That complex old question of the shape of church has resurfaced, together with the size of church debate… and Robbymac wants the church to look like Starbuck’s. Either he’s just baiting me, or he’s making an appeal to go back to Latin-only services. Or something like that.
Si Johnson links an article by Alan Roxburgh, “Emergent Church: taking shape within polar opposites” in the September 2005 Missional Leadership Institute Newsletter.
The relationship between structure and agency is a way of understanding major shifts in our culture.1 One of the primary changes reshaping North American society over the last quarter of a century is a shift from what is called structure to that of anti-structure and second, a concomitant shift from structure to agency.
Jason Clark considers Flexible Ecclessiology, saying,
for post-modern people connecting to Jesus and forming church communities, what does church look like without forcing them to do church in modern ways, with modern music, modern clothes.
Much of the emerging church movement/conversation within all denominations (and by that I mean the expression of church that is shared around the same question of how do we do church in our emerging culture and context?), is finding expression in so many new forms of church and new ecclessiolgies. If we are going to be missional we have to have flexible ecclessiologies.
But, here is the big but, I have noticed how so many of us when we change our ecclessiology due to being missional, can become instantly dogmatic about our new forms.
Meanwhile, Kyle Potter gives a minor blast to a Lexington church with “That’s our word. Stop using it.” Yes, he actually posts the graphic of a church ad offering services in Traditional, Contemporary, or Emerging flavours. Really — I’d rather take Tall, Venti, and Grande. Check out the graphic; Andrew Jones posts it as well. Kyle says,
Alright, these days I usually wouldn’t bother to comment on something this silly, but it might be a teachable moment. Take note of the graphic I found on the website (Alan got a direct mailing!) of a local Lexington congregation. You’re seeing it right, that’s a triple offer of “traditional, contemporary, and emerging” worship services. Chuckle with me.
I’m not chuckling, I’m just shaking my head. Making inferences from the graphic, with 60-minute services, they’ve got 30 minutes between each one to cycle people out while the first interval sees them setting up the overhead and multimedia gear, the drum set, and the microphones; the second interval must have them moving in couches and candles. I and others keep saying that couches and candles don’t make you emerging — I guess these people aren’t reading our blogs. Scot McKnight posts notes from luncheon with Brian McLaren, which summarize “seven levels of involvement in the emerging conversation” which, when applied here, indicate that they’re spending their time on the first two cursory levels rather than progressing past “What is the gospel itself?” (level 6) to get to “7. A holistic kingdom gospel.” Kyle’s going to back me up on this, too:
I maintain that “emergence” is a theological current, not a worship style. The description on the website is that of a “post-modern” worship service, experiential and all of that. There’s nothing “emerging” about it, unless maybe they’re praying the office or doing lectio divino or centering prayer, etc.
But “experiential, participatory, image-rich” and “connected” all speak of post-modern marketing, and aren’t “emergent” as far as I’m concerned. And nor should you think so, which is why I’m bothering to write this. I’ll say what I have before:
Emergence is a process thatâ€™s occurring now: ancient Christian orthodoxy and the practice of transformation in Godâ€™s new community have been buried in our Western religious culture, and they are surfacing again through an act of Godâ€™s love and power.
By the way, Scot McKnight also has a new poll on optimal church size… everyone do me a favour and head on over there to make sure the numbers are suitably skewed away from the megachurch, will ya? Oh, and I guess Jason is right — my rethought ecclesiology doesn’t have as much flexibility built into it as it probably should have…