Sunday, October 03, 2004

emerging church = hillsong?

The leader of our Baptist family of churches here in New Zealand has just returned from the UK. He writes in our Denominational magazine of a weekend in London, and of going to Hillsong where he believed he “caught a glimpse of the future church.” He was very impressed by six services with people “queuing up for a hundred metres down the road waiting to get in.”

He then writes:
“There are lots of pundits and theoreticians on the emerging church, but when you count the fruit of their strategies you could be forgiven for wondering if they’re as onto it as they claim to be. Is it true that most supposed experts on the emerging generation come from small niche-market churches with remarkably few transformed lives? Is it not also true that the largest Gen X church in the United States is Saddleback … I got the unmistakable impression that Hillsong in London was actually attracting lots of young adults -maybe they have something to teach us about how we might do it here.”

So this is the Denominational climate of vigorous missional critique and affirmation within which I work. As I ponder a response, I’d be interested in any more grounded UK comments on Hillsong London and what it might teach us about the future of the church?

Posted by steve at 02:54 PM

39 Comments

  1. e~mergent kiwi

    Is the emerging church making a difference? are any new people being added to new community? e~mergent kiwi is asking some inportant questions down under in new zealand. i’ve been following this lbog for about a week know and i am intrigued by the fact…

    Comment by emergent mosaic — October 3, 2004 @ 3:16 pm

  2. This is the comment that I’ve been hearing more and more often. Its an interesting discussion to have. I guess the way I’ve been thinking about it is that yes they do attract numbers and yes some of those numbers are actually not Christians from other local (and not so local) churches – but I’m also guessing that there is a pretty large percentage of the population (young adults or not) that wouldn’t respond to that approach to church or mission. That is where I see the emerging church as well positioned and a great response to the call to make disciples of ‘all nations’ (people groups/cultural groups).

    I’m not sure its an either or thing – but that we need to keep communicating a multiple approach way forward.

    Comment by Darren Rowse — October 4, 2004 @ 12:09 am

  3. emerging church = hillsong?

    Steve has an interesting post titled emerging church = hillsong? that reminds me of comments I’ve heard increasingly at the mention of the term ‘emerging church’ recently. I’ll let you head over there to ponder Steve’s question and read my…

    Comment by LivingRoom >> A space for Life — October 4, 2004 @ 12:16 am

  4. steve interesting questions from your denom leader. i think this is a significant question for the emerging church to address (there are so many significant question and so little answers) where i am in ministry half way around the world in w. michigan usa, i am seeing emergent churches just be gathering places for already churched folks. only a few are reaching truly unchurched people.

    i don’t see the emergent church strictly as a generational thing. so the hillsong london connection doesn’t fit for me

    i agree with darren that the emerging church is well positioned to reach many nations and cultures i’m eager to see more of them do that.

    sorry about the typos in the trackback i shouldn’t blog late at night.

    Comment by andre daley — October 4, 2004 @ 1:33 am

  5. Some very big assumptions are being made by our denominational leader: That fruit is quantitative and especially is COUNTED. Does fruit mean bums on seats? Are some of the different church ideas about “strategy” or about people expressing their faith in Jesus in authentic and appropriate ways for them? I’d also question his point about “small niche-market” churches. Perhaps saddleback etc are also niche churches, just that their niche is the dominant niche in our culture. Also I feel the tone is an implicit dig at alternative churches, why? Is there not something to embrace here? Is there only one model of doing church (GH Churches)? I didn’t think the dig was necessary, the emerging church ideas don’t represent a threat to him but rather adds to the depth and a breadth to the denomination’s mission.

    Comment by Andrew — October 4, 2004 @ 9:30 am

  6. I agree with Andrew.

    Why is “fruit” quantitative?
    I go to Spreydon Baptist, quite a large church, I am enjoying it but it suffers from big church problems: there is a lot of space there for struggling and/or nominal believers to go completely unnoticed. The church also lacks a real sense of intergenerational community.
    Large attendance does not = many disciples.

    One of the positives is that Spreydon actually has a young adults ministry which is dedicated to reaching and discipling young adults. (http://spreydon.com/ya_forum/index.php)

    The Baptist leader misses that Hillsong and Saddleback are large niche market churches, as opposed to small ones.

    Both Saddleback and Hillsong are focussed on smallgroups (“lifegroups” at Hillsong)with a relational emphasis:
    “At the forefront of our care plan is to build a community network of small groups, where caring and supportive friendships can flourish.”

    Is the Baptist leader concerned at all by the prosperity doctrine preached at Hillsong Churches?

    Comment by Paul — October 4, 2004 @ 11:53 am

  7. i am located near a reasonably large attractional church, which models itself quite closely (scarily so at times) on the Hillsong church.

    The key to their church is their LIFE groups, which are abig part of their church life. Put simply, you just can’t sustain a large church without some form of small groups.

    I often wonder if an ‘emerging church’ could sit alongside and as a part of a big attractional church. Lets face it, what happens in most emerging churches that I’ve come across seems to be very similar to a lot of small groups, but obviously with a few key differences, which don’t need explaining here.

    So could u have a whole bunch of smaller, culturally relevant congregations that were still part of a larger Body which came together to sing songs, sit in rows and be preached to?? Maybe it would be really helpful for smaller emerging churches to still have that sense of being part of something bigger?

    Comment by Digger — October 4, 2004 @ 2:00 pm

  8. Well, I’m glad that guy straightened it all out for me.

    Comment by Mike — October 4, 2004 @ 2:15 pm

  9. I’ve found that most of my friends that aren’t Christians are pretty much repulsed by the Hillsong/Saddleback/Willow Creek models, but find the emerging church concept pretty interesting.

    Comment by Christop — October 4, 2004 @ 2:40 pm

  10. There seems to be a judgement made about so-called ‘niche market churches’ and an evaluation of them not being concerned with ‘transformed lives’. There is as others mention a big assumption in quantitative v qualitative aspects. For me Iam concerned to make too quick judgements, but equally I feel that when denominations encounter decline and the squeeze get’s tighter, then we tend to look to what is growing and simply try and transplant it. For some it is Saddleback, others Willow Creek or Cell church models. I think that while some of this is fine, as far as it goes, it is merely a looking for the saving remedy recipe. Who doesn’t get excited at large numbers. Only yesterday I visited First Church grounds where a huge line of people waited to get in, not to the church, but a luminarium. (see my blog Beyond Flatland – http://fyfeblair.blogspot.com)
    I don’t think that is what we are about today in mission. For me Hillsong is providing some interesting music that we can sing, but it like other larger models struggles to disciple long term. We also, certainly in UK face numbers of people shopping for church. I would also suggest the need to look deeper. Alan Jamieson’s study of Pente-Charism and Evangelical churches- A Churchless Faith, is helpful. How long do these young people hang around in Hillsong for? What draws them in the first place and what teaching are they getting? How are lives transformed?

    I am reminded of Donald Miller’s book Reinventing American Protestantism. An insightful look at what he calls new paradigm churches. One thing he notes is that as they enter 2/3rd generation of the movement religious intensity wanes and growth rate slows. They become he says a ‘denomination’ There’s also James Hopewells book which is a tool for congregational studies. He explores congregational dynamics and seeks to understand the christian community. Needless to say he offers a framework. Both of these may help reflect upon the likes of Hillsong.

    I came from a church plant in Scotland (Cove NCD, Aberdeen. You can check it out under Aberdeen presbytery web, there’s a PDF there)in which we saw faith renewed and lives transformed. We didn’t advertise widely to start, but relied upon word of mouth. We eventually did go wider, but I always felt that there was a serious need to lay solid foundations together. I think we achieved that. But we did it not by one recipe/model, but by allowing for the creativity of the Spirit to bring together people who exercised ministry in time to begin to shape the ‘body’ in that context. It was hard living that way as we wanted to do so much, BUT… for me I think the creative engagement throughout emerging church is the harder work that is less seen or obvious. I think that emergent church thinkers are working through some theology and practice (as praxis) and that it isn’t all bookish or theory because lives are being transformed, which after all is God’s work.

    Comment by Fyfe — October 4, 2004 @ 2:45 pm

  11. Now I’m no fan of Hillsong (esp its prosperity gospel leaning) but without a rigorous definition of emerging church, we can learn some things from these mainstream guys. I’m not talking about numbers and I find that issue an irrelevance BUT if we’re overly sniffy about every area of the church we’re going to be rightly branded as arrogant and elitist. What Hillsong often does is appeal to a working class simplicity and level of celebration that white intellectual types like me hate but works for some. I reckon Alpha is “emerging church” in the sense that it works out from community (however loosely) and aspire to become a a believing unit. It often fails because church that they’re meant to feed into is then not like Alpha (but so do many emerging groups…). Can we have grace to see good and bad?

    Comment by Richard Sudworth — October 5, 2004 @ 3:56 am

  12. Aren’t most churches niche churches? I think one source of this issue is that people from a different worldview are looking at the EC through their lens of success and are projecting their view onto the EC. So if the EC isn’t full of megachurches and aren’t bringing in a ton on finanical resources, then maybe God isn’t in it.

    Comment by Benjy (groovythpstr) — October 5, 2004 @ 8:28 am

  13. Like any movement, the emerging church one does need some critique. Gordon Lynch in his book, “After Religion: Generation X and the search for meaning” has a look at the huge growth in Evangelical worship movements like Survivor, alongside the development of alternative worship and post evangelicalism. The emerging church, alternative worship and Post Evang. movt by virtue of their underlying philosophy draw back from marketing, push for conversion and attractional models. And so the result does look like ‘few’. But Lynch goes on to comment that the ‘big’ worship scene is a drop in the bucket of UK young adult population and is further away from the culture of the mainstream.

    Comment by Duncan — October 6, 2004 @ 12:46 am

  14. I dare say this but that sounds like quite a typical comment from the aforementioned denom leader – and dare I say it is a face of the emerging church, as is the international type church scene here in NZ and our mates in Destiny Church. churches that are engaing with the surrounding culture and the needs of that culture. My issue is – when they are painted as being the only way of doing church – I don’t think any of us can be that elitiste. And yes these churches do attract lots of young adults – but they have huge backdoors…. I have used the analogy of churches like hillsong being a bit like SkY TV – flashy, fun, and initaly interesting – but they are full of repeats and always after your money. I might subscribe for a short term – but I would soon get sick of it and switch off – I suspect that is happening a lot with the Hillsong type church

    Comment by michael — October 6, 2004 @ 12:00 pm

  15. There are a few things to bear in mind about Hillsong, IMHO. One is the HUGE back door out of the place, and the large numbers of very scarred people who manage to escape. Another is the fact that Hillsong churches are strongly centralist – people are expected to travel to the main church centre for worship and hear a carefully sanitised message in groups of several thousand. The third is that, in my opinion, the Hillsong prosperity “gospel” is not at all challenging. It is precisely the thing aspirational middle-class people enjoy hearing – “believe in something greater than yourself, escape into this world of highly emotional singing and movement, think positive and you’ll be successful”. So, Hillsong is drawing people in by offering a product that conforms exactly to their self-centred desire. Hillsong is an emerging marketing drive using spiritualist jargon. It’s a great little business and many people find helpful things there – but its not church, and its certainly not emerging church.

    Comment by Curate — October 6, 2004 @ 6:45 pm

  16. I like the corporate annointing of Hillsong, but I don’t like the structure and system of the whole church. There’s very limited freedom for each individuals. too much superstars. Actually my blog has heaps of posts about Hillsong.

    Comment by Susan — October 6, 2004 @ 9:39 pm

  17. What exactly is a corporate anointing?

    Comment by Digger — October 9, 2004 @ 3:42 pm

  18. I started to read the article too Steve, but got a little put off and never got around to finishing it.

    I look forward to reading your response (if you write one).

    Because I know very little about Hillsong UK, I say the following without any focus on them at all.

    Football stadiums and shopping sales attract large numbers of young people where they queue down the road waiting to get in. People have a great time and they come back time after time.

    Has anyone done a longitudinal study into what churches people go to and what the trends are?

    Comment by Rachel C — October 10, 2004 @ 5:52 pm

  19. Hmm … I was surprised to read that the EC was being judged on its “remarkably few transformed lives”. The ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality creeps in incideously doesn’t it? I am guilty of it too. It’s a challenge to get past as the real issues are in connecting with today’s postmodern’s not bickering within (although I think its healthy to at least have the dialogue and question why we do what we do).

    I do think that the Hillsong approach is the last bastion of the modernist church. The Nat. Church Life Survey would suggest that these larger churches are mopping up the numbers of the smaller churches as their contemporary worship and liturgy grab Gen X better than older forms do. Are the unchurched really being saved? The Survey also mentions that Christians are largely mobilising in fewer churches. This is not a criticism, rather a fact.

    The Emerging Church is still largely under the radar. It tends not to have a shop front. At least that is what we found. If someone came to our gathering, it was because we brought them. They weren’t going to just turn up because my front driveway was full of cars.

    So if Gen X don’t know about the missional emerging church they will go to the best that the modernist church has to offer. And that’s great too! I hope that the Baptist leader has room for diversity though, since the Hillsong approach really is for born and bred Christians. If you fish for ‘well to do’ middle class Christians, then that’s all you’ll get.

    ZI think what we would agree is that we want to reach the unchurched majority who will never set foot in the structured church for answers to their spiritual enquiry.

    Hillsong is great for many reasons but simply can’t be all things to all peoples. That is why there needs to be a diversity. It is not the church of the future, it is another great place to worship if that takes your fancy. Horses for courses!

    Lastly, Hillsong is iconic of baby boomer leadership which holds church culture & diversity to ransom. There is a cultural divide between them and the Gen X. It will be very interesting to watch over the next 10 years or so to see what effect a generational change in leadership brings to these large attractive congregations. Blessings to all!

    Comment by Garth — October 15, 2004 @ 2:16 am

  20. I am interested in the subject of Hillsong Church. I live near the Baulkham Hills church in Sydney but I have no interest in attending this particular church.

    One thing that is notable in your comments is that there seems to be a perception that there is some kind of need to attract people by offering an experience.

    My biggest concern about Hillsong is the preaching of the Prosperity Gospel which is something that is not Scriptural.

    I come from a different background than all of the posters here, and I can see that you have a genuine concern about reaching the unchurched. Rather than seeking the emotional experience in order to attract people it might be time to go back to basics and discover again the teachings of Christ.

    One of the failures of modern Christianity is the way in which so many want to go the way of the world in that they promote such things as abortion on demand and voluntary euthanasia. There is a desentisation to the actual laws of God and how those laws should be applied in our lives today.

    It does not matter that I have a different background than your own because the concern is the same.In my Church the youth ministry has been growing over the last few years. We are setting a new trend in Australia in an effort to keep the youth “churched”.

    How do you reach out to the unchurched? You must be innovative, but you must not compromise on teaching the Gospel message.

    Maggie

    Comment by Margaret — November 21, 2004 @ 9:19 pm

  21. I’m not entirely sure why there is this seemingly attacking nature towards hillsong church and churches of like nature.

    As far as i can see, Hillsong is doing it’s best to be relevant to the world it is trying to reach. There is no lack of discipleship in the church – infact there is even a part time and full time Bible College.

    Has anyone who is making these comments actually ever been close to the church? As Christians, we need to focus our energy and time on introducing people to Christ – not arguing amoungst ourselves.

    Comment by steve — December 8, 2004 @ 6:22 pm

  22. Dear All,

    Firstly, its awesome to hear such lively debate about the state of the church and i think that it is something which will keep the church on the right track.

    I am Sri Lankan, grew up in Hong Kong and am now studying in London. After a year at HTB (the creator of Alpha) i moved to Hillsong London. I have been a christian for a number of years and grew up in a anglican church.

    I moved from HTB because i didnt feel at home there, people did not make an effort to help you out and after a year of going to service there , a friend of mine and myself knew no one.

    When moving to Hillsong, i had problems with the money message being preached. However, i consulted a number of people and the church and they have given me a good idea of what they preach. I still do not agree 100% with a money return as a blessing but i know that they push for money simply due to the cost of running church. The weekend services cost thousands of pounds to run and if my giving helps someone change their view on the church (without comprimising the gospel) then i am willing to do it. But the major factor is IT IS MY CHOICE. No one can make you give, the Lord takes care of that one.

    I have brought many friends to Hillsong church, mostly non-christian and i have seen many of my friends give their life to Christ. Some have moved on to fantastic churchs such as All Souls, Langham Place, but many have stayed at Hillsong. We disciple our new believers personally and that is the key to the churchs growth.

    But in the end, if we look that the Bible, it is very clear on the church. Looking at Acts 2 shows what the church started at and i think that is what Hills strives for. In acts it says that if a movement or church is from the Lord then it will prosper. Starting on the 9th of Jan we are moving into a 2000 arena in the middle of London (oxford st.). I appriciate that Hillsong is not for everyone and that success is not measured in people. However if you walk into hillsong on a sunday you will feel the moving of the Holy Spirit and you will see the Fruits of the spirit in peoples lives (however new they are to christianity), that to me is success.

    But in the end we are all one body and Christ has died for ALL of us, not just the members of churchs that we like. I hope that none of this sounds like a dig at anyone or any church.

    God Bless

    Shaun

    Comment by Shaun — December 27, 2004 @ 12:50 am

  23. I’m fascinated to read Steve’s selective posting of the original article I wrote, and also his snide comment about the “climate of vigorous missional critique and affirmation within which I work”. I get the impression that it is perfectly okay for “emergent church” theoreticians to fire shots across
    the bow of “modern churches”, but when someone questions the veracity of their theory it all gets a little precious.

    But let me put a few background thoughts straight. Firstly, I am not advocating a Hillsong approach to doing/being church, and I’m not their greatest fan. In fact, I find their music increasingly boring and I abhor their prosperity theology. They just may have something valuable to teach us as we seek to reach an emerging generation. Nor am in conflict with the emergent church thinking. On the contrary, I consider myself a student of
    it. In the last few months I’ve devoured books by McLaren, Grenz, Sweet, Miller, Kimble and Sine – to name a few. These thinkers and practitioners have a lot to teach me and I appreciate their challenge to the modern church
    I have grown up in. Indeed, the church I lead is increasingly experimenting with (what is claimed to be) emergent church modes of worship, communication and community. And I also embrace the idea of diverse expressions of
    church/community. One size certainly does not fit all.

    But I still come back to Jesus’ clarion call that the work of the kingdom of God in which we engage is supposed to produce fruit – observably measurable in terms of transformed lives. That fruit doesn’t happen quickly or instantaneously, and of course it involves a journey, but it does need to happen. People attracted to Jesus are supposed to become like him, and there
    is supposed to be evidence of that in their behaviour and relationships with other people. And I guess as a denominational leader (which may be the ultimate turn-off to many) I am not observing a lot of observable “fruit”
    from those who beat the emergent church drum. Or have we now deconstructed spiritual transformation too? Fruit can inevitably be counted, which is actually evidenced in a back-hand kind of way by ec writers who delight in
    counting the numbers leaving historical churches – but don’t like people
    counting those coming to theirs!

    Here’s a challenge to think about. From all that I’m reading and observing there is a gnawing observation I have of a small sub-culture of emergent church thinkers out there who only ever discuss their theories about church with each other, read each other’s books and lavish their own with quotes from friends who think just like them, are into art and not at all “moved”
    by sports, and who prefer to throw rocks at the historical church from outside of it rather than engage in dialogue from the inside. Maybe you
    think I’m too harsh, and perhaps I am. But I long for the chance to have honest and open dialogue with emergent church thinkers and strategists without feeling stereotyped as one of those modernist “straw men” they love
    to tear down. How interesting that Steve posts this discussion on my article with a bunch of other people but doesn’t engage in direct dialogue with the author? Why is that? Maybe I could make a comment or two about the “climate
    of vigorous missional critique and affirmation within which I work” too.

    In the end, we are all supposed to be on the same side. And in the end, it is the historians who will judge whether we got it right. But let’s night write-up that historical perspective before some of our ideas have actually
    been proven.

    Grist for the mill.

    Comment by brian winslade — December 30, 2004 @ 3:04 pm

  24. thanks Shaun for your comments. Really appreciate them.

    Comment by steve — December 30, 2004 @ 3:30 pm

  25. brian, just to put my original post in context – I basically quoted from your article and asked a question. You could take it personally as a “snide” attack on you, or you could take it as me placing your missional challenge presumably in a place where it would raise most ginger – i.e. I suspect more emerging church people read my blog than your denominational magazine. Feel free to ask before casting motive next time.

    I decided to “selective” quote cos your entire article was too long for a blog.

    In regard to fruit – don’t make straw people of the emerging church as being anti-fruit – see the posts and comments in my blog on KPI’s in postmodernity at http://www.emergentkiwi.org.nz/archives/key_performance_indicators_in_postmodernity.php

    As far as your challenge – I’m not sure who you are talking about and would like to know before I could accurately respond to your challenge. I personally consider myself inside the church, having spent the last 10 years in Baptist pastoral ministry. Or are you actually attacking me and thus actually consider/want me “outside” your Baptist church denomination?

    I agree we are on the same side. And that is one reason why I did not respond to you directly (time was the other), as I did not want to be seen as on any other side.

    Instead I simply chose to engage with your work in a different public medium than your denominational newspaper.

    Anyhow, lets see if anyone else wants to pick up on your “challenge”

    Comment by steve — December 30, 2004 @ 3:38 pm

  26. I have a wee raspberry cane (I think you call them canes?).
    And I have an irrational delight in the very few raspberries that are growing there.

    For nine years I poured everything I had into an emerging church.

    We saw fruit.
    Delicious, marvellous fruit.
    People who found faith in Jesus.
    People who retained faith in Jesus.

    I celebrate this fruit.

    I don’t need to have a supermarket full of it to know that it is good.

    Now I am in a different context.
    A bigger place,
    where the fruit I have seen this year
    is larger in number
    but not different in quality.

    And I am sure God celebrates just as much over the fruit seen in my previous context as that seen in my current context.

    I celebrate the fruit!
    And I don’t expect my small raspberry cane to produce enough for me to advertise inviting pick-your-own ers to come and pick…

    but does that make my raspberries any less pleasing?
    any less delicious?

    Comment by lynne — December 30, 2004 @ 6:23 pm

  27. I’m a little concerned by the tone that this conversation has taken . I’m all for healthy debate and sharing of ideas – but I wonder if the conversation between emerging and mainline/traditional/historical (whatever you want to call it) church needs to necessarily be set up as an us and them approach.

    I echo the statements from both steve and brian that we’re all on the same side but wonder if the tone of comment works against that here.

    I personally feel that the future of ‘the church’ both emerging and mainline is closely tied to our willingness to dialogue with one another. I’m really excited by some of the conversations that a number of ECs are having with most of the mainline denominations here in Melbourne.

    Brian writes – ‘But I long for the chance to have honest and open dialogue with emergent church thinkers and strategists without feeling stereotyped as one of those modernist “straw men” they love to tear down.’

    To be perfectly honest I didn’t see Steve’s initial post here as being an attempt to tear Brian down. There are tinges of frustration and perhaps sarcasm in the post but no real malice as far as I can see.

    Perhaps as a denom leader and as an EC leader one or both of you could give the other a call and sort this out over a coffee or beer. I suspect you’re more on the same page than is indicated here.

    Just my humble opinion from another guy trying to work it out.

    Comment by Darren — December 30, 2004 @ 6:33 pm

  28. Lynne must have posted at the same time as me and has basically said the other thing that was on my mind as I read Brian’s comments.

    Yes fruit can be counted – but it is not the only measure of its worth.

    Fruit can also be evaluated by:
    - how long it lasts
    - how it tastes
    - where it was grown

    I particularly find myself reflecting upon the ‘where it was grown’ idea. As I was trying to say way back on the first comment of this thread – the EC is positioned to reach a variety of people that in my experience, mainline church has either neglected or doesn’t know how to reach.

    I think of one of the girls (we’ll call her K) we’ve seen come to faith recently at the edges of our little community. K is a pretty edgy and alternative girl who culturally was and still is a million miles from Hillsong or most Aussie churches.

    Most churches I’ve been a part of over the years (despite the fact that they are growing and seeing people come to faith) wouldn’t know how to engage K, they probably would have been quite scared of her in fact because she didn’t look, talk or act like them.

    However a number of the girls in our little community saw K as God’s child and as someone that God was actually calling to himself and they decided to join in on Gods work through friendship.

    Through time (a lot of it) K fell in love with Jesus big time. It was a slow burning thing but God is faithful.

    As I said previously – I don’t think its an either or thing when it comes to EC. God is a creative God and is into diversity and I think this should be reflected in his church.

    I’ll shut up now – I’m on cold and flu tablets and I think you’ve got me in one of the hyper moments that they bring.

    Comment by Darren — December 30, 2004 @ 6:48 pm

  29. Well, doesn’t this one come close to home?

    I think, read and observe, that proponents of the Emerging Church do carry this ideology close to their hearts. So it’s almost understandable how things quickly seem to become viscious and snide. It’s why the blogosphere is a great place to air ideas, but only if you have a thick hide. Much like print media, you have to accept that someone will always read and interpret in a contrary tone. So the suggestion of coffee is a good one, Darren.. but the suggestion of an open forum is also an excellent one, Brian.. and inevitably the kind of exercise that will hopefully bring widespread productivity to these discussions.

    As a relative new kid on the block in terms of ministry, theology and experience, it’s easy to feel like you don’t have anything relevant to add, but.. I am living and breathing in the generation that is meant to be delighting in their ‘emerging’ nature, and I don’t really see a lot of it. My peers can talk about the ideology, but their practice of worship, community etc, remains unchanged. And I am a proponent of the Gospel, so I shall endeavour not to focus my energy on changing the way we do church, but working to ensure that however we do church, it’s relevant to our immediate context.

    We are storytellers. Employ whatever means you like to tell the story, there is no set way.. jsut know that for some people they will like to skip to the end, some like to read for themselves, some like the same story told the same way over and over. We have the freedom to do that, so long as we tell the right story, it doens’t have to be about telling the story right.

    In a congregation that does experiment from time to time, I count more failures in our experiments than successes. That is a lot to do with my weaknesses, for sure. But I also think it has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of so-called ‘emerging’ practice isn’t simply not relevant or connective with the people I am ministering too. It’s relevant to me. But then, so is a major rock’n’roll concert. Here am I, caught in a parallel. Sometimes I like church to be like a rock’n’roll show too.

    I work as part of the team organising a youth gathering that’s highly envangelical. Here’s what I’ve learnt that’s still true about youth culture..
    big is beautiful, in fact sometimes size really does count.
    sometimes celebrating small is easier in the context of a large gathering.
    hype is sometimes just fun, and that’s ok.
    stages that look great don’t have to dominate the landscape of the message.
    Stages that look great make sense to kids.
    it’s an uplifting experience for kids to see a God who is working, real and relevant in the lives of their peers across the country.
    Arty kids and sporty kids, extroverts and introverts can all find expression and a sense of belonging in a big kick-ass event.

    In the five years between adolescence and young adulthood.. what are we really expecting to change?

    My environment is a challenging one, because things are openly critiqued, vigourously so. Not much is done just for the sake of it. But it’s an open critique that has a good motive underneath it. We are responsible for ministering to, leading and opening up doors for longtime, middle-aged, newbie and no-yet followers of Jesus, and the way we tell the story must bear all of those things in mind. So we experiment, but we try and do it with wisdom.

    I, for my part, respect the fact and the manner with which our national leader is engaging and endeavouring to dialogue on these issues. It seems wiser and safer to me than others who seem to delight in picking up the books, and immediately wanting to leap into implementing new worship styles. It speaks to me of being all things to all men, and a willingness to put the needs of others ahead of self. After all… there are many ways in which I can connect with God, but I care much more about how my sisters, my neighbour and my friends will connect with His Story. That is the overwhelming, pressing urge on my heart.

    When emerging fits for them, that’s great. And when they go to Hillsong and love it, that’s great. And wherever they find the truth of the Gospel, that’s the answer to my prayers and the cry of the Kingdom.

    For the sake of the Kingdom, we need to, and I implore all.. to humble ourselves enough to admit, we all need God to lead us and speak to us through one another.

    Comment by Tash — December 31, 2004 @ 10:57 am

  30. A couple of concerns from someone who sees some value in both forms (a bit like being able to appreciate test and 1 day matches – a NZ & Aussie should find some ground there…)
    1st – numbers matter. Each time you see an empty chair in a home church or trad church, it represents a person not yet in a relationship with God. Quality fruit is sure important, but so is quantity. Each nameless person you see on a bus is gold to God. Go get ‘em!!
    I live in a town of about 22000 people. About 2000 are involved in churches somewhere. That means that 20000 are not. This grieves me, and needs to grieve all of us.
    Back doors and discipleship? Sure we need to look out for that. However, if we rely on ‘the church’ or ‘the leaders’ to do it, then we’re not being terribly effective disciples or disciplers ourselves, are we?
    Regarding the EC’s effect? Be aware that your collective thinking, wisdom and teaching is reaching the mainstream churches (both large and small) in huge ways. While the movement within churches is still so (publicly) new, the EC needs to be satisfied with the effect they’re having. Meanwhile, the trad church could do with making sure that they credit the origin of these ideas to their rightful owners – wouldn’t hurt…
    This whole debate gets very futile when we realise that we’re all very different, and have (for millenia!!) looked for choice in how we do things. Therefore, EC and trad are both as right (and as wrong, when we are honest…) as each other.
    Lets not imagine that either can afford to get ‘settled’ in how they’re doing things. If you have a bunch of people you know who need a Saviour, be to them what they need you to be. Don’t get stuck on a high horse of idealism and theo-bashing.
    Thanks for letting me have a spray!

    Toddy in Busselton, WA.

    Comment by Toddy — December 31, 2004 @ 8:00 pm

  31. lessons from the olive tree…

    a few weeks ago i had dreams of getting all ‘going back to nature’ by pressing the oil out of the olives that were on our olive tree. it looked like it was going to be a good crop(?). there were literally thousands of little flowers all over the tree…

    Comment by Stu's Musings — January 4, 2005 @ 8:50 pm

  32. lessons from the olive tree…

    a few weeks ago i had dreams of getting all ‘going back to nature’ by pressing the oil out of the olives that were on our olive tree. it looked like it was going to be a good crop(?). there were literally thousands of little flowers all over the tree…

    Comment by Stu's Musings — January 4, 2005 @ 8:51 pm

  33. for what it’s worth, i’ve made lengthy comment at my site:
    lessons from the olive tree

    Comment by stu mcgregor — January 4, 2005 @ 8:59 pm

  34. i know some people who started a small, emerging church. i believe they were guided by the Spirit in their efforts to meet a real need. what God built through them was, and is, small, honest and genuine.
    And what they built was one of God’s greatest tools in saving me. i am so glad the people of that church aren’t afraid to be genuine or afraid to be small. i’m so glad they care so much for the little vine God has made in their lives, the one with just a few fruit.
    hurrah for big churches – i want everyone to know the joy of relationship with God. but big churches won’t make that happen for everyone. it’s just as well that we don’t have to choose big or small, numbers or niches. it’s just as well that we don’t have to try to reduce God or His church to one perfect, ultimate fruit-bearing formula. i would not back the human ability to do so.

    Comment by kelli — January 5, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  35. Were we saved to pick holes in all the other christians, churches or were we saved and called to the Great Commission?

    Comment by john — January 15, 2005 @ 8:41 am

  36. Re: New perspective on Church. Unless the church is willing to encourage and inspire others to a more meaningful spiritual life, it can have no value in the lives of those seeking enlightenment. The Bible can only be read with Understanding and Meaning when one reads with an open mind and with receptivity and thankfullness. Fundamental to the Christain life is a submission to a life lived in the “Christ Consciousness” This implies that one’s outlook on life is spiritual, non judgemental, and compassionate. Living a life in “Christ” is to live daily life in the Mind of Christ, according to St Paul. Therefore there is only one mind and that mind is Christ. Only when One is will ing to submit to the Christ Mind will Ones’ life be transformed by an increasing awareness of God’s grace. What is God’s grace? I put it to you, that God’s grace is: a deep inner awareness of divine reality consciouslly known moment by moment. Ref: Hebrews 7:3 Without mother, without father without decent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life but made like unto the son of God. we are each a living soul called to free and unhindered expression of our authenticity of being. Unless we are in a body of like minded Christians, we can never know transformation nor healing of our hearts and minds, because on Christ, the Truth can heal and transform each individual that desires to seek first the kingdom of God. Patrick McCarthy

    Comment by Patrick — February 12, 2005 @ 7:46 pm

  37. reply to John:

    1) the apostles paul, peter and john all picked some pretty big holes in other christians.
    2) the great commission has the idea of discipleship there which means that it’s a process, which means that there will always be room for improvement (and hole picking).
    3) isn’t scripture useful for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness? (1 tim 3:16) it could be argued that there is hole picking there . . . and certainly critique is part of the function of the church.
    4) didn’t you just pick a hole with us who are having this dialogue?

    Comment by stu — February 17, 2005 @ 12:34 pm

  38. frustrated by “drive by commenting”…

    a little irritated by an anonymous guy who calls himself john (false e-mail address) at steves controversial hillsong vs emerging posting and discussion. ‘john’ simply says this:

    “Were we saved to pick holes in all the other christians, churches or wer

    Comment by Stu's Musings — February 17, 2005 @ 12:56 pm

  39. Hey Guys!!

    Just wanted to drop a line and say that it’s so great to see people talking about God, Chrisitanity and the church of today! What I want to impress upon is a point that some of these people who have posted have mentioned in the afore posts.

    As the body of Christ, we are here for one cause, and that is to advance the Kingdom of God on this Earth. We have each been given a responsibility to make God real, and to introduce his love and kindness to the people of our world.

    It is easy for a church so large (like Hillsong), to be an object of discussion, to have debate about… This is normal!! But I think it is unhealthy for people to focus only on these things.

    Let’s focus on what God has called us to do, and that is to preach the gospel to all of mankind, to proclaim his good works, and to be living examples that Christianity is not something we should hide, but that it is essentially a relationship with Jesus Christ, that is open to anybody and everybody.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and so am I. So, I apologise if I sound a little biased, because I do attend Hillsong Church. For those of you who do not agree with the ‘Prosperity Doctrine’ (I actually don’t think that is what we call it), then sobeit. Personally, I give because it is an outward expression of my inward love for my Saviour, and because I have my own convictions about giving back to the Lord what he has already entrusted to me. I also understand the whole notion of ‘material giving’, I just feel that being able to give part of my finances goes a long way in building the Kingdom of God, this is not and should not be the only reason one gives though. I hope this makes sense.

    In conclusion, I have really enjoyed reading these posts. I just hope that we, as Christians, don’t get caught up in arguing amongst ourselves, because isn’t that the enemy trying to divert our focus into doing something he enjoys?

    God Bless!

    Comment by Monica — February 19, 2005 @ 8:34 pm

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