I have an idea of what emerging church might feel like. I just can’t picture what it looks like.
When I am in conversations with my “emergent” friends, there is a freedom that I have come to crave. I remember one conversation in Decatur, GA several years ago with some of the “name” people in the emergent church movement. Theology, philosophy, sexuality, profanity, mission, missional, heresy, Jesus, beer, religion, cigars, evangelism, books, film, politics, kingdom of God, etc–all came up in the course of conversation. It came about completely naturally and with very little effort. Such potentially divisive topics were discussed intelligently and passionately. Differences arose but did so in the context of friendships and in a way that the community of the moment was maintained, again, with very little effort.
For me, still acclimating myself to my new-found freedom outside the fundamentalist religious frameworks of my past, the emergent church conversation has been a kid-in-a-candy-store type experience. Not having been exposed to such openness in my past life as a Southern Baptist minister/employee, I became somewhat gluttonous about it. I wanted that type conversation all the time. I wanted it over cold beers among thought provoking friends and I wanted it on a regular basis.
However, as conversations mounted, a sense of “what now?” began to set in. Some of the questions that arose for me were: What does this actually look like?; How do you start such a community?; How do you support such a community?; What does this look like for soccer moms and dads?; Where do you meet in a community that is the antithesis of cool and hip?; What does it mean that this “movement” is tied with cool and hip?. I know the authors of the books and their “faith communities”. I can call more than a handful of these experts and drop in on their regularly scheduled programing and try to find the model to be replicated. Most (if not all of them) would visibly cringe at such a notion. Ultimately, these are very traditional questions that will leave me frustrated in the end.
I think my next step into this realm of “emerging church” is to emerge myself.
emerge |iˈmərj| verb [ intrans. ] “move out of or away from something and come into view”
I believe I have effectively “moved out of or away from” traditional church structures, if not in actual practice, in my thinking. The second part of the definition is now my task–“to come into view.” I must begin to actually practice some of the things I love to talk about. I believe it begins with my own personal spirituality and relationship with God. That sounds like a Sunday School answer. Let me rephrase this task in a awkward yet very informative “emergent” way: I need to begin to follow God in the way of Jesus. The “What does this look like?” questions still arise but the focus at this point of my journey is on my personal practices (The Daily Office, worship, how I spend my time, how I parent, etc). In the near future, this must transition into community practices. I believe the mission of God in our world is practiced in community and not in the hyper-individualistic way in which modern spirituality has evolved. Enough of this rambling…I’ve got to get to work.