Sunday, February 13, 2005


Emergent (continued)

There has been some outstanding discussion on the blog about the Emergent (not to mention a coffee invite from Pernell that I hope to manage to work out soon). I have read, re-read and re-read again the comments from folks and I want to add my two cents to them:

First, Dallas.

"The 'emerging' church in many ways arose in reaction to what many see as the institutionalization of church. As a result the hermenutic (interpretation) of relationality is used to read scripture, to understand people, culture, God's activity in the hearts of people. What does that mean?"

Honestly, I'm not sure what the second sentence means. I totally agree with the first sentence. I think a lot of churches "over-structure" and it's easy to get lost in the "acts" of church and lose the meaning of church. I first began to go to Philpott (my home church) after attending a midnight Christmas Eve service with a buddy of mine at Ryerson United. We both went up and took communion that night. Afterwards, I was up most of the night wrestling with my decision to simply follow the crowd. I needed to understand more about communion and its significance. I also found within me a need to know more about God and his son, Jesus. This stemmed from the way I had seen my parents and my brother and sister transformed by Christ when they left the United Church and attended a more bible-based church like Philpott. Also, as far as "relationality" goes, I have met few people who can even approach, never mind surapss, my Dad's spiritual gifts in the area of relationships and meeting people on their own terms. Dad was always happy to meet those God put in his path, but he NEVER lost sight of the true purpose of why God put them in his path, which was to present the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to them, in accordance with the Great Commission ("Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20)).

"....people will not be drawn to a church because it is on the corner of the street they live on but because they meet with people who are intentional about sharing a similar faith journey."

Couldn't agree more. My family began our spiritual journey at Delta United Church because it was close to home and we knew a few folks who attended there. Because my parents have strong servant hearts, they got involved almost immediately and quickly became key players. However, their hearts were eventually broken there and God directed them to a place where they couold experience deeper spiritual and emotional relationships not only with other people, but more importantly with God Himself. It was the opportunity to grow and learn with others who were experiencing the same challenges in life that I was that eventually brought me to Philpott after giving up on church after I moved out. When my family attended Philpott, we were part of a true church family. We looked after one another, witnessed to those who had not yet heard the Gospel message, shared our life experiences, argued, hugged, cried and laughed together. We have been through some very difficult periods personally and congregationally in the last 20 years since my family began attending Philpott, but we have all grown a great deal spiritually.

People should go to their neighborhood church first just to get exposed. It helps on a number of levels (knowing people from the 'hood, community involvement with your own community, etc.). However, as one's faith deepens, there is always a desire to learn more and, sometimes, there is a questioning of a church's spiritual methodology and/or leadership. That is God calling us to look elsewhere and, if we are sensitive to His leading, we will wind up somewhere with people who are of similar spiritual condition who we can grow with and of a deeper spiritual condition that we can learn from. A relationship with God is a continually learning and growing experience directed by God, as He leads us to people we can share with, learn from and teach to, allowing God's love and teaching to grow organically.

Here's where we diverge, Dallas. Your comments speak only to relationships (and Steve is on the same track). All relationships must grow and change over time. If they didn't, they would get pretty stale pretty fast. As those relationships grow and change, the bonds of trust get stronger and expectations for the relationship are much greater. Deep-seated differences will eventually come out and will impact the relationship. Personal theology is one of the greatest difference-makers there is. Say, for example, 5 people meet. 3 are musicians with no interest in sports and 2 are big into sports with a passing interest in music. Eventually, the musicians will grow closer through their common love of music and the sports folks will also grow closer through their sports interests. If nothing other than the fact that the place they met is in their neighborhood is holding them all together, they will eventually scatter.

Likewise, if 10 people meet and they all want to learn more about God, they will build a relationship. As they begin to study the Word, pray, and talk about God, certain spiritual differences will be brought to light. Eventually, 5 people in the group want to go deeper with their relationship with God, while the other 5 prefer to stay on the level they are at. The relationship between the 10 must change, as their ideas and interests diverge becaus they are no longer "sharing a similar faith journey". Like finds like. It always does.

I think the Emergent, like my church, like Jacob's church, is full of people striving to have a relationship with God. One of the great things about God and His son, Jesus, is that they turn nobody away. However, the other great thing about them is the THEY NEVER CHANGE. Read the Gospel of John. I believe that a strong church is one who:

Welcomes everyone
Encourages relationships with God first and others second
Stands on a bedrock, unshakeable set of beliefs (theology)

The last point stands in the way of "relationship". If you meet someone, you can very easily become an acquaintance. However, it can be extremely difficult to become a close friend when your personal foundations differ. It eventually sets a boundary on the friendship. The closest relationships are most often with the people most like you (similar beliefs, similar interests, similar lifestyles) and that, I think, is the limiting factor on the Emergent, as it, like almost every other church I know of, becomes composed of a few friendships and a lot of acquaintances based on shared theology.

More later.