Saturday, August 05, 2006

Last week was the "Revive Us Again" music institute sponsored by the continuing education program at Drew University. I was able to attend the last day (as part of Ben's ploy to get me out of the apartment), and I thought the 'Question and Answer' session was worth attending. However, it also alerted me to how many people have misconceptions about the emerging church.

First of all, art, candles, and coffee do not an emerging service make. The emerging church is not about a different style of worship. It is about a different way of being church - a different way of being a Christian community in the world. I think this is the biggest mistake that people make when talking about an emerging church: making church and worship synonymous with each other. Many emerging churches don't even use the language of 'church' because it denotes that hour on Sunday morning where one goes for worship.

Secondly (and this is related to the first), adding creative elements to one's Sunday worship hour doesn't make a service necessarily 'postmodern' in nature. Media, art, and creative rituals may be characteristics that would make a modern service more engaging for people, but fundamentally, it's built upon the same modern principles and functions in the same modern paradigm. Even a shift to using "inclusive" language doesn't make your worship service more postmodern. There are some deeper, philosophical shifts that one needs to make before a service can be truly branded "postmodern."

Now I'm not an expert on the emerging phenomenon by any means; I'm just someone who's interested in the conversation that's happening. But it seems to me that these common myths are ones that are relatively easy to dispell. All one has to do is spend some time on the internet. Sites like emergentvillage, or even googling it will bring up a load of resources one can use.

Currently, I'm reading a book on the emerging church (you can see it on the side). So far, I'm rather impressed by the process they took to create this work. They interviewed 50 emerging church leaders and then identified nine characteristics that collectively, these churches exhibited. I can't remember if any of the churches had all nine, but each church showed at least three of these trends. I'm still in the beginning of the book, but I'll review it once I finish with it. You will all probably be subjected to my thoughts on the subject as I read through it, however.

So I think a little education is necessary on all sides. I think the desire is there to start creatively reaching out it new ways, I just don't think that the willingness is there (yet) to truly start breaking out of our modern boxes.

4 Comments:

  1. revabi said...
    sometimes with all the changes going on in christianity, worship, churches, leadership, etc, I wish I was back in seminary.
    Wow what a great experience. I agree with your last statement.

    I have read some books by Dan Kimball and learned alot.
    David said...
    You're right -- when someone tries to create an "emergent service" (especially someone with a mostly modern epistemology) the results are often a new kind of the dreaded "contemporary" service.

    So, I've tried for awhile now to explain to older folks in our churches that it's not their worship that needs to change to attract younger people but their lives outside of worship -- the way we are the church together the rest of the time.

    Sometimes I wonder, would it be more efficient to try to graft a postmodern/emergent fellowship that may initially worship separately onto an existing congregation stuck in its old ways?

    I guess the question is -- can a Christian fellowship that's been about worship, programs and fundraising be transformed into a Christian community where people let their faith impact their entire lives. I think and hope so, but how do you lead that change?
    Journey Mama said...
    This is really interesting. I'm pretty sure that my community is part of the emerging church movement, but I haven't read that much about it or what it is... I'll have to read that book. I know what you're saying, though. Sometimes going to a church that is trying to use these elements feels like seeing new wallpaper
    Melissa said...
    Thanks everyone for your comments. Revabi, I'll have to add Dan Kimball to my list of books to read. After I finish this one, I plan on getting my hands on a copy of "A Generous Orthodoxy" by Brian McLeran.

    David, I feel like if that question had been figured out, the church would be in a much better position than it is. :-) I also think it's possible, but I think perhaps churches need to be encouraged to step out of their comfort zones a bit, and really start to think about what it means to be a church.

    Journey mama, that's awesome that you belong to a community like that! And it is a bit jarring at times to see churches trying to implement these elements into their services! The problem is though, integration of something like...art...into their worship service is inauthentic, and done just because they think it might be nice.

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