I originally wrote this response to James MacDonald’s piece on why he is not emerging (and Part 2), about which Scot McKnight has blogged some thoughts. While I was proofreading it and before posting it, I was browsing elsewhere and discovered it’s quite similar to why John O’Keefe is emerging.
These are only some of the reasons I’m part of the church that is emerging, unlike James MacDonald… but if he has five reasons not to be, then surely I have (at least) five reasons to be.
1. Because observing the bad is not a credential for guiding us to the good.
I got so tired of observing the bad and not being able to do anything about it. Having seen the bad and been able to identify it is critical to being able to change, but seeing isn’t the same as solving, so humility is still required. Humility, the gumption to risk, and the freedom to fail are all part of the road to change, to guide us to the good. It’s refreshing in the church that is emerging to be able to start down the road and make as many mid-term course corrections as necessary rather than having to have every step planned out in advance, just waiting for the plan to be thwarted by an unexpected outcome at one of the stages.
2. Because God is looking for obedience to revealed truth, not just sincerity.
Again, I got tired of being surrounded by sincere people who would rather talk about truth than act upon it. As a part of the established church, it always seemed to me that we were continually waiting for something in order to take action… waiting for revival, waiting for teaching, waiting to become more holy, whatever. This tends to focus on what you don’t have instead of doing what you can with what you do have… and leads to being accused of hypocrisy.
3. Because Christâ€™s is a kingdom of substance, not style.
This is a big one for me. I’m so tired of church growth formulas and how-to’s, all relating to how to better style or shape the church to be more effective. It seems to me there’s a new self-help how-to book for christians and/or churches every six months, and one can easily get onto a treadmill of trendiness. To me though, this just lacked the actual substance of being the church… as in the prior point, it’s a focus on completing what you don’t have instead of doing what you can with what you do have.
4. Because the answer is Jesus, not cultural analysis.
This one relates strongly to point number three above. All of those church-growth seminars and formulas do a lot of cultural analysis and market research to tell us how to reach the demographic we’re after, how to best position the church in the religious market to capture more adherents. Be it seeker-sensitive or what-have-you, it starts to smack to me of pandering and compromise…. not to mention over-complication. Why not begin at the beginning, by simply living out our faith in a way that shows Jesus and his ideals to those around us? After all, it’s Jesus and his message we must grapple with, not better market research. Market research and cultural analysis is not the answer.
5. Because Jesus is the purpose for the party, not the surprise hiding in the closet of respectability.
I find it easier to rally around Jesus and celebrate him and his life when I’m not so worried about externals. Things like matching choir robes, trained fluorescent-vested parking-lot attendants, impeccably groomed and properly name-tagged ushers, and services going off like clockwork without a hitch, all perfectly respectable.
I’m thankful for the institutional church and the paths they’ve walked thus far, and for all we can learn from them. Many of them have been able to offer us as the church that is emerging much criticism to consider, even if some of it has been harsh, judgemental, or based upon unfair charicatures. I wouldn’t say that “our camp” has never done the same to them, but I strongly desire to see them show greater promise in the arena of solutions or at least be more open to analysis from outside their community than they have been to date. Many have simply offered knee-jerk reactions to the church that is emerging, judging it by a standard that doesn’t correspond to its goals or stated purpose.
We’re desperate for revival in these days and continue to pray that God would unleash it… however, should revival tarry, we must in the meantime be able to say we’re living our lives in the most genuine, God-centered manner that we can, for the good of the world around us.
And this is why I’m a part of the church that is emerging.