One of my friends said something like this, “You seem to like all of this emerging church stuff, but you don’t point out what’s wrong with it.”
Insert: double-take, wounded look, and passionate reply, “Something wrong with the emerging church??? What do you mean?”
I’ll just stick a footnote here in the middle of this post since no one reads footnotes and note without any foot that this was in 2006 before it became fashionable to stop emerging… or whatever.
Still, my highly intelligent friend shocked me. How could he doubt the goodness of this new movement trying to recover practices from ancient Christianity and critiquing the ways Christianity had been infected by Enlightenment Rationalism? I mean really, is that not awesome sauce—that is, before Parks and Recreation taught us to use the phrase “awesome sauce?”
While my time with the emerging church stuff taught me to be jaded and suspicious about the Enlightenment’s effect on Christianity, I hadn’t yet thought that this emerging stuff needed to a taste of its own medicine. Could I find the downside?
As to the details of that, I’ll leave that to the experts. All I know is that I used to think I was on team awesome. I could see the flaws in fundamentalism, mainstream conservative evangelicalism, Catholicism, and mainline liberalism, but I could not see any flaws on team awesome.
How could I see flaws on team awesome? Would I not join team awesome unless it had all of the correct answers?
Clearly the people with the flaws were those not on team awesome… All that to say, it took me a little bit of time before I could see my friend’s point.
And here’s the thing: We have lots of team awesomes. I just read about a NEW team awesome on a popular Christian blog. Only this time the blogger mentioned the conservative flawed team, the liberal flawed team, the emerging/missional flawed team, and the NEW team awesome that doesn’t have any flaws.
The new, cutting edge, revolutionary, game-changing stuff never has any flaws because its part of team awesome. That is, until it’s not.
Reading that post brought me back to that conversation with my friend and the first time that I realized I was a member of a made up team awesome. After looking over the emerging/postmodern context stuff, it didn’t take long to find some flaws that tarnished my image of team awesome.
We were now team pretty good.
In all of this, a lesson from writing a Bible commentary may help. I know, I know, you probably think I’m losing it after reading that last sentence. Just bear with me for a moment…
When writing a commentary about a tricky passage, Bible scholars start with the least likely meaning of a passage and then work toward the most likely meaning. In other words, they rarely say something is “unbiblical” or “wrong” and they rarely say that one perspective is the “certain” or “biblical” meaning.
I always liked this approach to Bible study because it keeps us in our place, seeing things in a mirror dimly, realizing that God’s thoughts are not our own. We all have our most likely take on a Bible passage, but we don’t need to create unrealistic team awesomes that are 100% correct and don’t have any flaws.
At our very best, we’d all be kicked off team awesome if it did exist.
We’re stuck with team pretty good, providing the most likely answers to life. What may surprise us is that a “pretty good, most likely answer” is really all we ever needed.