Sunday, December 05, 2004

the emerging church and the wilderness of God

Christianity emerges from a wilderness spirituality;
John the Baptist, camel haired and with locust wings in mouth, emerges from the desert;
Jesus in preparation for ministry, walks into the wilderness;
Israel finds God in the desert, where in the wilderness Moses is called and a nation is shaped.
The rough places and tough spaces become the place of encounter with God.

So what is the place of a wilderness spirituality in the emerging church? A book like The Shape of Things to Come takes growth – in the early church, in China – as the benchmark. A history of vitality becomes the shaping spirituality. When the emerging church emerges from the evangelical church in the US, a history of vitality is the shaping spirituality.

So what of a wilderness spirituality? Where is the encountering of God in the rough and tough? How does the emerging church embrace the wilderness, rather than the myths and shadows of vitality.

Is it time for the emerging church to find new partners in its spirituality? Is it time to stop dreaming of early church glory and embrace God in the rough?

I wonder if this is where the experience of the de-churched becomes redemptive gift. Those who have entered the wilderness and have learnt to find God in the raw might have spiritual gifts to offer.

Wilderness God
Hidden in the deep valley
Obscured by rocky outcrop

This Advent
May we be found in Your wilderness.

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM


  1. Mate, I think your point about the “de-churched” is very valid…becoming “de-churched” is often the end of a process of becoming increasingly marginalised; marginalisation or living in the margins gifts an interesting perspective on experiences of church and belonging. “De-churched” people often engage with the Jesus story (the gospels in particular) in interesting ways, hearing in them stories and emphases that resonate with the margins, their experiences, the marginalised, the broken, the vulnerable etc. The tragedy is that they are often absent from any dialogue about mission etc. Leaving is often equated with exclusion as far as local congregations go..But, as you note, many many persons in this situation continue to follow Jesus and continue to creatively engage with the realities of funding and resourcing an authentic Jesus-following life apart from belonging to a local congregation…not belonging is a very very interesting experience….and for many “wilderness” is a significant reality and metaphor…I wonder if in NZ the “foreshore” becomes a way of talking about a spirituality of edge, fringe, wilderness and marginalia…? Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Paul Fromont — December 6, 2004 @ 11:52 am

  2. I think this is a very valuable post. I too have wondered whether there is a potential pool of spiritual wisdom and journey out there; disconnected. I wonder how you find them. It’s my story too.

    Paul’s comment is also helpful.

    Comment by Garth — December 7, 2004 @ 1:04 am

  3. permission to borrow some of this??

    Comment by tash — December 7, 2004 @ 4:06 pm

  4. I like this post. God, the Bible, and apirituality look very different for those of us on the outside looking in, than for those on the inside looking out. There are things you learn in the wilderness that you can’t learn anywhere else. There’s a book you might be interested in: Soul Mending: The art of spiritual direction by John Chryssavgis, particularly his chapter on “Ministry and Brokenness.” He’s an Orthodox priest, and much of the book is about how pain and wilderness is inextricably connected to grace. Simone Weil’s “Waiting for God” is fantastic as well, if you’ve never read any of her stuff.

    Comment by christy — December 10, 2004 @ 1:12 pm

  5. interesting thoughts, certainly some that i haven’t heard spoken about in the emergent conversation. certainly not a new concept to use nature spirituality for ministry. celts were converted by st. patrick.. or was is st. columba (i get them confused regularly).. either way, they utilized the celts views of nature/wilderness to connect the message of Christ to them. i just finished reading a nouwen book that addressed contemplative ministry with regards to nature, seeing Christ within the creativity of nature, interesting read. i’d be interested in reading more folks thoughts on this.. would it be called “emergent camp”

    Comment by gavin — December 15, 2004 @ 6:12 pm

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