Over the past year, I have visited what seems like an endless number of Web sites covering post modernism and the emerging church. Many of these sites make great points about what is wrong with mainstream, institutional Christianity. But I am starting to wonder if the whole emergent church thing is becoming a distraction, a hindrance more than a revolution.
People gather together and debate the best methods to reach those outside of the church. They can talk about what is wrong with the “system.” While the dialogue is inspiring and refreshing, it can also paralyze Christians in a constant state of looking for the next best thing.
While “cutting edge thinkers” are talking, who is out there living among the people, sharing Christ and meeting needs as guided by the Spirit? Innovation must move beyond the concept stage to real life implementation if it is going to make a difference. Will our quest for answers make us irrelevant?
Sure, there are people living out innovation as real life pioneers. But there are also many people who have been burned by church as usual and are hiding out in the postmodern/emergent church movement. They are bitter. And they use the quest to be relevant as a smokescreen for expressing their personal gripes with the current church system. Some of this discussion may take place with proper motives. Some of it does not. Where is the line between sour grapes and real, constructive discussion?
If people are not careful, online communities of “emergent thinkers” can become a great breading ground for the next generation of Pharisees. In the past, you could tell a Pharisee by his position within the system. In the future, you may be able to spot a Pharisee by his position outside of the system. Sometimes it doesn’t take long for the revolution to become the institution.
Some might say, “Well, I’ve found my new community with a group of people who think like me, and they don’t attend church. They are the church.” That’s great. But what happens to real enlightenment when all you hear are people who think like you? If everyone is leaving the institutional church to find the real church, who is carrying the discoveries of emerging Christian thought back into the system? Or have the pioneers left the homestead never to return? Who will share their discoveries?
With all of these thoughts swirling around in my head, I have come to the conclusion that emergent thinking is just one place for me to go for insight. I must be careful to take the good and leave the bad – no matter where I find it.
From the home church movement to the institutional church to cutting edge ministry seeking to reach the lost in relevant ways, there is something to learn from the many different expressions of Christianity. Truth is truth regardless of where I find it. I must be careful to resist the temptation to give allegiance to any one ministry or movement. My allegiance belongs to God not anything else.
Isn’t it hard to love other Christians when your mind is full of rhetoric against the system? Can someone really be driven by love when they always seem to criticize the institutional church? Yet we see Jesus frequently doing His best to tear down idolatry even to religious things.
Jesus spoke about the temple coming down and often violated the traditions of the Pharisees. He was certainly not sold out to the system. And He never seemed shy about sharing what was on His mind. What does it really look like to speak the truth in love?
My heart motive appears to be the key to ministering within and without the system. Reform starts one person at a time. We the revolutionaries must be willing to be the first to undergo the change of revolution. Then we can lead by example. Truly, fixing the Church starts with me.