A friend and I were having a long discussion about the emergence in America and the emergence in Europe. While we don’t speak as experts on emergence, missional church and grassroots Christianity, we do feel there is some relevance to what we have discovered.
Point one: The emergence in America is about believers and followerws of Jesus Christ emerging from the sufficating and life draining culture created by the American Church. Part of the issue is that the American Church culture has almost taken the life out of its mission, vision and purpose because of a “spirit of religion” that has swept the spiritual landscape of our nation. The reason we have a spiritual emergence in America is to be set free so we can be organic, fluid, and authentic. Our culture continually changes, but it is not one of postmodernity, yet. We may understand what postmodernity is, but it has not yet been embraced fully in America. No, our culture is one of post-Christendom, and that does not equate to postmodernity. What Christianity was during the time of the early Church is what many are craving to foster and create. Can we duplicate it? I don’t think that is the important question. The question we should be asking is, where do we go from here? We should embrace the truths and principles of the Scripture and the example of the early church, but duplication does not mean authenticity, only flattery. The emergence we see in America is one from the muck of religious thinking and life sucking traditionalism.
Point two: The emergence in Europe is one from philosophical emptiness toward true spirituality. What do I mean? Basically, Europe embraced postmodernism to the fullest and is now realizing that postmodernity does not have the answers it is looking for, or the life that enriches the soul. Think of it this way: The rejection of Christianity, religion and authority is the result of the hardline rules establish by these three entities. The people of Europe asked “what is truth?” because they wanted someone to answer it through the life they live and not just through academia. In Europe there is a grassroots movement, or emergence that is being embraced by both the believer and non-believer. There is a push for organic living that brings to the forefront the meaning of truth and many believers in Europe are allowed to speak and be heard, but not without some difficulty. Is there a spiritual darkness in Europe? Possibly, but that should not be the only focus. The aim should be the opportunity believers have to share their lives through the practicality of life. Does this sound like something that could work in America? Yes, but it is my belief that the emergence in Europe is one of escaping, or rising from the false philosophies and rejection of truth.
Point three: What is the connection of both emerging peoples? Both are seeking freedom and spiritual truth. Both are looking for a practical and authentic life that is almost minimalistic. Both are seeking relationships that matter and not the superficial crap of “How are you? I’m fine.” Both are in need of a transforming experience with God.
Ponder this: In Europe they have all but left the large cathedrals sitting empty. Many are now museums or galleries. In the U.S. we are building our big buildings that in the future might sit empty and become museums or galleries. Let’s hope we’ve learned from Europe so our church buildings (large or small) become an extention of a living and organic church body.
Ponder this too: The influences in American culture have come from European theologians, philosophers, industrialist, artists, etc. History is happening before us. Let’s learn from Europe so we don’t make the same mistakes.
What are your thoughts on this issue? These are simple observations, but very critical to where we are as believers. Tell me what you think. It won’t bother me if you disagree. It’s about the conversation and the challenge to think.