancient form of worship is now seen as new and even cutting edge. We are simply going back to a vintage form of worship which has been around for as long as the church has been in existence.” (Emerging Church, 169). He says earlier in the book that “post-seeker sensitive” worship and ministry will be more of a back to the basics and earlier forms…”This approach is really nothing new at all; in fact, it is simply going back to more of a raw and basic form of ‘vintage Christianity.'” (26).

4 – Churches of Christ have a transition to make in order to reach emerging generations that relates to point one. We have to realize that worship as we currently has components that are a product of the modern culture that the church of Christ came about. Singing is still singing and praying is still praying and preaching is still preaching, etc. Those things will always and should always be. But the linear format of 2 songs and a prayer does not speak the language of the culture we are immersed in. The order of worship (2 songs and a prayer, 2 songs and a scripture, Lord’s supper, 2 songs, a sermon, invitation, closing song, and closing prayer) is a product of our modern culture and also a product of needing order in the assembly. When the tradition becomes law we have a problem and turn ourselves into Pharisees if we are not careful. We have done this for so long that some people think it is the only way to do it. Some people get upset if the invitation isn’t offered even though the vast majority of people who are reached don’t happen at the invitation time.

This leaves us with a couple of questions:

1) How do we get people to understand which parts of our worship are scriptural and which are based on tradition?

2) What would missionaries coming to America from another culture do to contextualize themselves to our culture? How would they combine that information with biblical forms of worship to reach people in America today? What would keep us from doing the same thing?

3) How important is the worshiper or the seeker’s opinion of the worship? If God said we had to worship standing on our heads and humming would we do it or would we say that is just silly…we want to do it sitting in pews?

4) What ancient forms of worship are still appropriate for today? What would make an ancient practice no longer appropriate for worship today?

Dan Kimball’s Emerging Church

I have been reading up on the Emerging/Emergent church a little because I am invested in understanding and reaching out to people who have grown up with a postmodern perspective. Kimball splits this book into two halves – the first half is theoretical to help the reader understand the underlying cultural concepts that are a necessary prerequisite to understanding and reaching multiple generations alive today and probably several more to come. The second half of the book deals with practical ministry and more “how to’s” that I will leave with Dan’s book. I would highly recommend this book. If you want to be successful in reaching the lost today and tomorrow I would seriously consider this read. Here is a link to it on amazon.