I spent much of the day today in front of this stinkin’ computer screen. (As if there isn’t a life out there calling out to me.) Somehow I got drawn into reading the blogs of various people who are connected to what they call the ’emerging church’. If you are not clued up on this movement, you can find a definition at wikipedia.
Most of the blogs seem to be written by sincere people who are truly seeking an alternative to a church that has lost, for the most part, its relevancy and ability to affect radical change in a dying world. They are trying to find a fresh way to bring Jesus to a new generation.
I can find some points in which I agree with this movement yet I am quite hedgy about it. Much of it seems more soulish and cerebral than spiritual. It seems to try very hard to be culturally relevant, and yes, I think its very ‘newness’ and rejection of established norms invite intellectual types. While I believe that God uses us as whole people and that we need to use all our faculties in our approach to Him, I try to steer away from anything that is too cerebral or ‘soulish’, and places too little emphasis on the Spirit.
Another thing that I am wary about is the very loose way in which this group defines its doctrine. There is almost an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere there. I get the impression in some of the blogs I’ve read that the social impact of the gospel is very pre-eminent, whereas I believe that an intimate and passionate relationship with Jesus should be our first priority. Everything else eventually finds it’s perfect place when we take the time to first sit at Jesus’ feet and really know Him.
Jesus told Martha who was busy ‘serving’ that Mary had chosen the good thing, which was to sit at his feet and learn of him. The social impact of the gospel should be the outflow of a life rooted and grounded in Jesus! Building a relationship with Jesus comes first!
Sometimes I think all that is really needed in the church today is a simple move of the Holy Spirit that trancends cultural and generational boundaries. I can attest to this: once you have experienced the love and presence of God in a tangible way, nothing else comes close. Neither programs and trendy ways to present the gospel, nor being in a closely-knit community of believers where there is lots of open-ended discussions and dialogue (as wonderful as that sounds), nothing can compare to having an intimate relationship with God.
I see a lot of self-analysis in the movement. It seems to me that the leaders of this movement is trying so hard to figure out where to go that they are in danger of losing sight of Jesus himself!
It is as if the very institutionalised things they are seeking to walk away from are being re-defined and they are simply in the process of building a new, very hip and modern institution. I was reminded of Solomon who said: “There is nothing new under the sun.”
The origin of the institutionalised church, or what my pastor calls Babylon, goes back to where the people said : Come, let us build… let us make a name for ourselves… (emphasis on let us and not let God.) To my untrained eye it seems like the EC is also saying: come, let us build… and in doing so they are in danger of becoming just another form of the very thing they are trying to avoid. Something man-made and born of the flesh will never fly in the kingdom of God.
In all honesty, I couldn’t get a good grip on what this movement really believes. Maybe it is comprised of several smaller pockets of believers who all have moved away from traditional church as we know it, but in different ways. I might agree with them on some points but not on others.
In reading all of this today I struggled to define what makes our church different. We are not traditional in many respects, yet we hold the bible and searching the scriptures in the highest regard (the impression that I get is that the EC as a rule does not). We believe that sound doctrine is a thing that must be endured. Our pastor sometimes quotes the person who said: All word, and you dry up. All Spirit, and you blow up. Combine the two, and you grow up. You need to have both a strong foundation in the scripture and the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in the church.
What really happened today is that I got my mind in a spin trying to figure the EC out. I expect that it cannot be done (since it is so broadly defined) and that today was for the most part a waste of time. I should have spent the time on doing bible study instead. As in…building up that strong foundation that I’ve been talking about instead of trying to figure out where other people are coming from.