Limited though I am in time before my cousin’s wedding, I was hoping to hammer out a few thoughts I’ve been having of late and then fill them in later. The main concept on my mind is when those in the emerging church have gone too far. This does not refer to the leadership per se, I have a great deal of trust for guys like McLaren, Pagitt, etc. I am far more concerned with those who have identified with the emerging church, soak it up, and then run with it. When have we taken some of the concepts of emergent and taken them too far?
As one who has been wrestling with what it is to be a Christian in the 21st Century, I admit that I don’t have things figured out at all. But I have definitely done my fair share of critiqing and deconstructing so that I have noticed when it ceases to be helpful or productive. In watching myself, reading blogs, and just observing other conversations, I’ve been thinking through some things that mark a place of potential danger for Christians in the emerging church. There is no set diagnosis, nor is there a set cure. If you find that you have “over-emerged” (so to speak), then the best thing that you can do is talk with Christians around you, putting yourself in submission to the church in your local area (which does not limit itself to your inner circle of friends!).
You may need to stop emerging if you find yourself doing one of the following:
– Writing really preachy posts online. If you find yourself saying the word “should” far more often than speaking of action in the past tense, you need to stop emerging. New ideas are great, but they are only valuable if they promote Christian love, unity with God and with one another, and compassionate action toward the world.
– Departing from time-tested Christian teachings. I’m not referring to particular denominational teachings. I’m talking about historically proven truth such as the historicity of the Bible. To deny the historicity of people such as Abraham, Joshua, Elijah, etc.,is to drop a teaching that has been held by every generation before you (save for the liberals in the 1900’s, who were thrashed by neo-orthodoxy). Denying the OT in particular displays a hubris in our knoweldge in the present and a lack of understanding about the purpose of the Bible: showing how God lives with his people and makes covenants with them.
– Relying on personal wisdom over against that of the church. The Spirit of Christ among us will seek unity. This does not mean that we have to agree with the church in our local area, but we need to recognize that our own wisdom does not get us far. If there is anything that postmodernism teaches us, it is the limits of our own perspective. As finite beings there is an inherent need to subject our own views to the critique of others. Church history, the global church, and the local church are all essential in our growth as Christians.
– A critical spirit toward traditional churches. You don’t have to attend churches that aren’t your style, but we oppose the very spirit of Christ when we criticize traditional churches without offering them our help. If you see a problem in a local church, try to help them. Some churches are more aware of the problem than you think and really want help! This has been a really hard one for me. My criticism to offered help ratio has been off for a long time.
– Categorizing everyone as either modern or postmodern. These are our context, not our identity, which must always be in Christ.
– Confusing helping the poor and needy with advancing the Kingdom of God. I don’t understand the Kingdom of God very well, but I do have a sense that liberal churches tried to advance the world in the post-WWII era and failed. They completely left out the part about bringing God’s rule to individuals and groups. There is a balance to the Kingdom. When we bring God’s rule to people’s hearts, we also bring justice and mercy. We cannot have humanitarian aid alone and call it advancing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom is both spiritual and physical. I have not figured this one out at all, but have given it a shot. It’s hard, really hard to do. I find myself running from one extreme to the other: Gospel message alone to social work alone. God’s Kingdom has them both, with his guiding, we need to figure out the right mix.
That’s about it for now. This already went way longer than I had expected. If anyone has any thoughts to add, I’m sure that this list is not exhaustive.