Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thinking about Emerging

I have written before about how I would define an emerging church. I think, however, that my definition is still in progress. I had previously defined an emerging church as one that is intentionally seeking to connect the gospel to postmodern culture. While this is true, I am not sure it is the whole story.

I have come to think that there is a difference between "postmodern ministry" and an "emerging church." Many churches and ministries are doing the postmodern thing as a methodological style. (Saturday night at Fellowship feels like this.) In many of these ministries and churches, there remains a fundamental commitment to some of the modern tennents of absolutely known truth, certainty, and the like. These things are just packaged in a more *gulp* marketable way for postmodern people.

I cannot speak for all emerging churches, but it seems to me that at Vintage Fellowship, there will be a more philosophical commitment to postmodernism. It is not merely a methodological style that we will abandon for the next style. I think it is a basic commitment to the faithful expression of Christian faith within a postmodern ethos, emerging from within a postmodern ethos.

In other words, I think Vintage might have an air of uncertainty or even suspicion about it. In the modern era, churches declared "WE KNOW X-Y-Z FOR CERTAIN." Truth was absolutely known. I think the posture of Vintage will be more "we believe and are hoping for this, but ultimately, we're going to have to wait and see." Truth is not absolutely known.

Doubt is ok. Incomplete answers are ok. Saying "I don't know" and "I am not sure" is perfectly acceptable.

Do we know absolutely how eternity will embrace us?
Do we know absolutely how God will judge?
Do we know absolutely how the world will end, if the world will end?
Do we know absolutely how the Spirit moves?
Do we know absolutely what Paul meant?
Do we know absolutely how the church ought to be structured, if the church ought to be structured?

Here is my new definition of an emerging church: An emerging church is a church that is intentionally seeking to connect the Christian gospel to postmodern culture with an attitude of humility and even uncertainty. It needs work, but that's where I'm at. Thoughts?


A said...

Does emerging have to = postmodern?

Isn't one of the fundamental flaws of modern churches the inability to take the curve in the road, make the shift, try something new? Wouldn't it be better to step back from the boundaries of postmodern culture and say that an emerging church seeks to minister in a culturally relevant way, leaving it generic enough to shift and change as culture does? I don't want Vintage to be a postmodern church. I want Vintage to be a culturally relevant church. Since one of the biggest lessons we can learn from the apparent decline of the modern is the inability to see oneself outside of ones own philosophical bent, why can't we learn that lesson and seek to have more flexible dna?

Postmodernism may be the "next" thing but it most likely won't be the "final" thing. Can we posture ourselves adaptable enough to embrace future morphisms of culture?

Call Me Ishmael said...

It seems appropriate that your definition of an emerging church should be still in progress, since the movement's defintion of itself appears to be in the same state of flux.

John said...

I’m learning to look at ministry to postmoderns like golf. Successful golfers know how to play the hole that is in front of them and every hole is different. It requires different clubs, different strokes, and different attitudes. Sometimes it requires to go for the green and sometimes it requires you to layup. I think that there are a lot of unsuccessful churches who go for it every time… politically, theologically, socially, methodically, etc. Successful ministry to postmoderns will be defined with finesse. Taking the opportunity that you’re presented with and hitting a good approach shot to the green. Every hole will be different therefore requiring a different approach. It is important for each emerging to church to look at the green (people or community) in front of them and hit a smart shot. Trying to answer the questions that you posed originally would be like pulling the driver out on every shot from the tee to the green. You could attempt it, but you’d be a stupid, sucky golfer.
On the other hand there are a lot of questions that are “gimme’s.” ie. The gospel, creation, etc. I think you are right on though. Your definition, if I could change anything would just be that we could present the Gospel confidently yet the underlying and surrounding questions with humility. I think that the Gospel is the one thing that Scripture implores us to be confident about and yet in the modern church they seem to search for more confidence in the choir, the children’s program, the senior pastor, and their building than they do in the Gospel. I think the Gospel is the target or the hole, but the approach is the important thing. That will define the emerging church.

kingsjoy said...


OK, I like what I'm hearing. I agree with:

In many of these ministries and churches, there remains a fundamental commitment to some of the modern tennents of absolutely known truth, certainty, and the like. These things are just packaged in a more *gulp* marketable way for postmodern people.

And this statement makes sense to me:

I think the posture of Vintage will be more "we believe and are hoping for this, but ultimately, we're going to have to wait and see." Truth is not absolutely known.

I'm really not interested in exploring New Age stuff, or moving away from the Gospel. But I would really appreciate a church that acknowledges that it doesn't have all the truth, with all t's crossed and i's dotted. A place that allows for some of the Mystery that is there--a church that doesn't necessarily try to answer every question.

Time for coffee again, ok? Or bring the fam to the house next week. Give me a call.

James Reesor said...

A SUGGESTION FROM TENNESSEE ELIJAH FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE JESUS: Satan and his witless, foolish, obnoxious, deceptive and mean friends get really upset when you quote the Bible or wear a JIGROP shirt. Satan, the Evil One, the Devil, the former top angel who thinks he is smarter than God, really gets his britches in a wad when you tell strangers on message boards about Jesus -- or wear a JIGROP cap. So, my dear Christian friends, if you really want to have some fun, and get the "minds" of people off themselves and all the junk in this wicked world -- where Sissy Satan thinks he is god -- start drinking Starbucks coffee out of a JIGROP cup, write letters to prison inmates with a JIGROP pen, and take free groceries to poor neighbors with a JIGROP bumper sticker on your SUV. In fact, use JIGROP in a hundred different ways so you can let idiots who think movie stars, football players, music makers or Sissy Satan are heroes understand what this important one-word message means -- Jesus is God, repent or perish!


klasieprof said...

OK...I just HAd to Bite:

JIGROP: Jesus is God Repent or perish

courtney said...

I can't believe no one's written a folk song about that...I think I'd run for President under that slogan---it would work in here in TN.
As for Vintage, I like what A said about being a culturally relevant church. That strikes a huge chord with me considering how world-phobic private school was---koolotts and no denim; piano and organ only, et al.
I also have to say that I'm starting to freak out with how often I'm agreeing with A--that't twice in two days. I think I need to soak my head or something.

A said...

Like agreeing with me is so bad? Its not like I'm the antichrist or something. Sheesh.

Cathy said...

I like this discussion. I was talking with a friend the other night who works with kids as well in our church. And we were discussing, and don't really have the answers to how does this look in how we are reaching out and teaching kids?

The kids who come each Sunday to our church are the ones who are right now on the cusp of the movement from modernism to postmodernity. For them, the cultural struggles that we who may be more steeped in modernism and are the ones teaching them are going to be different.

So my question is how do we prepare them? How does our kids' program at church reflect these changes? Is what and how we are teaching them equipping them to live as believers in a postmodern world?

I know that I don't have the answers to this.

courtney said...

no, A, you're not the antichrist but sometimes you don't expect certain things to happen, like agreeing with "a beautiful" from the old days---isn't grace amazing?