Monday, August 02, 2004

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

Dave, over at Welcome to the Planet, links us to Desert Pastor, who has written a couple of thoughtful posts on what the Emerging Church needs. A few months ago I jotted down my concerns with how the Emergent Church not only seems to embrace post-modern thougt, but how they seem overly concerned with having their senses satisfied. In What the Emerging Church Needs, pt. 1, Desert Pastor says:
The desire to “do church differently”, or better yet to “be church” in a different way has led to far too much emphasis on ecclesiology (i.e. how we “are” the church) instead of theology... And so, I offer the following (general) observations concerning the Emerging Church, along with what I hope will be some helpful suggestions: A preoccupation with image over substance. People are getting sick and tired of hearing about “candles, coffee, and conversation.” If that’s the best the EC can muster, it’s doomed. Now, I know that there are many EC communities that claim to be about much, much more than candles and stuff – yet for all the time and energy that goes into the “ambiance”, the “alt.worship”, and the “multi-sensory” layering – why aren’t we seeing scores of people being transformed into fully-devoted-followers-of-Christ?... An assumption that “different” = “better.” The EC runs the risk of repeating the same error the Enlightenment-influenced Modern Church made of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It has taken us the better part of 500 years to admit that Protestantism (and then even more, Evangelicalism) divorced itself from some of our more ancient and valuable expressions of faith, probably due to a Roman-Catholic phobia. Many EC’ers today are divorcing themselves from anything that smacks of institutionalized Christianity. And it’s the “anything” part that most concerns me. Sure, there have been abuses and problems within the modern Church (I speak here as an Evangelical). The need for reform is undeniable. But is seems as if many EC’ers are willing to embrace change at any cost, convinced that anything that is believed or practiced “differently” than the Institutionalized Church (IC) must be better...
It is very refreshing to see voices from within the EC movement exhorting those within their ranks to the very real, and very mature issues that they will ultimately have to address. I can only hope that the average Emergent Church-goer will listen. I've critiqued PoMo on at least two occasions (check here, and then here) and, in addition to my concern that the movement latches on to the philosophy of post-modernism, I expressed doubts that said average attendee cares for nothing more than the experience to be had. In my post How 'bout some Em-pathy?, I conclude with:
I predict Emergent churches will never become mainstream. And I predict this for the same reason that you find people now wanting to get their tatoos removed. They grow up.
Are we seeing the Emergent Church beginning to experience growing pains?

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