As I was perusing through the massive Google hemisphere today, looking for some information on one of my favorite Fuller professors, Dr. Ray Anderson, I came across an article from Direction Journal.

The article was from Spring 1990, and was titled, Family Ministry and a Theology of the Family: A Personal Journey by Dennis B. Guernsey, who was a former faculty at Fuller, but is now deceased.

Now it wasn’t the article title itself that grabbed my attention, but the highlighted phrase in the article that said, The theology of the family is emerging.

That word emerging, or emergent, seems to be everywhere these days, but I was intrigued by the fact that this article is from the Spring of 1990. So what, you say? And you are right. That word is not a new word, and the idea of something merging out of one thing and into another, is definitely not anything new.

But I continued reading the article and came across this phrase:

Since our first search of the literature and after ten years of personal reflection, I have concluded that the theology of the family is emerging much as other areas of theology have emerged.

And I thought to myself. Interesting? We seem to be content (not everyone of course) with the emerging of family ministry from what it was in the 1950’s to where it is now. We seem to be content (not everyone of course) with aspects of the contemporary worship movement that emerged in the 1980’s, 1990’s and continues to emerge in new directions. What about the emerging of Jr. High and High School ministry to the status it now receives? Okay.

So I continued reading and came across this:

A proposition thus emerges, perhaps controversial, but central to my own thinking: Ministry necessarily precedes theology, but is eventually monitored and disciplined by that theology.

Controversial proposition for sure. Of course, that’s not very controversial in some camps, and others it is considered highly dangerous. Which camp are you in will determine that? I was exposed to this view a few years back during seminary, so that’s not what got my attention. Okay.

So I continued reading and came across this statement:

It is the practitioners, especially the social and behavioral scientists, who are on the cutting edges of both family ministry and a theology of the family.

Interesting I thought. Sometimes those sitting in the “ivory towers” are not on the so called “cutting edge” or tend to be out of the loop. They have the academic skills, but lack the pracital ones. This can be the case in reverse as well. Someone can have the practical skills, but lack any academic sense. And our goal is not trying to be cutting edge, but faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ. But cutting edge here has implications for the intersection of theology and ministry, or practical theology. Okay.

I continued to read more and came across this:

So also a theology of the family is emerging, just as other theologies have emerged. Those who have the greatest {5} need have the most to gain from a particular theology. These who have the greatest need are those who are doing the ministry in the area relevant to that theology.

Interesting thoughts all the way around. So if you think that I am going nowhere, and off my rocker (which I might be), let me say this.

It seems that in the emerging theology of the family movement, you saw the practitioners in the field, leading the way, then returning to develop a better understanding of it theologically. It is the practitioners in the field, doing the work that had the most at stake. They were not the ones in classrooms and research offices, but were in the field, day in and day out, working with families. In their view, ministry preceeded much of the theological thinking in their burgeoning area.

Is this not happening right now? That is my question. In the emerging, or emergent church movement you have a lot of practitioners (pastors/directors, etc.), who have an invested interest, because they are the ones doing the work of ministry in churches, schools, etc. Their sense of ministry at times is preceeding their theological understanding of something, hence their desire to be in conversation and progress slowly. And while they are doing this, you have those who are saying, no, theology always preceeds ministry. Therefore there is this schism that is created. Those in the emergent camps claiming that there needs to be a more practical understanding of how we do ministry in a certain context. The theology has to have traction. While the other camp is arguing for more disciplined theology.

This is not an all encompassing sketch, but is some of what I see going on. But what this article stirred up in me was that nothing new is under the sun. Didn’t Solomon tell us that in Ecclesiastes? Things are always emerging, and developing, and most likely, when I am old and feeble, some form of ministry will exist that did not exist when I was younger. Things are always emerging, but the problem arises when one camp feels threatened by the emerging of something new. Threatened that their power may wane. Threatened that their complete dominance in a ministry may wane. Threatened that they are no longer the cool, and cutting edge ministry or theology that they were in their time.

Maybe emergent, or emerging churches are just really a re-visitation of what has happened in the past, only it’s dressed up in different garb. Its changed its small group clothes for something new. Its changed its church growth clothes for something new. Its changed its we are going to break away from mainline denominations, and become independent Bible churches clothes, for something new. Its changed its seeker sensitive clothes for something new. And now, maybe since we are the ones that’s clothes are being changed out, for something new…we don’t like it…or are unsure of it.