I should probably start holding seminars on "What is the Emerging Church?" I could categorize and compare the various "expressions" of the emerging church. I could describe the major areas of non-orthodox exploration. I could point out the leading practitioners, theologians and gadflies. Do you think I could charge $129 per person for a full day? Would more than one participant sign up?
Is the emerging church a fad? What does it mean? As a pastor, what should I be doing about it? Is D.A. Carson right? What about Chuck Smith, Sr.? Is the emerging church a sign of the end? Is it a forerunner of last days apostacy? Has Slice sliced it correctly? Has Pyro burnt it appropriately? Is Mark Driscoll the poster child for the EC, or is Spencer Burke?
Recently I attended a national pastors gathering of one of the movements that came out of the Jesus Movement revival of the 70s. At this stage the gathering looked a lot like me, a bunch of middle-aged guys in Hawaiian shirts and bermuda shorts and sandals (at least those of us from California). In a panel discussion on the first day, the national director was insistent that he had the "correct" numbers on the number of movement pastors age 35 and under and it was 30 (out of 500, wink, wink), not 20, he would have you know, by Golly. He went on to say that he just didn’t want others to say that we are irrelevant. (He must not be a regular subscriber to Relevant Magazine!).
On the third day of the conference a young (35 yrs. of age) pastor spoke on the emerging church. His definition? The emerging church is "Churches that are trying to reach young people." He then started his categorizing and comparing and I had to get up and leave! You see he was trying to make sense of something that defies categorization and comparison. And he was trying to speak to an audience of pastors who want to know if the EC is a passing fad, or how they should react when a beret-wearing, goatee-sporting, graduate student approaches him and asks him if he is "missional."
Let me address some of these, uh, burning issues: The emerging church is not an "it." It is not Emergent or Allelon, or Forge, Catalyst or ReImagine! It is not neo-monastic, or universalist, for that matter. It is not a bunch of Birkenstock-wearing, granola-crunching, Yoga-practicing midwest urban folks. It is not a "church within a church," gen-x service, candles and worship installations, liturgy practicing, hours prayers. It is not daily blogging with cool names and ipod loaded teaching. It is not a fad, anymore than Methodism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, uh, you get the idea, were passing fads. It is no more a fad than the Calvary Chapels or the Vineyards. It has no more apostacy than the rest of the apostacy that passes for Christianity today. And by the way, it is not Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Spencer Burke, uh, did I leave anyone out, uh, yes, of course I did!
And yet, it is all of the above and so much more. It is what God is raising up to reach the rising culture and the rising generations.
Pastors, if you think you are prepared to deal with today’s cultural atmosphere, go watch the currently playing film, Juno. Then ask yourself this question: What is my congregation doing to make Jesus real to the Junos in our community?