Monday, December 26, 2005

Exploring the EM Part 2 - What is the EM Against?

We have seen some of the things the EM is for. But movements never arise in a vacuum – they always position themselves in response to other systems, beliefs, and practices. Consequently, we need to look closer: what is the EM against? Carson sees the movement developing along three fundamental lines of protest: 1) protest against traditional evangelicalism, 2) protest against modernism, and (in some quarters) 3) protest against the seeker friendly churches of the 90s.22

Once again, McKnight fleshes this out with a more detailed summary. The EM:
  1. protests too much tom-fakery in traditional churches
  2. denounces the divisions in the Church
  3. sees cock-sure certainty as a cancer
  4. refuses to separate action from articulation
  5. wants individualism absorbed into incorporation
  6. [its] mindset is against marketing the gospel
  7. despises the idea that the Church is what takes place on Sunday Morning
  8. rejects the hierarchy and pyramid structure of many churches
  9. [says] the social gospel cannot be separated from the spiritual gospel
  10. wants to be Worldly ... in the Kingdom sense23
This list should be fairly intelligible: the EM is tired of pious religiosity and elder-brother righteousness. It wants to ask tough questions and speak openly about spiritual failings. It despises denominationalism. It emphasizes the frailty of the human condition, the limitations of our knowledge, in contrast to past expressions which seem overconfident in having arrived at truth. It feels that our theological formulations have too often been disconnected from the way we actually live. It “wants to form communities of faith, not [just] individual Christians.”24 It is against the idea of a simplistic gospel that can be nicely summarized as “Four Spiritual Laws.” It has seen too many “believers” whose lives are indistinguishable from unbelievers once they leave the church premises on Sundays. It is tired of authority structures and power plays within the church. It is appalled by versions of the Christian faith which see social activism as optional (or even evil). It rejects the fortress mentality and calls on Christians to boldly move back into the public square, not as visitors, but to settle down and live as lights in the midst of darkness.

Gibbs and Bolger summarize what the EM is all about by saying this:
“Emerging Churches are those
    1. who take the life of Jesus as a model way to live, and
    2. who transform the secular realm,
    3. as they live in highly communal lives.
Because of these three activities, emerging churches
    1. welcome those who are outside,
    2. share generously,
    3. participate,
    4. create,
    5. lead without control, and
    6. function together in spiritual activities.
Boiling it down to once sentence: Emerging Churches are communities who practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures.25
Seen in this light, there is much that is attractive about the EM – I am for many of the things they are for, I am against many of the things they are against. Even more, I appreciate and seek to embrace their commitment to authentic dialogue. There is indeed much here that resonates deeply.

(note: if you want to see the footnotes, please refer to the full .pdf version)

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