Friday, November 10, 2006

An Emerging Adventure

The previous post was a little sarcastic . . . .

I was sincere about what the prayer said, but wanted to highlight how I think we truly ought to pray "in celebration of our existence".

A friend was telling me about the prayer he heard at a celebratory day that basically recounted the congregation's glorious history. I thought that a proper prayer in such a situation should not laud our efforts, or even accomplishments, but point in a different direction. Thus, the irony.

Which leads me to what I've been thinking. It has recently come back to my attention that when I left Africa I was convinced that my mission was to share with the American church a new ecclesiology - based on my experiences in Africa.

Alot has happened since then, not all of it particularly pleasant. Church life can often be brutal. But as I look back, I have really been an evangelist for a new ecclesiology. This started in 1999 - before I every knew anything about emerging churches. This was also before I had heard talk of being missional.

However, it's interesting that my own journey has involved a new ecclesiology (like the emerging conversation proposes) out of a mission perspective (as missional thinking promotes).

In Emerging Churches, by Gibbs and Bolger, they list 9 characteristics evident in the newer ecclesiastical approaches that take seriously our current context. These emerging churches that are within the emerging culture often:

1) identify with the life of Jesus
2) transform the secular realm
3) live highly communal lives
4) welcome the stranger
5) serve with generosity
6) participate as producers
7) create as created beings
8) lead as a body
9) take part in spiritual activities

From my thoughts (not Gibbs and Bolger) it might be possible to contrast these characteristics with the tendencies of more traditional congregations to:

1) take their identity from the teachings of Jesus and beliefs of the apostles
2) separate from the secular realm
3) interact with one another primarily at worship services or within planned programs
4) welcome the members, or prospective members
5) serve with the intent to convert
6) participate as consumers
7) ignore the creative arts
8) lead from a hierarchy
9) take part in worship services, seminars, meetings, courses, and other programmed, group events.

This comparison is not to suggest that emerging churches have no interest in the teachings of Jesus, or that what has been modernity's more prevalent traditional church has had no interest in living the life of Jesus. But I do believe that the comparison is helpful in showing where the emphasis lies - in emulating the daily life of Jesus or believing the teachings of Jesus. What makes us Christians - the beliefs we affirm or the way we live?

I do not present those as a hard dualism where these are mutually exclusive. However, sometimes deciding how we would rank these helps clarify our own ecclesiology.

This new ecclesiology is not simply the result of modern and postmodern differences, but also Western versus Eastern differences. In my thinking there is a wholistic versus compartmentalized dynamic influencing our ways of being Christians.

No comments: