from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Archive for the category “emerging church”

Change Is About Keeping It Fresh

Resistance is a common reaction when change is implemented. Some times there is the feeling that the changer is implying the current way is wrong, but the new way will be right. Other times people just get comfortable with the way something is and change brings them uncertainty.

But think about it this way. What if you had to eat the same thing every day (picture the Hebrews eating manna day in and day out)? What if you had to wear the same thing every day (imagine a uniform you never take off)? What if you did the same exact thing on your job every day? Never met anybody new? Never went anywhere new? Watched the same TV shows and listened to the same ten songs over and over? No need to go on; you get the picture, right? How boring our existence would be.

Now let’s apply this to what is happening in the church today (and really always has happened from the beginning). God and His Word never changes, yet it is always fresh and applicable. The music may change, the songs may change, the way the message is presented may change, the way we spread the gospel may change, but the Truth is still the Truth.

There will always be trends whether in fashion, food, or church activities. What everyone is gaga over today, they will be tired of tomorrow. I find it interesting that the emerging trend in church today is to bring back the customs and traditions of old. This, of course, coming off the heels of a long term trend of moving away from those practices. Hymns are making a comeback. Communion and other ordinances are being practiced more than ever. Why? Is there something wrong with new stuff? Was there something wrong with the old stuff to move us to the new stuff?

Of course not. Everything in life must change from time to time or it becomes stale and ineffective. I was reminded of this with the latest press release from Starbuck’s . Here’s an excerpt: “The Pike Place Roast™ coffee beans will be hand-scooped, freshly ground, and freshly brewed and served, giving the coffee a consistent, pure taste. To further ensure customers enjoy the freshest, high-quality cup of brewed coffee, stores also will brew smaller batches with a hold time of no more than 30 minutes.”

People want freshness…variety; not the same old same old. Even the old traditions being revived are presented in a more up to date manner. Blended services, perhaps, make the change less noticeable, but the key is keeping the presentation as fresh as the Word.

What if your preacher started doing the same sermon every week? Don’t answer that.


Brian McLaren Quote from Christian Post

“The emergent church leader also gave his opinion of why mainline churches are in decline. McLaren said that while evangelicals are rigid in doctrine but flexible in their methodology, mainlines are more flexible in theology but rigid in their practice.

He suggested that the mainline become more flexible in practice while evangelicals “loosen up” on some of their doctrinal system.

“What I’m noticing is when we stop preaching Christianity as a religion…and we start inviting people to be followers Jesus and present Jesus and His way as part of this beautiful story of the Kingdom of God, a lot of our Christians who have left are drawn back,” he said

Emerging, As I See It

It’s almost impossible to define the emerging church movement. In fact, many say it isn’t a movement; it’s just a conversation about what needs to change in the church. There is no official organization or leader(s). My impression so far is that of a lot of concerned people dissatisfied with the current methods of the church.

There are definite problems within the church. We not only live in a postmodern society where truth and structure are questioned; we also live in a post-Christian society where a growing percentage of people do not hold to Christian beliefs. They don’t know Christian terminology. They don’t identify with our methods. Many don’t even know who Jesus is. Because society has changed much more than the church’s approach to reaching them and because many in the church are just going through the motions of what they grew up doing as a child, church attendance has steadily declined.

We must converse about these problems and experiment with ways to overcome them. There will not be a pat formula. There never has been, but there are some basics that should be changed. We must focus on our relationship with God. That will make our worship and our witness genuine. We must love and welcome all people into our churches. We must be willing to listen to their differing ideas, but we must study the truths of the Bible as well. We cannot condone sin be it in the form of sexuality, profanity, idolatry, and the like, but the people we see Jesus condemning in the Bible are the Pharisees, which today would be those in the church. He used a much different approach with those outside the church. As we show them Jesus, over time non-believers will be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit, not our condemnation.

This is what I see as the desire of the emerging church in general. It’s a good thing, but as with any good thing, Satan will try to corrupt it. There are prominent figures in the emerging conversation who have crossed the line, become too accepting and too open minded. It’s one thing to not be sure which direction or method we need to take, but if you’re going to further the Kingdom of God, you’d better know what you believe, and some don’t seem to know that. However, there are many good things happening here. Let’s don’t let Satan derail us.

A Conversation on Relevance

As I continue to study this conflict over the contemporary or emerging church, I am astounded at some of the arguments. I ran across this statement today attempting to explain many evangelicals’ problem with the emerging church. “The gospel message should not be made relevant.” I’m not sure how many evangelicals would agree with that statement, but I have to ask, what do we do with the gospel or the whole Bible if we don’t make it relevant to our lives?

The definition of relevant is, “having a bearing on or connection with the matter at hand.” The gospel must be relevant to make any difference in us or the world. Now if the complaint is about making the gospel relevant by changing it to make it more “acceptable,” I would agree with the argument. But let’s be careful where we point fingers on that issue.

First of all, we should not label everyone who talks about making the Bible relevant to today’s culture as heretics who want to re-write the Bible. Secondly, a long, hard look into the traditional churches of America will reveal much compromise of the Word to make it “relevant” to their congregants. The Word will never change, but the words and methods we use to relate it to others will always change. We must accept that for the church to be the light in a dark world.

Emerging Traditions Part 2

Looking back at the church at Antioch, I saw an interesting analogy to the struggles between the traditional and emerging churches of today. While the Antioch church most demonstrated Jesus’ idea of church, they weren’t without conflict. One in particular stemmed from the differing backgrounds of the Jewish proselytes and the gentiles with regards to the observance of communion. Even though the Jewish members were now Christians, they were still heavily influenced by hundreds of years of Mosaic tradition and practices. The gentiles had met God through Jesus and knew no other way. So I ask you, who probably had the purest approach?

There is probably as much to be said for a pair of fresh eyes on something as there is for experience. The Jewish believers had hundreds of years of examples of God’s love, justice, and power. The kind of stuff faith builds on. But sometimes history becomes baggage that locks us in and limits our approach. We need something fresh.

Back to the communion issue. The Jewish believers didn’t want to take communion with the gentiles because the gentiles had touched un-kosher things and thus carried “spiritual germs.” The gentiles knew Jesus didn’t care about kosher. Their solution was to have separate communions. Ring any bells…like traditional and contemporary services?

To further my analogy, I’m going to generalize here, so allow me some latitude. Traditionalists want a quiet, structured church service with a few hymns, offering, and a sermon. The emerging culture doesn’t care about structure. They just want to get together and meet with God. (Don’t confuse structure with planning here. They still plan.) So what if we don’t take an offering this time; you can give online. It’s okay if the teaching is through video rather than a preacher delivering a sermon. See the similarities? The Jews were very rigid in their traditions; the gentiles just wanted to meet with God.

Maybe the emerging church is the one reaching back to the earliest church traditions. The unstructured tradition of coming together and saying, “God, here we are. We love You. Teach us. Use us.”

As I have said before, there are positives and negatives with both approaches. Some of it is “different strokes for different folks,” and we should all respect that. Some of it, is just not knowing any better. But most importantly, much of it is attitude. Are you open to something different if it might bring you closer to God? Are you willing to change to reach more people?

Emerging Traditions

Sounds like an oxymoron, seeing as how most traditionalists view the emerging church as a threat or, at the least, undesirable. But if you look at the practices of churches claiming to be part of the emerging church movement (I’m not specifically referring to Emergent Village and associations) and compare it to early church practices, you’re likely to find more similarities than in today’s traditional churches. This raises the question of who’s the true traditionalist.

First of all, what constitutes tradition? The American Heritage College Dictionary provides the following definitions.

1 – a mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation

2 – a body of unwritten religious practices

3 – a time-honored practice or set of practices

While there are some practices in the church today that were present in the first churches of the New Testament, thus qualifying for the first definition, most of what we do in church today may or may not (since no one has unearthed ancient church bulletins). Buzz words among the emerging like lifestyle evangelism, missional purpose/ministry, and even the concept of house churches are rooted in the New Testament.

One church in particular could be the model for the emerging church today – the church at Antioch. While the church in Jerusalem was the authoritative head of Christianity, it was Antioch that seemed to understand what Jesus wanted the church to be.

Antioch was a leader in love by helping fellow churches even if its membership was of a different ethnic background. Perhaps that was easy for them because they were also very accepting of the gentiles and didn’t try to force them into traditional practices like circumcision. Antioch sent the first missionaries on their way after exercising spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer and being led by the Spirit. They stood for liberty. No wonder large numbers were converted and over time, this pagan city became predominately Christian. No wonder Paul considered it his home church for a season, and Peter spent many of his latter years there.

This is what the emerging church, as I understand it, wants to re-capture – the basics of what the church was founded on. So who’s the real traditionalist here? Does it matter? We’ll look at a few more comparisons next time.

Some Simple Questions

Excerpt from article by Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, as published by

“Some emerging Christians see churches with pulpits in the center of a hall-like room with hard, wooden pews lined up in neat rows, and they wonder if there is another way to express—theologically, aesthetically, and anthropologically—what we do when we gather. They ask these sorts of questions: Is the sermon the most important thing on Sunday morning? If we sat in a circle would we foster a different theology and praxis? If we lit incense, would we practice our prayers differently? If we put the preacher on the same level as the congregation, would we create a clearer sense of the priesthood of all believers? If we acted out what we believe, would we encounter more emphatically the Incarnation?”

Don’t Let A Bad Thing Make You Miss A Good Thing

It isn’t enough that we find exciting, new creative ways to teach the Word of God and worship Him. The ultimate goal is to be holy as He is holy, and that isn’t something we wait until we get to heaven to accomplish. We must be pursuing holiness at all times; therefore, we must guard against things of the world that have the potential to corrupt us. When the church encourages reading immoral literature and watching R-rated movies for “enlightened discussions,” it has opened the door to impurity. David declares in Psalm 101:3, “I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.”

The church should be a wonderful creative outlet for us, but our methods and content must not contradict the Word. While true spirituality can be mystifying at times, the Bible is clear about areas of mysticism we must stay away from (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).

The church should be a place of frank, open discussion, but for the purpose of defending our faith; not confusing it. I experienced a time of thoughtful exploration during college, but because I didn’t have the proper guidance, I found myself confused about my faith before I knew what hit me.

The terms emerging church and postmodernism have broad meanings. When you begin to ask those who claim to be part of it what they believe, you will get a wide range of answers. Kind of like asking the average person what it means to be a Christian. There are extremes within this movement that Christians should beware of, but at the same time, the traditional church could stand to learn some lessons here on how to effectively minister to today’s culture. Most anything can be faked or misused, but that doesn’t discredit the real thing.

Satan has been very successful over the ages at holding the church back from experiencing God in depth and fullness. He knows when we see abuse and counterfeiting of gifts and methodology, many will react by running as far away as possible. This reaction has left the church cold and Spiritless. We must continually explore new avenues of communicating the gospel while spurring believers on to holiness and trusting the Holy Spirit to control what happens.

Another Way of Stating the Problem

Exerpted from interview with Jim Shaddix, Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colo.

Young people, he believes, are not opposed to hymns. In fact, they sing revisions of hymnals sung by contemporary artists such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. And they are not opposed to the organ, or else many of them would walk out of ball games. Pastors clad in a suit and tie are also not a turnoff to the younger generation who watch late night show hosts Jay Leno and David Letterman run their monologues in a suit and tie.

Beyond the form of traditional churches and worship styles, young people, who are labeled as the future of the church, are opposed to the “fabricated Christian culture” within the traditional churches. “They’re opposed to the lifeless and heartless way we often sing those hymns,” Shaddix said at the second Baptist Identity Conference in Jackson, Tenn.

Many young adults are leaving the traditional churches they may have grown up in and searching for alternative forms, including the popular emerging church movement. Young people are not necessarily running to something, the Southern Baptist pastor highlighted. They are running away from something. And the standard answer church leaders would give to the question of what they are running from is the church form, the worship style, the traditional denominational affiliation – the tangible. But Shaddix believes the young believers are running from “lifeless Christianity.”

A Responsible Revolution

While changes occur continually, the change currently taking place in the Christian church community is one of a greater magnitude. One that could completely change the face of the local church as we know it today; thus the push back from those who don’t understand. George Barna states in his book Revolution, “Energetic resistance by the established church has accompanied every significant episode of growth in the Kingdom since the time of Christ.”

The success of the revolution (and by success, i mean making effective changes that lead more people into committed Christian lifestyles) depends largely on our reaction to the push back. Our godly behavior in all aspects of life is vital.

Many churches are searching for the balance between the extremes of the traditional and the emergent. As we incorporate advancing technology and other unique approaches to ministry in our church services, we must also be careful not to commercialize the church. Many churches that have taken on a more postmodern, emergent look have become mega churches. It is easy to get caught up in the bigness, the “success”, the media attention from Christian as well as secular sources. Paul speaks of “peddling the Word” in 2 Corinthians 2:17.

Peddlers sell things cheap. In the case of the church, peddling refers to cheap grace, as I like to call it. In other words, we put on a show for entertainment purposes and then water down the Word to make it acceptable to more people. Now I’m not accusing any mega churches of doing this, but inevitably some do, and the temptation is definitely there.

This revolution must be a responsible one – sincere to the Word of God, producing mature, committed followers of Christ. Who can legitimately argue against a movement like that?

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