Saturday, September 13, 2008
What is to become of the Emerging Church?
I have thought about this for a while. I see two paths...
1. The emerging church is only a phase, not to be confused with a passing "fad". God will move in phases. If you look at history, there are many cycles that seem to happen. Often there is growth and then persecution which moves into greater growth. Often the underdog become the new power. For example, early Christians were persecuted, yet not to the extent that was to come later. In this time there was growth as in the example of the 3000 that come to believe after Peter preached in Acts 2. This growth seems almost spontaneous as the Apostle often hear "rumors" of other towns who come to believe. Saul was one who also heard of this group call "the Way" and wanted to stop it as he saw them as apostate and following another "Messiah" other than that of the tradition of the Jews. Yet, as we read in Acts, God had other plans... and Saul became Paul and began planting even more churches.
Again, this pattern kept up until the time of Constantine. Nero and well as other Roman Emperors began harsh persecution until Consisting saw his vision of a Cross and the promise that under this banner he would win his battles. Then after Constantine's battle at Battle of Milvian Bridge 312 Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of Rome.
Now all that is very abbreviated and the debate could go on for some time whether Constantine declaration was a good thing or not. Yet the pattern is always there. We can look at the Reformation as following the same patters before and after and so on.
Now, we can look at the present situation in the same light, though I would not say the persecution is at all close to the violence of the past. It is in some countries, yet as far as here in America the persecution has only been in "words" and not the violence of the past. Yet, these words are aimed at twisting the message of the emerging church into something hideous. Now the path I see is that of persecution and growth. In fact I see this persecution of words is actually helping the emerging church gain more of an audience. People who have never heard of the emerging church now have thanks to those who write against it. Curiosity is a strange animal as people who are "warned" often see it as forbidden fruit and thus are attracted to the thing they are warned about. Now, that sound negative, yet, as in the early church there were those who sought out Christians to persecute them, found that their own lives were changed in dynamic ways. The bible speaks of the message of the cross as "foolishness": "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."" (1 Cor 1:18-19) Those that have decided to use the ways of the world to attack and persecute the emerging church have actually exposed the authenticity and grace that is the foundation of the emerging church.
I see that this persecution is dying... and in that dying hard. People are seeing those for what they are and starting to look into deeper things of God and what the emerging church has to offer. This should bring new growth and though I hate to say, the death of the emerging church to bring out this new growth.
2. The second thing is that we of the emerging church are also growing and changing. Maturity comes with growth. This may be that the emerging church is really only realizing what God has been doing since the beginning. God gave many tools to the early church that have been covered over by man's traditions. Now that is not to say traditions are evil and bad, rather to say that the traditions we hold often taint the truth of scriptures be that mainline denominations or looking at theology from the Reformed point of view. I will caution that not all these traditions are wrong, yet that they should be held out for examination in light of scripture instead of holding scripture to those traditions.
In this we have authenticity and can continue in the values we hold as the emerging church. I believe God has raised up leaders and many others again to see these values the emerging church holds. These values are things such as authenticity, living incarnationally, (allowing Christ to live in and through us), living missionally, (living out the Great Commission of sharing the gospel and making disciples of Jesus), removing personal agendas as we approach others, and seeing God working in peoples lives even before they have come to Jesus for salvation. Of course there are many more, but to me these are the big ones.
In this we have become reacquainted with these values that God holds. I see that as we walk in these values God will begin even a greater growth or awaking of people to the Message of the Gospel