Last week I posted a quick statement on the blog entitled “What’s become of the emerging church? The problem of a never ending conversation.” It was based upon a review of Kevin Corcoran’s edited volume Church in the Present tense: A Candid Look at What’s Emerging. It referred to a blog post/book review (I wrote) over at the church-and-pomo blog about the current state of the emerging church. This week Tony Jones responds to that post also on the church-and-pomo blog here, to which I respond “thank goodness for Tony Jones.” Tony always writes clearly, concisely and in entertaining fashion. And he essentially articulates for me (sort of) what I was trying to say in my previous post, yet in such a better way when he says:
“The very openness to conversation that has been engendered by the ECM is also our downfall. We’ve taken a pastiche approach to church and theology — we take a little bit from here and a little bit from there. The benefit of that is a great deal more freedom than many leaders in the church feel. The other side of that coin, however, is that we inevitably disappoint anyone who comes from a particular camp, because we’re never really enough of anything.”
Make sure to read the entire post HERE (it’ll be on church-and-pomo blog shortly – I had to post this before Tony’s post actually appeared because I’m about to lose internet on and off for a week in France)
So, after these two posts, and the many comments engendered from them, I have come to the following conclusions …
a.) “Emerging church” is a conversation and that’s it. It’s logic was never meant to provide theological direction for the gathered life of a people with God and His Mission. I guess I should be fine with that.
b.) “Emerging church” should not be expected to generate churches. It is not attached to any ecclesiological practice not does it aspire to work out any of these issues through ecclesiological practice. It instead is a provocateur to already existing churches. And I guess I should be fine with that.
c.) Since I am committed to the church’s work of bringing/witnessing to on-the-ground salvation in Christ to actual contexts and places and people amid seismic cultural shifts, “emerging church” will frustrate me. And I should be fine with that.
My question is: SHOULD I BE FINE WITH ALL THAT?
Many emergent’s say I should? Right? My question (just asking eh?): Does this not then lead to emerging church coalescing a group of malcontents? People upset about past church abuses all the while NOT moving toward getting in the middle of working out the messy life stuff details of living Christ on the ground? Just provoke – provoke – provoke? Is this not why many young churches don’t want to associate with the word “emerging” any more? (we’re not about critique critique!). Does not then the “emerging church” lead to a lot of talk “about justice” (and perhaps raising some money for some good causes) but little on-the-ground justice taking shape in communities within neighborhoods? Of course we have great examples within emerging church movement of people leading good ministries ( to name a few, I think of Doug Pagitt’s and Tony’s own Solomon’s Porch, and Mark Scandrette’s Jesus Dojo campaign). But are these not exceptions? Is not the bulk of the emerging church movement contained within “the cohorts framework” where 2 – 10-15 people meet primarily for conversation? “Not that there is anything wrong with that” (full disclosure: Geoff Holsclaw and I started the first emerging cohort 10 years ago in Chicago). Should I just relax , shut-up and be fine with all that? You tell me! just asking? eh?
When we get back from France, I hope to write a post reflecting more carefully on the logic of local church formation , context and how the gospel takes shape in relation to place. Specifically I want to address the role of “disputable matters” in the way formation of a community requires on the ground resolution i.e. It can’t be a “never-ending conversation.” In the meantime, if you have comments, I welcome them, need them! My comments will unfortunately be be intermittent till I return from France (where I’m leading a forum for the next week with no internet).