Sunday, October 15, 2006

Words: "Emergent" and "Emerging"

Like I said yesterday, these aren't the same thing in churchspeak. Chances are pretty good you haven't heard of either of these in regards to worship or worship gatherings unless you pretty much live on the Web and/or hang out with church planters. (There's nothing wrong with hanging out with church planters - aka folks who start new churches - it's just that their conversations are seasoned with words unlikely to be used in "normal" conversation - stuff like "emerging" and "missional" and "ethos"... more on the last two of those later.)

The definition of the adjective "emerging" is "newly formed or just coming into prominence" - which refers not only to a more experiential (we'll get to that word next week) style of worship but also to a new postmodern culture & thought that is affecting more & more folks in our community.

OTOH, "emergent" (for the most part) refers to a group of folks known as the
Emergent Village who are involved in planting & supporting "emerging" churches. While we can learn a lot from them, they are not all theologically on the same page as NewLife Community Church. (Yes, all of you hardcore nitpickers out there, the whole emerging/emergent thing isn't quite that simple... but this is close enough for what we're doing here in Easton, CA.)

NewLife @ Night is definitely trying to speak the truth of Jesus Christ to the emerging culture.


Blogger Chris said...

It's most interesting to read about this. A few years back, I picked up a book sitting on a co-worker's desk and started reading. It was about developing a church service that would cater to the "emerging culture" and those raised with "post modern" thought processes. Now, I'm not saying that NewLife@Night will be exactly like this, it's just that the vocabulary you're using makes me think of this book I picked up. I flipped to some pages of photos, and I saw images, crosses and crucifixes, candles, statues, and many other "tangibles" being used in worship. I found all this very interesting, because I was taught in Sunday School that these type of things were graven images and that they didn't belong in church.

In later years, I suddenly realized that images were great reminders of our history as Christians, and that those who say they don't belong in church are basically saying, "if they are in the church then you'll start worshipping them instead of God." The implication is that I am too dumb to know that a statue is simply an image of a person as opposed to that actual person. The corpus on the crucifix is an image of Christ making Himself the final sacrifice for my sins, but to hear the anti-statue guys talk about it, if it's there, I must be worshipping it (not Christ, but the little statue of His Body).

Here's my point. Radical protestantism came along 500 years ago and started "cleaning out" the churches - making them empty rooms with seats and stages, as common as the city auditorium in town. All this in the name of taking out the graven images that the Catholic Church had insidiously been poisoning the minds of the misguided faithful with for basically all of salvation history up to that point. But to read the Saints and doctors of the Church up to that point, they had a pretty clear understanding of what was God and wasn't God.

So now the pendulum swings back the other way, and we start putting the images back in the churches, at least some of them. And it strikes me as sad, because I start to realize that every mainline protestant denomination contains some of the elements of Catholicism, because in sometimes rare moments of intellectual honesty, each must admit that it's an offshoot of Catholicism. Some have more in common than others. Some have liturgical calendars, some have hierarchical organization, some have a standard order, some have no order but share in common the worship of Christ.

Perhaps there is hope for some level of unity being restored someday. If a book on "emerging" churches suggests putting the images back in the churches, making the church experience appeal to more of the senses like the Catholics did for 1500 years, then maybe, just maybe, someone in a protestant chruch will someday suggest Jesus meant what He said, when He said, "this is my Body, which will be given up for you," and not be accosted for such heretical belief. Of course, right now when a protestant says that, he joins the Catholic Church.

6:26 PM  
Blogger Mark (aka pastor guy) said...

I think one of the dangers of talking about "postmodern" & "emerging" church/culture is that we can so easily act like it is monolithic - that EVERYONE is longing for candles & icons & the like.

I don't think that is the case.

I do believe, however, that our media-savvy generation (weaned on cable TV, nutured on computers, breathing in & out through the internet) has a better handle on the power of images.

An undercurrent of your post, Chris, is a vein of subtly pro-Catholic/anti-Protestant sentiment. I would suggest that a careful reading of the many of the church fathers & mystics would yield conclusions similar to your own... much as a careful reading of evangelical theologians would lead to a balanced view of symbol, metaphor & worship.

In my years of ministry, the problem has been "in practice"... where many people assume beliefs & live them out based not on careful thought & interaction with God, but simply by doing what others do - whether that's lighting candles & clicking through a set of rosary beads like they were a lucky rabbit's foot... or making sure that they could check off every box on the offering envelope to show what a "good Christian" they are.

It's not a Catholic/Protestant problem... it's a "don't do religion without engaging your heart & mind" problem.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Well, I definitely didn't intend to be anti-anything. I do happen to believe that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of the Truth (but I would argue that one shouldn't be involved in any particular denomination unless they believe the same about their denomination), but my faith teaches that it is not my job to browbeat members of other denominations.

My whole point was sort of the irony of the way that it has been decided that the way to reach the current generation (at least according to this book - as I said, I don't know what your set-up is like so I was speaking simply in general) is with what was cleaned out of the church so many years ago.

4:21 AM  

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