While considering the life cycle of a movement, a picture came to my mind of an arc describing a trajectory from point ‘0’ up through three or four stages, peaking and then describing a descending arc back to the baseline which contained point ‘0’. I began to think about movements of the past, ones of which I’d been a part, and ones that had gone before that. And then I thought about the future, about the emerging church.
I’ve already suggested that 2005 will be the year of the emerging church movement, whether or not Emergent/EC is ready for it… and it is already being called a movement by observers. But what’s the difference?
Personally, I don’t have the energy for another movement, unless it’s going to be different. I’ve been through the days when it was de rigeur to run from one guest speaker to another, from one book to the next, from conference to conference seeking to “imbibe” whatever new and earthshattering truths could be gleaned in order to transform your church or ministry. And I’ve had enough, thanks. The idea of course seemed to be that by dipping into various “wells”, one would be able to balance the ministry of the church by taking in the emphases of various others. In actual practice, it tended to give people whiplash. It felt a little like we were junkies going from fix to fix, seeking the next conference high that would carry us over to the next hit. This probably has me jaded, but I’m at the point now where if I’m going to hop on board another train, it’s got to be one that I know is different enough from the ones I’ve been on so far.
Designing a Destructured Movement
Movements I’ve known in the past all have a trajectory. They start somewhere, execute an arc, and decline. “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” sounds like a tragedy of things going right but then suddenly all wrong… but it could be the title for the story of any modern movement. I submit that there are commonalities among movements which cause them to rise and fall or at least which cause the fall rather than the rise. Chief among these in my view might be the question of scaleability. When things don’t scale well, a bottleneck is created so that no matter the force or import or size of the “thing” bearing down on the bottleneck, it can only pass through at a specified maximum pace.
I have outlined some specific thoughts contrasting former (Modern) church movements with what may emerge as the characteristics of a postmodern church movement. Naturally these characterizations are very much generalizations, so they may not apply to every modern church movement, but represent some off-the-cuff thinking on the concepts found under each heading… so the comparisons below are more conceptual than cohesively thought-through at this stage. In this context, I consider the Vineyard Movement to be the last major church movement (things like “The Toronto Blessing” do not qualify as movements in my view).
|Modern Movement||Postmodern Movement|
|Heirarchical Leadership||Non-Heirarchical, “flat” Leadership|
|Emphasize Unity||Emphasize Diversity|
|Protect & Defend Apologetic||Welcome Critiques|
|Drawn for organization and structure; talk about fellowship and synergy||Drawn for fellowship and synergy|
|Control Structures||Entropy is Not a Design Flaw|
|Authoritarian / Org-Chart||No Ultimate Authority (but God) / No Org-Chart|
|Starts in specific time and place||Grassroots, global beginnings|
|Identifiable Leaders||Identifiable Spokespersons|
|Organized Community||Relational Community|
This comparison is a work in progress, and seeks to help understand what the major differences will be between a postmodern emerging church movement and the majority of modern church movements which have preceded it. It is not intended as a bad/good comparison, just as very general observations of what characterizes these movements differently from each other. (This post has been an unfinished article for a few weeks now, so I decided to simply publish what I had so far and come back to it after further reflection or comments from others).
Update: okay, here’s the visual, very rough:
…see my further notes on it below, comment #4.
As I begin to create my “post-charismatic” series, I’d be very interested in your input from a Vineayrd perspective. I was in the Vineyard — as a lay person and a pastor — for over a decade, and still have a lot of fond membores of the early days in particular.
Your vantage point as someone just outside the borders of Vineyard, maybe especially because we were in constant dialogue during my Vineyard days as well, would be really valuable.
You know my email address, if it’d be too wordy to post here!
Ach, let’s try the public discourse thing. You know you still have me musing on the whole post-charismatic theology thing (and of course I decided I is one).
In this post I’m trying to consider modern church movements vs. a coming postmodern church movement and how/why they will be different… and what that will mean. You did spark my thinking on the charismatic movement which led to this.
So. The Vineyard is the last major modern church movement, meaning it started most recently. In my analogy of the arcs above, we had the Pentecostal movement, out of which a new arc sprang in the charismatic movement, out of which a new arc sprang in the Vineyard movement. If you took the arc as 0=9:00 and 4=3:00, you could fill in point 2 at 12:00 with points 1 and 3 splitting the difference (you might whip up an actual diagram, I’m just floundering to explain it). While Pentecostalism sprouted from point “0”, the two successive movements sprouted from point “3” on the arc.
Some (i.e., C.Peter Wagner) identified a “Third Wave” in this mix, but in many ways it was synonymous with the Vineyard movement, timed the same but was basically comprised of Vineyardesque types who didn’t want to leave their present churches. Really, if “third wave” was an identifiable-enough group at all, it is parallel to the Vineyard movement. The fact it probably never had enough people identify with it suggests to me it never hit the mark as a movement of its own… and of course it had no definable start point and no definable leader, so if it doesn’t fit my table above, that makes sense to me.
For different reasons, the Toronto Blessing is not a movement, since although it has a start point and identifiable leaders, it didn’t transfer in a lasting way.
In the Vineyard movement, we see a lot of the things outlined under the “Modern” column above. I think there were seeds of the “Postmodern” column at work though, since the Vineyard had for example more diversity between member churches, began by not defending against criticism, and was less given to the org-chart. As time went on though, it began to “fit” the “Modern” description more and more as the movement did the only things that it knew in order to become scaleable… and that was basically to introduce greater levels of organization. The milieu that exists now around the emerging church movement (let’s call it “an awareness of postmodernism”) did not exist at the time… and who knows how that might have affected things?
For the record (and for the benefit of those following along), I was only barely on the periphery of the Vineyard and but for some bits of circumstance would probably have been right in with both feet. There was no Vineyard church in our area until the mid-90’s and when it started many people simply assumed I would join it… but we were just starting a new congregation in the south of the city at that time. So I was very heavily-influenced by the Vineyard and still count it as being of major significance on my own sojourn, still having my share of friends “inside” the Vineyard.
I’ll stop there, as I’m not sure if I’m hitting the mark, but this kind of encapsulates how the Vineyard got brought into this post. I would like to discuss this post-charismatic topic further, as I think it’s significant to the wider emerging dialogue at the moment (see also this post). We can continue here or via email….
Wow Maynard, your comment here deserves to be another post of it’s own! But, speaking as someone who has been and is still “officially” (if not deeply in my heart any longer) in the Vineyard, I concur with your analysis here. I think you hit the nail on the head.
I’ve added the visual above (can’t put images into comments). As you can see, movements which spring off after the peak of the one that spawn it tend to “progress” to a “higher” level. This is merely a convention of the diagram and is not intended to apply in a manner which puts the new movement literally or figuratively “above” the old one (unless you ask somebody in those movements!). This is illustrated thusly because the new movement reacts to a change they sense in the old one, and perceive themselves to be “moving on” from where they left off in the old movement, probably feeling they are in pursuit of higher things. Whether or not that’s accurate isn’t really germaine here… what is germaine is that every movement does have a tendency to fall back to its own baseline. For the Vineyard, many of those involved left a denomination to join, and now find themselves… guess where? This is not to imply that the whole Vineyard movement is back where they started at their own baseline, merely to illustrate one facet of that phenomenon.
Again, just thinking out loud, I could be wrong….
Ok, what strikes me about your diagram..
I would change the expansion of the loops.. here is why..
Time during which a recent movement maintained its vitality..
Pentecostalism… 60 years
Vineyard… 25 years
Emergent.. hmm.. could be 15 years..
Is the cycle getting shorter because cultural change continues to increase in pace?
Or.. because we have are now transitioning from modern to post-modern, post-colonial.. will the kinds of cultural surfers who will be leaders inthe emerging church be more flexible and adaptive and less need to settle down… and therefore the chaordic movement will surf along from wave to wave, ever changing according to the wind of the Spirit.. dream on len..
John Wimber drew similar diagrams while explaining the life of a movement in pastoral leadership sessions in the mid-90s. He was making the pitch that at the right moment Vineyard leaders should “Take the Best and Go”…Meaning start the cycle all over again by “reinventing” the movement. While he drew the 20-year cycles on a white board they seemed like waves to me, thus the name for the ezine I publish, next-wave….”God’s” movement to reach the emerging culture and the emerging generations….
Thanks so much for posting that it’s meaningful to me to have captured the spirit of what Wimber may have said. I didn’t realize my diagram lined up with his talks from that time period, but since I have great respect for him, it’s reassuring to know that although my diagrams may imply departing the Vineyard movement to build an emerging church movement, this seems actually to be in keeping with what he had in mind. When the time comes, I hope that in the same spirit, I can depart the emerging church movement for the next wave.
I think the “emerging church” is at the very beginnings of the cycle, so departure maybe a few years away…:)