Saturday, April 23, 2005

two contrasting missional opinions

It appears that Al Hirsh and Frost are busy shaping things yet to come, down on the emerging church in Pittsburgh. Holly reflects herewhat threw me for a loop was how so many folks did not equate the emerging church or emergent with being missional.

Contrast the angst in Pittsburgh with Scott McKnight, commenting here:

Fundamentally, the Emergent movement is a “missional” movement and it is holistic in its mission, and until it is addressed from that point, it won’t be addressed centrally … Not long ago I spoke with a Christian leader who speaks quite often to Emergent churches and this person told me that the Emergent movement does not have that many conversions. Now I don’t know if this person was accurate, and it does not matter, but I still think the issue is missional in the sense that the Emergent is trying to work out the gospel in a postmodern context – and that context exists and it is worth letting the gospel have its way in that context.

Personally, I warm to Scott’s breadth of missionality, with the focus on culture rather than church growth statistics in China. I wonder if the emerging church is now such a large elephant that people grasp an ear or a tail and pronounce themselves “emergent experienced.” I also wonder if the postmodern shift is so deep, so profoundly disorientating, that the need for deep mission demands a focus on context, that might yield very little fruit for many years. After all, it took Isreal over 70 years to emerge from exile, let alone rack up the “conversions.”

Posted by steve at 01:21 AM


  1. now i dont claim to be in the emergent scene. I am doing an internship with forge (hirsch and frosts organization) whilst studying my bachelor of theol and working as a youth pastor in an establish, contemporary church. But, one thing i believe i have picked up is the very notion of ‘conversions’ is different in the ec. No longer is there a ‘conversion experience’ or a ‘point of conversion’ but rather more focus is on ‘conversations’ or the journey of people towards (or away) from Christ. I think it needs to be teased out more, but i know even looking back at my own journey, there was no point of conversion, but rather i was assimilated into christian community, and took up with their God too….

    Very different than the Pauline style of a distinct moment or encounter…

    Comment by roo — April 23, 2005 @ 11:22 am

  2. good point roo.
    good points. i often use the narrative of Peter rather than Paul now. It seems to make a whole lot more sense -journey, failure, ups and downs.

    the danger of process/conversation models however, is that the points or bridges or defining moments get neglected. even in process there’s still a need for “divine” moments, ritualised, that can help people mark significant God moments.

    Comment by steve — April 23, 2005 @ 4:09 pm

  3. Hey Steve (looking forward to meeting you in Melbourne in a few weeks).
    I have been around Forge traps for a few years now, and I work with Al
    quite closely. I have had a number of conversations in these circles
    about the nature of conversion. I like the way that you articulate the
    need to hold significant “conversion” moments and conversion as a
    process in tension. I have done a fair bit of work on it. I have found
    the language of initiation pretty helpful in this regard. In particular,
    my mind is wrapping around the notion of the initiation journeys of both
    the “pagan” with no Christian heritage or history etc and the Pop
    Culture Christian. Both require significant amounts of conversions,
    around the same issues that pervade pop culture but often from entirely
    different angles. Does this make sense?

    Yes PoMo is such a significant segway that we may well go 50 to 100
    years without any “conversions”. This is a frighteningly real concept.
    We are trying to figure out what is the gospel in this context. Much to
    talk about. Would love to have a tea (tea is the new coffee) with you in
    Melbourne if you have the time!

    Comment by stephen said — April 27, 2005 @ 5:38 pm

  4. Stephen,
    glad you like the “significant moments” thing. At the risk of sounding like a salesperson, I do discuss this in more depth in my book – postcard 5 “spiritual tourism”.

    not sure about pagan vs pop christian – i sort of hope that if we keep coming to the core of conversion – authentic transformation, that it might connect with the same depth of humanity in people irrespective of their religious upbringing.but perhaps i’m being idealistic.

    Comment by steve — April 27, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  5. I have thought about this, ie: not making a distinction between pop X’ian and “pagan”. But the conventional church types that I converse with often have had situations where someone new to their church without any pre-christian background will for example readily accept that a full blown primary consumer mode is something that requires repentance and redemption, a move to more of a contributor stance whilst their christian conterpart thinks this is not the case, and even moreso, can find “biblical” justification for being a “church shopper”.

    I find this often in my experiences of leading an emergent community. Was fascinated that the same dynamic is replicated in the conventional setting. So the same issue, exactly the same issue, but approached from a different perspective.

    Your thoughts?

    Comment by Stephen Said — April 27, 2005 @ 6:31 pm

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