Thursday, August 12, 2004

the future of the emerging church

The emerging church scene began in New Zealand in about 1994. This was the making waves period. Mike Riddell and Mark Pierson ran Parallel Universe – worship that was on and off the wall. Chardonnay descending from the ceiling, large gas flames at Pentecost. You get the idea; intense creativity and high multi-media. Mark and Mike ran seminars and conferences up and down New Zealand. Lots of agro. Lots of angst.

This was followed by a period of birthing innovation communities. Various worship expressions and communities took shape around participation and cultural engagement and creativity. These included Cityside and Graceway in Auckland, Ilam and Side Door in Christchurch, various communities in Wellington, Soul Outpost in Greymouth, Soul Reason in Dunedin. Not all survived. Birth was painful and babies struggle without good parents. The movement matured.

The period of missional conversation. With a new decade, their was a first, practioners from about 10 emerging churches gathered in Auckland. This was not a conference or a seminar. The emerging church movement was now a conversation, a group of practioners learning, growing, wrestling. The original superstars were now fellow journeyers. Mission was increasingly important; and so the conversation turned from multi-media, to funding spirituality, to visitor experience, to life ritual.

This week we had our third such Converse. We farewelled Mark Pierson to Australia. Perhaps it represents the end of a third phrase. We have moved from making waves, to innovative communities, to a missional conversation.

What might the future hold? Let me suggest three issues.

1 – Greater maturity. The early days focused on sharing of cultural capital; where did you get that video loop from again? It’s now about discipleship as life ritual and mission as spiritual funding. It needs to mature further, with greater theological depth and the nuance that emerges from the praxis of journeying with people.

2 – New leadership. The ad hoc school of hard knocks needs to evolve into more focused ways of training and skilling and developing. Leadership in their 30s needs to create space for leadership in their 20s. Culture is moving fast.

3 – Cultural engagement. The West is post-Christian and growth will be slow. The emerging church scene has meant people have stayed in church and various prodigals have wandered home. Yet we have still to really engage the culture. Space for artists needs to be translated into cultural impact.

Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

1 Comment

  1. It interesting to watch the emerging church in America, though, particularly because it is not post-Christian culturally. This has tremendous implications for how the institutional church thinks of itself, and as a consequence, the emerging, I believe, is proving to be much more of a threat to people conception of who they are…there very notion of how they define themselves as God’s people.

    I do like your suggestions for what the future should hold. I agree with all three.

    Comment by will — August 13, 2004 @ 12:37 am

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