Saturday, February 16, 2008

Where do you find yourself in the "emerging" conversation?

I finally have more than a few friends in my facebook friends file who are older than me. Of the 360+ friends in my facebook file, about 340 of them are 35 years of age or younger. I've met a few guys around my age(44) and a few who are older so, welcome to the over 40 minority. Another minority list I might find myself on is the "emerging church guys" list. The majority of church planters who are planting "emerging/emergent churches are, again, 35 or younger. However, there are a few guys like myself; actually there are quite a few over 40, but the majority are under 35.

This emerging conversation has been going on for a little more than a decade, with guys like Mark Driscoll, Erwin McManus, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball,Ed Stetzer, etc. pioneering the movement. Most of these guys are around my age, perhaps a bit older, so a decade ago they were around 35. A decade ago, when I was 34, I was emerging in the sense that I saw many local churches plateauing or declining. I was in seminary at the time and was doing pulpit supply around my home state of New York. I had filled the pulpit in a couple dozen churches, mostly Baptist, one independent Christian church. Everyone of them had almost identical traits; old school, church as usual atmosphere,with a predictable Sunday morning format. Their music was typically "okay" but not anything close to what is being promoted in the "emerging" churches of today. One church, the only non-baptist church I preached in, atcually had a worship "team," which was made up of several church members singing to keyboard and drum music. It wasn't bad, but still had that "churchy" flavor to it; the kind of music you'd only hear in church. The people were nicely dressed and everything inside of this church was neat and pretty.

So, here we are, a decade into this conversation, and I find myself identifying with the 35 and younger church planters who are coming out of seminary and planting new, culturally relevant communities of faith. I am learning that there are several movements within this "emerging church" movement. One in particular, which I find myself drawn to, is a call back to the apostolic, missional, incarnational picture that is very clearly portrayed in the book of Acts. Guys like Ed Stetzer and Alan Hirsch are leading this movement. It is not so much a style or model of church planting as it is a call to simplify our efforts and go back to the original model/style that was set forth by the Apostles and first Christ followers. Thom Rainer wrote a book, "Simple Church," which has helped to shape my vision, also Hirsch's two most recent books "The Forgotten Ways" and "The Shaping of Things to Come"are two more books I am reading.Of course, the Holy Bible is a timeless, always relevant classic, that its Author keeps reinventing as time goes on. The message never changes, but the language and the way His word is communicated does change. So, I will continue in this emerging conversation and at the same time continue to grapple with what God is calling me to do in my own Divinely assigned mission field.