Saturday, July 31, 2004

emerging criticisms

Sam, commenting over at living room, makes some thoughtful criticisms of the emerging church. Let me respond to 2 of them. (My context is not mainline or liberal, so I can’t really speak to his 3rd criticism.)

(a) the risk that we will “out-relevant” ourselves, ironically succumbing to the post-modern culture to which we claim to be bringing the gospel;

There needs to be a distinction between relevance and mission. God in Jesus came in human form to a culture and spoke to that culture in its own accent. The point of this Incarnation was not relevance, but redemptive mission.

If we are committed to following Jesus, the point of the emerging church should not be relevance, but mission, seeing Jesus in human form in the video loops and samples of postmodern culture.

The problem is that relevance and mission can look the same. However, some pointed questions should help tease out the differences. Perhaps more importantly, will be the fruit of the Incarnation. When the mission to postmodern culture is able to intentionally welcome and embrace that which is absent, then we will see not relevance but a mission heart which, like Christ, makes room for the Other.

(b) that “no church form” has in actually become a “church form” and, therefore, is subject to being championed and attacked in the “my way’s best” argument;

Any experimentation runs the risk of fossilizing. This might not in fact be the fault of the form, but be the fault of the on-looking public, eager to find a model to photocopy. The wind of the Spirit is dynamic. If the “no church form” becomes a “form,” if the emerging church becomes stuck in its moment, then it will probably find the Spirit blowing in fresh ways, fresh forms. At this point, the depth of humility (or otherwise) of the emerging church will be interesting to observe.

Posted by steve at 06:04 PM

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