June 25, 2008
by: jovial_cynic

image: Rat Heaven 8577 (cc) PKMousie

It is as I expected. There's a movement that's arising out of the emergent church camp, and it's shiny and sparkly... and for sale.

I ran across a link to, which is a site that promotes the notion of emergence -- the idea that there's a growing number of believers who are sensing a change in the winds of Christianity. It's part of this philosophy that trends away from the traditional and institutional church, towards a no-boundaries, freedom-to-worship-and-express model of Christianity. Freedom - that's been the missing element in so much of today's church, and it's this freedom that's being offered in the idea of the emergent church movement.

The front page of the site lists some attitudes of believers who fall in the emergence camp:

- I've never felt like I fit in the traditional church.
- I love Jesus, but I'm not too excited about Christianity in its current form or the church in its dominant expression.
- When I read your books, I feel like shouting, "So I'm not the only person who feels this way! I'm not crazy after all - or if I am, I'm not the only one!"
- It feels like we've kind of missed the point of what Jesus was about.
- I'm not religious, and I'm not that sure what "spiritual" means - but I'm looking for something, some way of life or pattern that makes sense of things.
- I used to be a pastor (or youth pastor, or church leader, or active church attender) but something stopped working. I dropped out and thought I had lost my faith, but when I read your book, I thought, "Maybe I can believe again after all."
- The world's in deep trouble. Sincere people of faith need to find some way to make a constructive, creative difference.

... and all these things ring true for me and many of my peers. There certainly is a change, not just in expectations of what church should be, but also in how believers view the world around us. And that new perspective looks very little like how we see today's traditional churches. Everything is changing.

But on the site, there's mention of their tour. And there's a newsletter to which you can subscribe. And links to books you can buy. And opportunties to sponsor the organization. Sparkly. Shiny.

I can't help but be skeptical about this. It feels like there's a push to throw out the old masters, in order to replace them with... the same old masters, who are simply wearing different clothes. They perform the same job, they collect the same money. It looks like freedom. But it doesn't feel like freedom. It feels like a shiny new cage.


wonder said:
I like what little i've read of brian mclaren, but i see what you mean...

way too easy to just fall into the same old patterns of buy-this-book, attend-that-event and you'll have the jesus thing all-figured-out.

or something.

at the same time the tour looks... interesting.

June 25, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
I think the tours are all finished... but it looks like the cost was upwards of about $100.

But yeah - nothing against McLaren; I'm just concerned about the system, that's all. Mixing money and the truth creates a bit of a witch's brew, no?

June 25, 2008

austin said:
I've sensed the change, or shift, in Christian thinking as well. More and more people I think feel "restricted" by the traditional church and want to branch out into a more free-flowing Christianity.

My fear, however, is that this change is a result of our free-thinking, free-to-believe-whatever-you-want society. Without real of accountability to traditional church doctrines and Biblical truth, the gospel is sure to be perverted and Christianity misrepresented, to put it mildly. I think (and I don't want to step on too many toes) that it's this kind of thinking that led Christians supporting homosexuality and calling it Biblical, for example.

In other words, the focus often, but not always, becomes yourself and not Christ. All but two of the highlighted comments are focused on self, rather than Christ.

June 26, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Austin - you bring up a good point about a lot of the highlighted comments seem very self-focused. I don't disagree with that. However, I think it's valid to note that relationship with a church body should be both about serving and about being served; meeting needs and having needs met. It's a relationship, after all.

Incidentally, I think that you might be mixing up the notion of liberal theology and emergent theology, which are very different. You'll find that many emergent pastors are extremely theologically conservative, but are socially less so. And I think that's a good characterization of Christ, who on the one hand acknowledges that adultery is sin, but at the same time, defends the woman caught in adultery from accusation and from the consequence of that sin. Likewise, homosexuality isn't "biblical," but both homosexuality and adultery are listed as punishable by death under the old law; Jesus doesn't condemn the adulteress, and by extension He doesn't condemn the homosexual. There is, of course, the call to go and sin no more, but that call is for all of us, for all of our sins, yet we continue to sin. Being saved, we are still sinful creatures.

You mentioned a need for "accountability to traditional church doctrines" Which doctrines? Which church? What is "traditional?" That begs a lot of questions, friend. I think I'd be comfortable challenging you on every one of those points, since I think that the notion of "traditional church doctrines" is entirely a man-made system, no different than the system of the pharisees.

As for biblical truth, I think we can agree on a few fundamental truths that the scriptures teach. I don't think we'll have much argument there.

June 26, 2008

Mary Ellen said:
Hi, I still check into your blog occasionally, but I felt very inspired to write you. My family and I have been involved in 'the emergent church' for about eleven years - not that we called it that at the time. Our community/house church has somewhat fallen apart now, but we had about five-six really great years together. I was attracted to something new for exactly the same reasons you mentioned. We also have a lot of friends in the 'movement'. One of my favorite books is Shane Claiborne's Irresistable Revolution - it is definitely not for everybody, but I loved it, and our family is hoping to join/help start another christian based community some day in the future. If you and your family ever want to come to one of our 'church' meetings in Lacey sometime, let me know - you would be more than welcome. My Father in Law is an especially good person to talk to, as he has really, really thought a lot about these issues, and has a very strong theological background that I don't have. Cool to see your post!

June 26, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Hey Mary Ellen - it's been a while.

Thanks for the invite! My wife and I lead a bible study at our place, and for us, the group is more focused on discipling and teaching what the text actually says, although I'd really like to start doing some more community-related things, since I think that community is at the heart of what we believe. I think that working together on something like this might be good.

June 26, 2008

Austin said:
I like your criticism, but I don't want you to misunderstand my "fear" of what could happen and what I think is actually happening. while I don't see anything particularly wrong with the emergent church, I recognize that there are many people out there who may USE the emergent church idea and pervert because of the lack of accountability.

since I've recognized the need to really get out of the church and grow in Christ through small groups/communities, I also stay tied to a church with whom I can trust the pastor and bring my questions and challenges to him. I believe you do the same, don't you?

I personally am drawn to being theologically conservative and socially more liberal - I agree that it was much more like Christ's ministry.

June 27, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Austin - I see what you're saying. But I think that the concern for what could happen with the emergent church is really no different than the fear of what can happen with the institutional church. Both models can be distorted and corrupted. I just don't like the institutional model, because the distortions arise from that model lead to an erosion of freedom, which is of greater concern to me than the distortions that arise out of the emergent movement.

I don't know if I'm tied to a traditional church so much. I don't think I'd call my church "traditional."

June 27, 2008

PKMousie said:
Hey, nice cage!

Thanks for the link! :)

February 26, 2009

jovial_cynic said:
PKMousie -

No no, thank you! Having images posted to the public under a CC license is what makes this possible. It's a fine photograph of a fine cage.

February 27, 2009

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