Sunday, April 09, 2006

My emerging thoughts

Am about 80 pages into the Emerging Churches book by Gibbs and Bolger, so I think I've gotten my feet wet enough to comment. If you're wondering what all this talk of emerging is about and if it is just a trendy buzzword or perhaps a dangerous departure from a Biblical view of church, let me say, "Read this book." It represents years of research on trends and patterns of emerging church that were deemed missiologically significant. The authors embrace the conviction that the current situation of the church (at large) is dire.
"If the church does not embody its message and life within postmodern culture, it will become increasingly marginalized. Consequently, the church will continue to dwindle in numbers throughout the Western world. We share a common vision to see culturally engaged churches emerge..."
They include much of the original interview material so that the conversations of those on such missional faith journeys speak for themselves. You can link to some of those voices on my side panel and read what they are currently saying.

What I want to respond to today is a bit of chap. 4 about embracing both transcendence and immanence. Modernity has divided thought and practice into two extremes: God can be either transcendent or immanent, but not both. Different streams of the church seem to stress one or the other. Many dualisms surrounding the idea of sacred vs. secular and public vs. private, etc. have served to not only divide the church, but relegate spirituality to a place separate from everday life. This creates a gap between church and culture where the church fails to be incarnational within popular culture and fails to address all of life. In the emerging church's effort to overcome this dualism, I have wondered what place the Holy Spirit is given. Since I embrace attitudes, passions, and practices from many different streams, including charismatic, prophetic, emerging, and liturgical, I have been slightly nervous about what I don't hear about the work of the Spirit. The emergent conversation has seemed to be about understanding a new way of thinking about how to embody the kingdom and I haven't picked up much dialogue about the need for it to be Spirit-breathed, directed, and empowered. I am encouraged by some wonderful illustrations in the book about expressing the holy, bringing the spiritual and physical together. I have also wondered if there seemed to be a subtle disregard for holy living. (What I read as a secularized lifesyle with a few caused me to question emerging praxis in general.) My apologies to those who are about real everyday life within the context of a transformed mind and heart. Most of what I read and connect with certainly falls within this latter category. In seeking authenticity they do not compromise the integrity of their faith commitment. For sure, we who long for the kingdom are all on a journey toward wholeness, and seek to find a balance in identifying authentically with the culture while maintaining a whole-life spirituality that is true to the gospel of Jesus' life, message, and mission. Our worship services should also be in sync with the whole of our life. We don't want to be people whose whole world is not God-engaged. In the words of one interviewee from the book:
They can deceive themselves into thinking they are doing spiritual things while they are leaving their secular lives untouched. By bringing it all, people see themselves for who they are and create possibilities of redemption in all areas of life.
He is referring to offerings of worship that are incarnational in the sense that they include the gifts, experiences, and personalities of the collective community. Thus, unlike in passive worship, where underlying issues can remain undetected, here they can surface and be addressed. As people participate more than observe, they engage with the message of the Spirit for that time. I would expect this kind of worship, combined with continued interaction with others--sharing life-- and with intentional accountability, to result in transformed lives. This does not leave out the word, which is a part of every aspect in different form.

I have side-tracked from what I was originally going to write about, so more about transcendence and immanence tomorrow!


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