Tim Goodfellow writes a blog, the name of which he explains thusly: “The Daily Bacon is a (possibly unfortunate) collision between two common phrases: ‘My Daily Bread’ and ‘Bringing Home the Bacon.’ Most of us live somewhere between these two ideas.” Well put. I’m going to quote liberally from his post, Emerging,” something I found in a standard RSS-ified blog search for some key terms. (Despite the extent to which I quote below, I still recommend reading Tim’s whole post).

He explains some basic concepts of emergence theory, distilling it nicely for anyone who only wants a very basic primer… then he applies it to the emerging church based on The Jesus Creed (“Love God, love others”) as a simple set of rules from which may be derived an infinite set of possible outcomes and impossible outcomes.

He then summarizes several excellent points which should be recognized about the emerging church:

  • The Emerging Church is not so much a specific movement, but patterns of being Christian that have emerged as people have explored and applied the teachings of Jesus in their specific situation and circumstances. When this happens, the church is free to spend less time wondering if it is “relevantâ€? and more time going about the business of loving God, loving neighbor.
  • The Emerging Church is adaptable and responsive. Rather than having to institute policy or official responses to events happening locally and globally the churches “stanceâ€? on an event is defined by its response. It does not have to wait for approval from the denomination or a committee to act in response to an issue, it can simply respond.
  • The Emerging Church today is not the Emerging Church tomorrow. As the systems that encompass the Emerging Church change and adapt, the possibilities of what it means to be the church change and adapt as well.
  • The Emerging Church might have proponents that bear little resemblance to each other. As the church grows and adapts, the arrays of possible outcomes change and there arises the possibility of dissimilar manifestations of the Emerging Church.
  • While it is impossible to predict where the Emerging Church movement will end up, it is clear that the steps it take now will have a tremendous impact on the directions it takes in the future. Just as Constantine’s decision to “Christianizeâ€? the Roman Empire (or visa versa) changed the course of the church and Western Civilization for 1200 years, so to the little steps that the church makes now will go a long way in determining the steps of the church in the future.

Good set of observations so far. I like the conclusions he then draws:

Like all ideas or concepts that we use to model reality, the ideas surrounding the Emerging Church are reductions and simplifications. It may be 20 or 100 years from now, but we will see a new model for understanding the church that rejects the ideas of the Emerging Church as caught up in the prevailing philosophy of our time. Just as the Emerging Church sees modernism as a detriment to the church, so to we will one day see emergence as too limiting and binding, as a cultural fad that has had its day. But, in the present, it is a means by which we can understand that church and in which we can gain a better understanding of the church as it relates to the world in which we live. What this perspective teaches us is that it is not enough to simple talk of the Emerging Church, but rather, we need to talk of the Emerging Churches. The Emerging Church in the United States is going to look different that the Emerging Church in Asia. What this ultimately becomes is a church that is not imposed from the top down, but, as one would expect, emerges from the day-to-day application of one’s faith to one’s life. Through this application, patterns emerge, patterns that begin to point to what it means to be the church, what it means to be a person living a life of faith; patterns that point more clearly to what it means to love ones’ God and neighbor.

Here we have a thorough reasoning for why we use the word “emerging” to describe the emerging church, as well as a good point we need to remember as much as we wish those outside the conversation would remember. We represent emerging churches, with many and varied expressions, values, and nuances in our beliefs and practices. The general patterns may define us to some extent, but there are some specific patterns which differ from one expression to the next. We shouldn’t focus on the nuances to define the whole set, but majoring on the commonalities may be of help to us in continuing to point in the same direction. Also good to remember: this too, shall pass. And may we not be rigid and hard-headed when that time comes.

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