Alan Creech has just wrapped up a trilogy of posts surveying the differing kinds of emerging church… so I’m responding with links to the four posts of the trilogy. Part 1 — the winds of culture:
Some saw it as a cultural shift issue and so their “thing” became more about what was happening in the postmodern world as opposed to the modern world which was fading away. Yes, these things effect everyone, of course, but this was not the sole reason for the emergence of a new reformation in the Body of Christ. …this whole phenomenon of new kinds of churches that are emerging after people having left the old ones, is not nearly all about postmodernism. It’s more than that.
…we have another wing that wanted to get back to the way things were done in the early church, stripping things down to a bare minimum, seeing all structure as having been added by man and thus being bad. A particular version of the house church movement finds no place for leaders… …As I have observed it, the more hurt and damaged individuals in the traditional or institutional church tend to end up in this camp for some reason. I think possibly because it’s as far away as you can get from the former way of life. …There is another whole river of “house church” folk which might more accurately be called the simple or organic church people. …once again …I have observed – a lot of pain in this sector… of the phenom. Many of them have pulled out of the old ways of doing church and have done nothing for a while – almost like a detox time. Then they realize that they need the Body in some form, so they have people over to the house, because it’s natural, that’s where people relate to one another. …Relationships are very important here, almost paramount. They are the vehicle through which all things “church” flow. If it short-circuits or goes against the grain of relationship, they don’t do it. …Moving along, the largest part of this wing was rooted deeply in evangelical Protestantism with a good dose of the Charismatic element thrown in for good measure.
There are churches started by people who’ve pulled out of denominations, or maybe to the very edge of them, who still value Truth as it has always been handed down in the ancient catholic tradition – the universally held truths of the church from the beginning. The term McLaren has thrown around lately – post-protestant – is a good term for this bunch. …There is the deep and ancient tradition of Christian Mysticism which has been handed down and which still exists today in many Catholic monasteries. Perhaps St. Patrick and many of the Celtic missional monastic tradition could be mentioned as highly influential of this stream. …A real deep appreciation of a liturgical lifestyle is emerging in many of these communities. There is a huge surge of liturgical prayer going on – praying prayers from a prayer book – prayers that have been prayed by our Christian forebears for 2,000 years. There is a very deep reconsideration of Sacramental spirituality running through this camp.
Reading this series provides a good description of the different flavours of the emerging church (hey, “it takes all kinds”) but it strongly reminded me of this recent post by Robbymac on the same subject. Excellent thought from both ‘emergers’ for those trying to make sense of what emerging churches look like.
Yours truly? See Alan’s Part 2, or Robbymac’s 1.1 — hurt? Yup. Relationships paramount, deconstructing church, detoxing, but one significant difference in the word “Then.” It may not be true for everyone in this group, but for some, even while leaving the church we know we still need the church, we just need a time of separation because what we’ve been in is summed up variously as abusive, outmoded, or futile. It’s a case where if we don’t leave when we do, we risk a crisis of faith rather than just a crisis of practice. What results in the detox period is a kind of “desert” experience where things are stripped away (deconstructed) so that a more firm foundation can be laid (reconstructed), and while this is happening, the freshly-detoxed person finally feels more lucid than they have in years. Perhaps this is just my experience, thus far. But if this experience has taught me one thing, it’s that I’m not alone, and I expect this is no exception.
There’s a line in the classic movie Lawrence of Arabia where the American journalist Jackson Bentley asks Lawrence, “What attracts you personally to the desert?” Peter O’Toole, as T.E. Lawrence, looks away, off into the desert, and says, “It’s clean.” In essence, what he meant — and someone who spent some time in the desert and who loves this movie explained it to me — was that the desert isn’t crowded with the distractions, concerns, trappings, and immorality that is common to western “civilisation.” This to me is a picture of detox. Despite the unappealing concept to those who haven’t been there, it’s incredibly cathartic and leaves one feeling a new sense of clarity. Mentally and spiritually, this is not unlike the parallel physical feeling one has when fasting for a week or more. And though we know the “dangers” of the desert, it’s simply something that must be done, something to be preferred over sitting and staring into the desert, waiting to die. Again from the movie, there’s a scene when the desert must be crossed. As the caravan is about to strike out across it, they pause, and Sherif Ali explains, “There is the railway. And that is the desert. From here until we reach the other side, no water but what we carry with us. For the camels, no water at all. If the camels die, we die. And in twenty days they will start to die.” To this Lawrence replies, “There’s no time to waste, then, is there?”