Friday, September 26, 2008

Emerging Fad?

In recent correspondence between friends of mine regarding the emerging church conversation, a great friend of mine suggested that this movement is a fad. Those who read this blog often, will know that one of the things that I have explored is the topic of the emerging church.

My friend argues that the movement is weak theologically. I would suggest just the opposite. This is a movement that is struggling to embrace and live out Christ in the context of post-modern culture. It includes conservative, liberal, Wesleyans, Catholics, Orthodox, Calvinists and the whole spectrum of theological positions. These people are seeking common ground between each other and staying away from much of the denominational sniping that often takes place.

Far from being weak, these people are seeking truth and not just accepting what has been told them. They are often careful students of scripture. There is great debate among the emergents. They firmly want to test and approve what is the will and Word of the Lord. I think the issue is that they ask a ton of questions and make people nervous, because pat answers just don't work any more. They do deconstruct things to find the base of truth at the bottom of argument. They are agents of grace and not just universalists as some would suggest.

In my opinion, the emergents are looking to make the church contextual in a post modern culture, which is not a fad, but a cultural shift. They are concerned not only about what the church believes, but also how it behaves, not in legalistic terms, but in terms of connecting with the soul of society to influence for Christ.

Most of my friends who consider themselves emergents, are really wanting the best for the church. They are excited about how the tradition of caring and grace can counter act many of the traditional practices that tend to marginalize many who are outside of the Kingdom's grasp.

I see this time as one of great awakening for the church. Yes, people will cast aspersions. There will be those who believe this is a fad. I think this is what the church needs to be or we will fade into irrelevance.

I think the Booths would have been called emergents. Standing against the status quo and creating a church that fits within the context of society sounds a great deal like what the emergents want to be.

So is this emergent movement just a fad? Is it theologically weak? Am I wrong to believe this might be an opportunity for a great revival in the church and its outreach? Maybe I have swallowed some of the Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt and Rob Bell Kool-aid.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Control or comfort?

I have been reflecting over the past couple of days about Psalm 46. It is full of symbolism of earthquakes, floods and the earth falling apart. It is a psalm that reminds us of our lack of being able to control what is around us. The only thing we know for sure is that we can stand! The Psalmist reminds us that The Almighty is our refuge.

This last couple of weeks have been filled with earth-shattering events. Financial markets are under the greatest stress since 9/11. Many of my friends are having family struggles and struggles in ministry. We have lost a couple of good men who left this world too soon in Raymond and Steve. The country and surprisingly, Ohio has felt the effects of Hurricane Ike.

I have a tendency to fret and worry and stay awake at night. Do you? I was reminded this week just how little control I have over things around me. It is difficult to admit for a recovering control freak.

Here is the issue in my mind. Much of what we mistake for being conscientious in leadership is really about wanting to be in control. Control is illusory. Micro-management will never work.

I am not advocating being lazy or not planning, but we all know people who see leadership in congregations and movements as controlling the people and projects around them. Leading is not about being in control, but realizing the comfort of the Holy Spirit as the Psalmist did and following His leading. It is about being able to take feedback and not feeling threatened. It is about realizing that even if things don't go according to our plan that the one thing we can control is our love for God and our desire to press into Him.

So are you like me needing to be in control? Is control illusory? As the world falls apart do you try to hold onto the reigns or do you trust the Almighty? It is very easy to fall into old habits or into the culture we have learned in a movement.

Today is not my usual type of post. I guess the question from me today is why are we so incredibly tied to control as a movement and as individuals? Can we take comfort in the fact we cannot control everything?

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Information or Incarnation?

Yesterday, I was at a gathering of leaders from our movement. We had a time of discussion with our facilitator (someone from outside our movement...HS are we a movement?). In that discussion, we explored some of the shifts in the church today. We had a brief discussion on the shift from informational church (i.e. preaching and pastoral authority) to incarnational church (missional based ministry where a free flow of discussion, cell based). There was a very strong reaction by a couple of people to that thought. There was some push back at the thought that their preaching may not be as important and their authority was not a great as they thought.

This is a great stretch for many of us in our movement. This is not to say that preaching and teaching are not necessary, but their importance may not be as great as we make them. In fact, most people at this gathering could not remember the top three sermons that impacted their lives.

This discussion followed a weekend experience that really caused me to think deeply about my ministry. Janet and I were teachers (Bible studies and preaching) at a retreat for our rehabilitation centers. I will tell you that the testimonies of changed lives and community helping in that process was touching to say the least.

The way these men shared in prayer, support of each other and in encouraging the Body, was unbelievably touching. Their leaders were there. You could tell that these leaders were incarnational. They live, eat and work in the midst of these men looking for changed lives and model Christ while doing it.

I think we are very comfortable in our movement with informational leadership. Informational leadership is tough to challenge. Informational leadership leaves very little room for debate. It is also very easy to not be vulnerable or transparent.

Incarnational ministry calls for us to be open. It shows us as we are. It is open to sharing flaws and its short-comings. It longs to journey with its members. It admits freely, it does not have all the answers. It lives among and not away from the people. It encourages mission and experience and is less concerned with head knowledge then with hearts that embrace their theology and Christ.

I believe our early roots were incarnational. Now, I believe that we are more informational.

This short post seeks to ask a question or two. So are we more an informational movement or incarnational? Is it better to be informational or incarnational? Is it better to have a mixture of both?

So with all my posts I ask you, what do you think?