A side-trip on the way to the abbey pointed out this post by Bill Bean which points to this article about a local church which endeavours to make visitors comfortable and welcome these newcomers to church. The sermon is down to one point only, the meeting is down to 45 minutes, and they avoid the controversial “bad news” items. The article quotes a Rev. Gary E. Gilley (a Brownsburg native and author of “This Little Church Went to Market”) as saying, “The ’emergent church movement’ — which rejects more authoritarian preaching — is simply the next step in the evolution of the seeker-friendly church.” Comments attached to the posts cited generally indicate that if the Emerging Church is about cosmetic change in the same way as the seeker-sensitive movement, people aren’t interrested.
I’m not interrested in the Emerging Church if it’s just cosmetic either… but it isn’t. No matter how many EC books that they’ve read at ‘Church Lite’ in Indiana, that doesn’t make them Emerging… I’m not so sure they ‘get it.’ As for the Rev. Gilley, I have to disagree, but before I do that I could also outline a context for his comment which would make it correct.
First off, Church Lite. Jesus said salt and “light” (illumination) not “lite” (dumbed-down). The corners of EC that I’m familiar with are about going deep than keeping shallow so as not to offend, which sounds more the tone of this ‘lite’ church. Embracing mystery is more the longing than is ignoring theology so you can have more people turn out to try and feed on an anemic gospel. (Perhaps it shows that I was never fond of the seeker-sensitive model.) Further, the corners of EC that I’m drawn to are more in tune with missional living, which this article (kinda) says is good… but missional living is in my own definition primarily about taking church to people rather than bringing people to church. It’s about going out and gathering rather than staying put and attracting. When you start rearranging how you do church solely in order to attract people who don’t do church in the first place, I think you just might need to have the old horse and cart interchanged.
Secondly, the Rev. Gilley. His statement in the article is sans-context so I can’t really say one way or the other, but he could be implying that the emerging church is a revision or subset of seeker-sensitive… with which I would strongly disagree. Or, he could be saying that because seeker-sensitive is losing steam and not working as hoped, they are turning to emerging models. I don’t think that’s his point though, I think he’s confusing two different animals here, mostly based on his concern that the gospel is being watered down. If the church described in the article is the yardstick, I’m with the Rev. Gilley… but a common problem that we’re going to continue to see in emerging critiques is the misconception on the part of the critic that they’ve got the breadth of the emerging church figured out, and that’s the issue here.
No, this is the main point: the emerging church is about changes to fundamental core issues of structure and practice (if not doctrine as well) and is not merely cosmetic. The cosmeticians may not uncommonly be running an “emerging service” which still says to me that they don’t “get it.”
Either the fundamentals are being reshaped, or we’re probably not really talking about an emerging church… so as the title says, “seeker-sensitive” is not emerging.
In the couple of years since I heard the term “emerging church” and joined the “conversation,” I’ve heard just about everything under the sun lumped at one point or other under the label “emerging church.” It seems to me that nobody, including those who claim to be in it, can agree on what it really is. And the discussion and attempts at definition go on and on and on. All of this is missing the point it seems to me, and may actually have reached the point where it is wasting time. Do we really need a new label that badly? And then do we really need to spend so much time defining and defending? If it comes at the expense of doing and real, substantive transformation, then we become like we have all said the insitutional church is in our critiques of it. You know, I just don’t care what anymore what anyone calls me, or if I’m “emerging”, or if I’m cool or hip to the next thing, whatever it is. North American Christianity in particular seems to have a propensity for moving on quickly from one trend to the next. What I’ve been saying is that if the “emerging church” becomes that (and there are increasing evidences that is happening, in my opinion), then it will have no lasting impact and end up like many trends before, being in the long run only cosmetic change.
Call me what you will, I would like to just go live the stuff, and I think you would too. I don’t feel a need to define or defend a label that may be less than servicable to begin with.
Just my two cents. :)
Hey bro, you’re cool in my book and so is your blog (if you care about such endorsements). Keep up the good stuff.
Ah, my abbeybound friend… I don’t quite agree but neither do I disagree… so I have answered in this new post. Suffice to say here that I’m with you that we really want to get going and “doin’ the stuff” rather than just talking about it while sitting under a tree and making daisy-chains!
Perhaps my main point here in this post is that EC already has wannabes, which I suppose is an interresting observation now that I phrase it that way…
Gratia Vobis et Pax,