emerging from what? (revised)

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.


3 responses to “emerging from what? (revised)

  1. thoughtful reader

    Alright, so the emergence may be happening… but what percentage of people/believers will it/has it reached. Won’t our churches continue to be full because there is an inherent belief that going to church qualifies you as a “good person.” I think that many people see church as a penance… just one hour a week they have to sit through so they can feel some kind of security in their decisions every other day. I believe our ideas of morality are bound up in church attendance, and thus we will not necessarily have big empty churches some day.

  2. Hey Companero, I hear a two veins in your thinking and writing that I hear a lot these days, and frankly they both concern me. I1)Hurting people are ‘disenfranchised’ from the local church by dead tradition, hypocrisy, or shallowness. I certainly see that some, but it’s a vague generalization that applies to all churches and it is not true for all churches. Many churches are thriving, reaching new people, and many of those come from different traditions and worship styles. The common denominator is they are telling these people the truth from God’s Word in love and in clarity, and God has promised to work through His Word (Rom 10:17, 2 Tim 3:16-17).
    2) People are in pain more than they are in sin. I certainly see people in pain and I don’t negate that fact, but I do argue that that is the lesser issue, the cat-scratch issue, if you will. The bleeding artery issue is their sinfulness before God, and that must be addressed. When people come through a strictly therapeutic method to God, they are set up for disappointment. Why? Because they come to God with a pre-conceived notion of God is here for me to do things for me, and when He doesn’t do what they expect or desire, they get disillusioned. Also, the artery keeps pumping life out as they ignore their sinfulness before a Holy God. Certainly pain is an issue and certainly God cares, but repentance from sin is required to approach the throne, and the substitutionary death of Christ must be taught. Whether coming from a coffee shop chair (where I presently sit) or a pulpit, truth will set them free, and freedom from sin must come to facilitate TRUE freedom from pain and hurt.
    Blessings to you brother…

  3. PJ…We’ll have to agree to disagree, but my case is against traditionalism and not tradition.

    Issue #1: Traditionalism is clearly a different issue from tradition, yet it does begin with tradition. I’m one who believes we should have traditions as long as they edify the body of Christ and give full attention to Christ. Unfortunately, many (not all) churches have clung to the traditions as though they are the mark of faith instead of embracing the Truth as the foundation of true faith. I have encountered many a believer who claims he/she is saved, or redeemed due to a certain continual act that is rooted in faith. I say it is not the act, but the attitude of obedience to act that solidifies their faith. Still to them there is this notion that they must do certain things, almost in superstitious fashion, to maintain their trust and faith in God. I’m not even speaking of my Catholic friends.

    I know many churches are thriving, but those are the ones that get into the lives of people and not the limelight. We rarely focus on the hurting and failing churches that are struggling to maintain because the bigger church has “awesome worship and a dynamic speaker.” It’s almost as if the grassroots of faith have been thrown out the door. While I love being in an awesome worship service it doesn’t compare to the gathering of people that simply pursue the face of God (music or no music).

    Issue #2: The issue here is not that people aren’t in sin, or that their sin is not greater than their pain. My claim is that from a relational perspective I can’t approach people about their sin until they know I want to walk through their pain with them and gain their trust. Too often I’ve heard people deal with other people’s sin and all they’ve done is increased the pain without offering complete healing. When I sit in the local coffee shop I frequently get people that say, “Hey, Gibby, do you mind if I sit and talk with you?” How can I say “no”? Most conversations are about their pain and what caused it. Once I show them it hurts me to see them hurt they open the floodgates. Most times it takes 7 or 8 encounters to finally deal with sin and salvation.

    For instance, recently I was at the coffee shop where I heard dude1 talk to dude2 about his attitude and poor example as a Christian. His approach sucked to no end because dude1 kept telling dude2 it was his sin taking over his life and he needed to “stop doing” certain things so he could get back to God. Dude1 left the coffee shop upset and disappointed that dude2 couldn’t commit to changing.

    I struck up a conversation with dude2 only to find out that there was more to his problems than his sinful actions or attitude. His behavior was terrible and so was his attitude, but not once did we speak of “sin.” Come to find out the dude isn’t even a Christian. He said he didn’t want to be one because of the example he sees at “his parent’s church.” Too many rules and too many “don’t do this or that.” After our conversation he realized he needed to find the truth for his life and discover who he really is, as well as where he is headed. No, I’m no super conversationalist. Not once did I mention God, Christ or sin. His pain was so deep that it was the last thing he wanted to hear. I saw him on Monday at the coffee shop and he told me how much he appreciated my listening to his “pain” and not trying to provide the answers to his “healing”, but he also stated he understood what my intent was, or where I was coming from through a mutual friend. He’s since returned to the town where he goes to college, but he dropped me a line to tell me he was okay and he was going to connect with a small group of believers that meets in a coffee shop two blocks from his college.

    That, my friend, was the therapeutic method and I’m confident that it will lead him to God. Yet, I don’t believe it has set him up for disappointment. He didn’t have to drop me a line to tell me he was okay. I never challenged him to find a church or small group. That was all God, even if he knew where I was coming from.

    I’m not saying I’ve arrived when it comes to connecting with people. I just know in my heart the rejected, broken hearted and marginalized I’ve met have no desire to walk into a church until they see the people on the inside of the building living on the outside for the sake of Christ.

    I respect your perspective and understand where it comes from. I know Truth sets people free and understand that Christ is the changer of hearts. I’m learning that I need to approach people with the idea of peeling back the onion and not just chopping it in half to get to the core. Most times we aren’t ready to see what is deep inside most people. We, like them, have to work our way to the core of sin. Even if it means peeling the onion back one layer at a time.

    Peace and blessing to you…gibby

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