Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Am I Emerging? (chapter two)

What are emerging beliefs, practices, and values?

This is question that affects my answer to the question "are you an emerging church guy?" by comparing my own beliefs, practices, and values with those labeled as "emerging" by the Christian community. It's like holding my own values and practices in one hand, and "emerging" values and practices in the other, then comparing the two.

Once again, I feel uncomfortable placing blanket statements on the emerging church--or any movement, organization, or culture for that matter. (Perhaps this personal value--avoidance of labels and stereotypes--is a part of the answer to my question!) But there are some themes I addressed in my last post on the subject that could help. How does my lifestyle match up with the themes I've labeled as emerging?

Missional - It would be somewhat arrogant to label myself as "missional," as that would have to do with intentionally following the mission of Jesus with my entire life. I'm not exactly perfect. But I do view the mission that Jesus gives us as central in my life. In the past, "missions" was a word used for people who decided to move overseas and share the Gospel with other nations. In my view, "missions" is something that every Christian disciple is commissioned to live out by Jesus in Matthew 28. I think that living a life of intentional mission in the kingdom of God is important. Seeking justice for the marginalized, living out the Gospel in every aspect of our lives, and seeing the kingdom in our midst are all parts of being missional.

(By the way, the "kingdom of God" seems to be another common phrase for emerging church folks. Some literature I'd recommend on the concept of the kingdom: This Beautiful Mess, The Secret Message of Jesus, The Divine Conspiracy, The Gospel of the Kingdom)

Postmodern - I was born in 1984 (do the math, I'm a young un'). So I'm part of an emerging generation living with a postmodern paradigm. I see the world differently than those with a modern paradigm. This is not bad or good; it simply is. I have grown up in a secular-postmodern-consumeristic-Western world, and this has shaped my views. I value living out my Christian faith in the context I find myself in, and that context is currently in the midst of postmodernity. (Sidenote: still not entirely sure on a clear definition of postmodernity...but even that lack of clear definition says something about postmodernism, doesn't it?)

Personal story: I noticed this most clearly while leading a small group discussion at a church in Portland where the average age of the group was around 75. The way I was thinking about church, ministry, and life-in-general was on a separate wavelength. This doesn't mean we could not relate or understand one another; we simply had to shift our paradigms to begin to have clarity in our discussion. It was fascinating, and I highly recommend dialogue in the church between people of differing paradigms. Speaking of dialogue...

Dialogue and Process - The concept of a dialectic between God and humanity, and the Gospel as a process both appeal to my way of thinking. There is this organic, moving-yet-unchanging way about seeing God in this manner. God is transforming me, yet I am also working out my salvation as I follow Him.

From an educational standpoint, I also value the process of disquilibration. This refers to being out of equilibrium; the cliche is "outside your comfort zone." There is value and beauty in wrestling with tough issues, asking honest questions, seeking truth, and resulting in transformation.

Vintage - In the emerging church, there is this fascination with going back to the roots of the church. I guess I would consider myself fascinated with some of those concepts too, while also understanding that the early church didn't somehow "get it right" and we're just totally off track 2000 years later. I am currently reading The Early Christians, a collection of the writings of first and second century Christian leaders. There is some convicting (and also some extreme) faith lifestyles expressed in the book. There is definitely value in understanding church history.

So am I an emerging church guy? Still not completely sure. There are more questions to be answered. This chapter focuses on a lot of postives and concepts I resonate with. I'll be wrestling with some of the more negative stereotypes and issues in a later chapter.

What are some emerging concepts that you resonate with? How do you see these play out in your everyday life?

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