Tuesday, February 14, 2006

There are only Emerging churcheS

There is no emerging church (singular) there are only emerging churches (plural). The Emerging church implies a monolithic entity. There are new forms of church that are emerging but they have diverse ecclesiologies and other theologies. There is strong desire and effort within peoples questions about the emergingg church conversationn and movement to try and figure out or categorize or label what is happening in this movement. Those in my opinion are modernistic tools that help us bring control to our environments. Emerging churches (not the Emerging Church singular) are still emerging, evolving, developing and discovering who they are and they are diverse and have a deep ecclesiologyogy. This is due to the changing cultural landscape that the church finds itself in. Ecclesia, the church, is not a heavenly Platoinic form it is a fluid structure that morphs depending upon what culture it finds itself in. That is the heart of the incarnationion. The emergence of new church forms is rooted in the reorientation of church around Missio Dei, the mission of God, as one of the primary characteristics God and thereforeore also that of the church. As the Father has sent me so I send you, says Jesus.

Take our church that is emerging out of our particular context, history and story. In no particular order - the Open Door is an emerging, Reformed, missional, justice seeking, charismatic, liturgical, contemplative, ecumenical, evangelistic, innovative church community. On our web site under our beliefs we list the Apostles creed. Is that Reformed, evangelical, charismatic or ecumenical? Depends who you talk to. I am comfortable with the some what ambiguous and eclectic theology ecclesiology that we have. I think we are entering into (if we have not already arrived) a post-denominational time. This requires some Christian pluralism and eccumenical partnerships. Recently Dr. John Franke compared our time to the Reformation. The only thing we had in common as Protestants is that we thought the Catholic Church was not the best way forward. If there is a similarity to our time I think we are saying the denominational Christendom church is not the best way forward. Our context requires our theology and ecclesiology to reform once again. What is concerning for a lot of folks is that the future is unknown and uncertain and the power and control of the known church is being threatened. So our human response to those threats is to grab back control and return to what we know and are familiar with. This is my theory on why some want to categorize things. If we can label and categorize the movement of the Emerging churches or any other for that matter, then we can control it or them.

Don't get me wrong, modern categories are not bad I just think much of life is lived "on the way" and we discover things on the journey and in process of following after Jesus. If we hold categories too tightly they begin to define us and we become less malleable in the hand of God and less willing to move where the Spirit blows. Categories and labels tend to impinge and restrict the church instead of free and release us into the mission of God.

Your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I don't know how one avoids categories. You say emerging new church forms are reorienting "around Missio Dei, one of the primary characteristics God" but that sets you off from those who don't see Mission as one of God's characteristics. Then you set yourself apart from "Christendom" --a word that entails a whole host of "you are this; we are not" boundaries and categories. Finally, you divide people between those who try to categorize things and those (like yourself) who are wiser and who do not. I appreciate what you are trying to say, but I'm not sure I see the big difference between your categories and everyone else's. You also are trying to 'control your environment' with definitions, it seems to me. -- Tim Keller

bj woodworth said...

Point well taken. I cannot exist in life without categories and labels. Yet I still wonder how helpful they are when the goal is to categorize people or movements. They inhibit honest dialogue instead of promote it. At certian points in the development of an organization, a movement, or in life things are not clear, they are evolving and and being formed and it seems that people are uncomfortable with that ambiguity. It seems to me that is often when we are forced to depend on God and lean in deep to Him instead of bringing ease to our hearts and minds by being able to categorize and label things and potentially box them in and ultimatley control them. This is one of the things the religious leaders were always trying to do with Jesys - categorize him. Do you heal on the Sabbath or not? An attempt to nail him down. Anyway thanks for the sharpening.

Sarah Louise said...

I've heard of church planters who have different types: emergent, traditional, etc. And I keep thinking, you can't do that. It's not like a flavor of chocolate. You can't add a few candles and say you're emergent. Thanks for continuing the dialogue.

ty said...

best quote of the year (so far)"Ecclesia, the church, is not a heavenly Platoinic form". and yet we want it so much to be so, it allows us to keep all our catagories, and even the concept of Platonic forms within our understanding of God and faith. We don't think twice if missionaries spend years learning an indigenous language and culture before preaching and teaching, Why should it be any different in our own, dramatically diverse society? why must a form and catagory be imposed on outreach efforts geographically here, but culturally a world away? Emergent is hard to catagorize, simply because it proclaims the gospel incarnationally across the lines.