This post is a continuation of this post and book from a few days back
I know that as soon as some read the quotes below they will state that, “Isn’t this already what we are doing in churches and as Christians? This doesn’t seem new to me.” But that would be to misunderstand the entire approach with how “emerging churches” are doing these things differently from what they consider to be churches that go about these things through the lense of modernity.
The approach to how one does church, or how one evangelizes, or how one looks at the kingdom, etc., etc., is quite different depending on whether you use a modern or postmodern hermenuetic. This is just one of the places where “emerging churches” part ways with other forms of church. Either you are living in and acknowledging a postmodern world, or you are living in and acknowledging a modern world. This will determine as well if you are open to discussion, willing to listen, etc.
…., we are now ready to offer our definition of emerging churches: Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses the nine practices. Emerging churches (1)identify with the life of Jesus, (2)transform the secular realm, and (3)live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4)welcome the stranger, (5)serve with generosity, (6)participate as prodcuers, (7)create as created beings, (8)lead as a body, and (9)take part in spiritual activities.
As I have mentioned….how these things are accomplished are quite different within “emerging churches.” The voices within this book would reject the hermenuetic, or praxis of how this takes place in other forms of church. So I think that both modern and postmodern churches might agree on some of the things they are about, but that is about it…how they will set about to accomplish these things will set them apart.
At the risk of creating more questions than offering answers, it may be helpful to compare emerging churches (as defined above) with existing forms of church. Against all stereotypes, coffee and candles do not an emerging church make. As already mentioned, Gen-X megachurches are not emerging churches, and neither are Gen-X/young adult services. Indeed, they may meet the criteria for creativity, but they fall short in regard to the other eight categories. Their approach to ministry is modern, with their dualistic/spiritualized/interiorized understanding of Jesus, their embrace of the sacred/secular split, and their focus on the church meeting as opposed to community life. The same is true for their parents, seeker churches that may feature a creative service but do not display the other eight categories. Purpose-driven churches may meet the creativity aspect as well, but that is all. The Vineyard might meet one category, that of Jesus, but it is a spiritualized and powerful Jesus–not a social/political one. Calvary Chapel does not meet any of the categories as defined in this book (with Calvary Chapel Dana Point as an exception).
We do not exclude the possibility that churches within these movements could become emerging churches or that some indeed are. However, at this time, we see little evidence of the nine patterns. Because Gen-X, seeker, new paradigm, and purpose-driven churches are forms that are imbedded in particular cultures, these churches would need to change their practices dramatically (i.e., their church culture) to communicate clearly within a postmodern world. The question is whether these movements could remain true to their tradition while making the transition to an emerging church.
Both fundamentalist and mainline churches will also face numerous challenges in becoming emerging churches, as both of these forms of church are imbedded in modern culture as well. Those churches that preceded the Reformation (Catholic and Orthodox), and to a large extent Anglicanism, have many practices that resonate with those of emerging churches. Likewise, churches outside mainstream culture, such as the various minority and a few free church traditions, strongly resemble emerging churches (modernity was not friend to communities outside the mainstream, and therefore these more marginal communities have lived in opposition to aspects of modernity during the entire existence). Similar to their fundamentalist and liberal counterparts, evangelical churches, also born in modernity, face numerous challenges if they are to embody their way of life within postmodern culture………..
The chapters in this book are full of stories about dismantling and rebuilding rooted in the Kingdom of God. Any non-kingdom reconstruction, after the tearing down process, will prove dehumanizing and fruitless. We share common cause with the postmodern philosophers who revealed the oppressive nature of the master stories (metanarratives) of modernity. But our shared journey ends once the deconstruction is complete, for we do believe there is one metanarrative, one master story that redeems our material reality, welcomes the outsider, shares generously, empowers, listens, manifests in a myriad of local expressions, remains the singular “missio Dei”, the kingdome of God, the gospel. With this in mind, we do well to follow Pete Rollins’s (ikon, Belfast, UK) advice to hold loosely our reconstructions, for ‘whatever we put in the void of the divine darkness will end up as a grand conceptual idol if we do not view it with humility.’ Let us now look at what is built after the dismantling process is complete. (pp. 45-46)