Monday, August 08, 2005

The Emerging Church Pt. 3

Boy it can be difficult to find the time to write ones thoughts on a daily basis.

As I said previously there are some good characteristics in the Emerging Church Conversation/Movement. The hard part in defining them is defining who is truly in this movement and who claims to be in it. So much of what I say is a generalization as that how the whole thing seems to sit now. For this segment I will one of the positives, at least in direction, I see.

A good thing about this movement is that it is reacting against the CEO mentality of many of the mega churches. Encased in this mentality is that to be large and successful, you must be large to be successful, one needs to simply find out what people need, supply it and grow. The issue that arises from this is that ones surface needs may not be what is truly needed and by focusing on individual needs so much the narcissistic tendency in all of us seems to blossom. For a large church this may remain somewhat unnoticed as people are still in the fold that will serve and get things done. The larger problem comes when the goal of success is portrayed as the mega church model and smaller churches get sucked into this vortex. What happens once everyone is seeking his or her own needs is that you get a small church of narcissists. A church that will only do what it sees as benefiting them and that does not ask them to sacrifice. This is a far cry from the concept of Christian Hedonists (see his book Desiring God by John Piper for more on this as well as this article) that does seek their individual joy but in God not self. When a small church becomes exceedingly inward focused on their own personal needs they will eventually die or they will become simply a stagnant non-missional (the word for the month) church.

This said there are large churches in this movement and they seem to be large because they are meeting a need, again not a bad thing. These churches will realize, if they have not already, that whatever it was they used to draw the people is what will have to be used to keep them. If God’s word, and thus God, draws them then that is what will keep them. But, if people are drawn because of comfort and feeling accepted, with God's word being secondary, then the tendency will be to do whatever it takes to keep them, often at the expense of skipping those scriptures that speak of sin and such. Personally I believe that by relying on the only unchanging thing in the world, the word of God, we can know that those that are drawn to church are there because of the word of God and not necessarily because we have good music, comfy chairs or other such items. The items mentioned are not bad in and of themselves but it is when they become central that problems arise.

More to follow.

Grace and Peace,

Tony Konvalin


Dave Rev said...

In college ministry that i am a part of i am concerned that my generation has a unhealthy bent on "experiencing" Christianity through relationship.

Biblical worship is that "theology leads to doxology", my generation [instead] says "show me your doxology so it can be my doxology".

I feel like us Gen 'Y'ers are joy leeches -feeding on anything that we see as authentic, "raw", and real. I am concerned over the people lead in ministry. Are they just feeding off of my enthusiasm in ministry? There is such a doctrinal indifference among them while they are so radically relational in their expression and experience of the gospel.

I do not know if this relates to some Emergent Church concerns, perhaps my concerns in my personal ministry is not so isolated.

Keep the blogs comin' Tony.

Tony said...

Hi Dave:

This does seem to be the issue of trying to be so relevant that you become irrelevant. The problem is that the other extreme of ignoring experience is just as bad. The answer is that our Orthodoxy (what we believe) has to drive our Orthopraxy (what we do) and this is a wide spreading issue in all of church. I am reading Mark Driscoll’s book Radical Reformission and he has many good points and after listening to him a few times I feel he has the doctrine part down and is trying to reach people the church is either indifferent to or afraid of. Some of what he says makes me uncomfortable but that is probably a good thing even if I do not end up with the same conclusions.
The issue you mention is not really any different than the seeker sensitive movement that the new emerging church movement seems to be reacting to. The problem may rest in trying to reach certain people rather than just reaching people. This is where your experiential leaches comes in as it seems that when we rely on delivering what people desire we give them the desires of their heart and we know what word says about the desires of mans heart ( Jer 17:9 ) so man will only want to seek his own pleasure. That is why it takes God to make a true seeker, when He changes hearts, who seeks pleasure in God.
While we need to understand our audience to communicate we do not necessarily have to change what we do, although we might, to deliver the message. If we truly believe that God changes hearts and the only true seekers are those that God is working on then we just need to be faithful and deliver His message in an understandable manner and leave God to work.

Grace and Peace,


Dave Rev said...

Well said Tony.