If you have been reading this blog as of late, you know that I have been commenting on the new book by Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures.
I am a little over 200 pages into the book, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Emerging Church. (By the way, I find Bolger’s and Gibbs’ definition in the book more helpful than any other ones floating around out there. And more helpful than this Wikipedia link that I posted). I also listed his definition in one of my posts the other day.
There are tons of things that I will be interested in discussing at some point, but let me point out one thing that I have noticed in this book, in the discussions floating around the internet, in personal conversation, etc.
And it is this: It seems to me that the “emergent church” is one of the few safe places for people to openly discuss anything; whether it be new ideas, doubts, questions, etc., etc. I noticed this when I attended the conferences. I know this from my interaction at school; I know this from my interaction with those more closely involved within the movement.
I think this is a huge attraction for many to the “emergent church.” Whereas they are welcoming, those outside of it seem to be either downright hostile or combative to any new thoughts, ideas, questions, doubts, or anything that doesn’t configure, or operate within their own theological system.
It is just a little amazing to me how much fear I read in people’s comments, or hear in their voice when they talk about anything “emergent.” And if it’s not fear it’s anger or hostility. And sometimes it’s just downright ridicule, hoping to belittle either the “emerging church” movement/conversation, or anyone involved with it. I am not going to list any specific blogs, but if you doubt me, just go to Technorati and type in “emerging church” or something to that affect.
I especially love the ramblings where the “emergent church” is accussed of espousing a relativistic truth, based on nothing biblical, while those attacking them ramble on basing their argument on one philosophical foundation after another with no biblical basis whatsoever.
As I mentioned in a previous post. Either you are operating in a modernistic mindset or you are operating in a postmodern mindset. And it seems the two shall never meet. Those in the postmodern mindset seem to be okay with that, and do not seem to be on the offensive at all with their counterparts. But on the otherside, why is it then that those within modernity circles are constantly on the attack?
I was born into, committed my life, was baptized, and raised in non-denominational, bible church, where my father was the founder and pastor after graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary.
I later went to a Southern Baptist college, and attended their campus church during those years. Later working for that university for three years.
Prior to making my move to California, I attended a local Catholic church in Arizona, and later moved to Guatemala for three months, and continued to attend a Catholic church.
Following my move from Guatemala, I attended a multi-denominational seminary (Fuller) in Pasadena, CA. I guess when there are over a 120 different denominations represented on one campus, you tend to learn how to listen to other’s ideas, questions, doubts, etc.
And now, I am the college director at a PCUSA church.
My experience has been pretty broad. Denominational and non-denominational bible churches (please don’t tell me you aren’t a denomination….you are) often consist of certain structures, guidelines, rules, etc., and it may come in the form of a book of order, or from a board of elders. Sometimes these institutions and churches allow for some discussion, some new ideas, some doubts, some questioning, and other times they do not. But my general feeling from my own experiences with the “emergent church” is that one of it’s biggest draws is that people are able to put conversation/ideas/thoughts/discussion/theology/worship/etc., etc. onto the table and to openly discuss it without fear of being reprimanded or of being excluded from the group.
Ryan Bolger states:
In many ways, this is a fragile movement that can be marginalized by denominational leaders and killed with criticism by theological power brokers. Whatever reservations people may have, these new voices need to be heard. Many of these innovative leaders are looking for mentors rather than critics. (pp.28-29)
So why all the fear and vitriolic language and comments that I see on the “emerging church” online? I have some ideas maybe why…..but that is for another post.
I believe one of the things that makes our college ministry successful (it would be interesting to stop and define success here as well….Because Bolger points out that in modernistic churches success is often gauged by numbers, conversions, and other things that are more related to corporate and business practices than anything else…while postmodern/emerging churches define success more on spiritual formation and the upholding of relationships within a community) is that my students know that the college ministry is a safe place for them to ask questions; express doubts; talk about their fears…and they can do this without any repercussions from myself of the community.
People need space to openly talk, and they need to believe the space is a safe place where their comments are valued and not ridiculed. They want to know that there are people who will come alongside them on their journey.
I wanted people to hear this from me. From someone who is a “card carrying member” of the evangelical/non-denominational bible church. From someone who is orthodox. From someone who pastors a group in a mainline denomination.
I appreciate what Bolger’s and Gibbs’ book is openly discussing, and for those who are a part of that journey. You give space to many, especially many in ministry who have questions, doubts, new ideas, etc., etc. Thanks.