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Monday, July 31, 2006
Emerging Dilemma
I have only just begun to explore the plethora of conversations taking place in the blogesphere; and while I have come across several interesting blogs, I am excited to have found a community of women who are willing to engage in discussion. This is my first post in this blog, and my attempt to, as Scot McKnight encouraged "spur something on"...

I struggle with the idea of belonging to a movement, or conversation if you will. Either way, it seems to me that identifying with a group many times forces one to become segregated from those outside the group; a significant dilemma for sure. While there are many emerging voices I highly respect, and while I strongly agree with much that the emerging church stands for and believes in, I have a hard time reconciling the creation of a "new" Christianity. Reform the old, yes. But is that what we are doing? I realize that a strong resistance to change exists, however, instead of breaking off should we not be working harder from the inside? I do see the enormous benefit to creating new and emerging churches; nevertheless I see it also as another split amongst Christians. Working from within already existing churches would definitely be difficult, but by creating new churches are we not allowing those who are resistant and ineffectively stuck in their old ways to remain that way? Breaking off to form our own churches leaves the traditional church unchallenged by our presence. Can we not apply some of our emerging theologies to our own conversation? How connected are we staying to non-emerging Christian communities? Prior to exploring the movement, this dilemma was my source of resistance to the emerging conversation. And although I have begun to really embrace the movement, I continue to struggle in reconciling these concerns. Any thoughts, ideas, solutions or disagreements?

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posted by Tiffanie Lloyd at 9:30 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


19 Comments:


  • At 7/31/2006 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Our church is actually "emerging" right now. I agree with you that at heart we really want to work from within. I personally was not involved enough until recently to speak very well for staff and leadership, but from what I have observed, it is a very hard thing to do. Our church has dropped in numbers quite a bit, but I can't say it was heavily from changes in discussion and thought. There has been a positive response from many, and many are very open to new ideas, thoughts, change in the church dynamic etc. Others however, are not liking it at all. The people I have encountered that didn't like what was happening, were very uneasy with change. Many of us "love" our comfort zones, some are even taught that opening your mind to other things, can be a dangerous path. I think our church and leadership have done a great job, easing into new territory, challenging thought etc., however, the resistance is strong in many areas. I guess it somewhat depends even on the type of "denomination" a church is linked with. Some denominations are more strict, literal, walk a more "narrow" path and are made up of lots of rules etc. Other denominations are more liberal in thoughts, theology etc. So I guess my round about answer is not much of one. There are many things that play in to "church", society, people etc. I think that a church and it's leaders should try to "emerge" thinking if they can, but in many cases, I think a churches makeup may just blow that to pieces. Hierarchy systems, group think etc can take over. Many times people who think openly are in the minority and eventually are chased out, causing start ups of new groups churches etc. There isn't an easy answer, and probably to some degree needs to be handled case by case. Personally, I am still very involved with non-emerging Christians...most of my family and many friends! I actually haven't even revealed to many of them that I consider myself "emerging" more than anything else at this point. When discussions arise, I just speak my thoughts and don't put much of a title on it. I mention books I have read, ideas that I am looking at etc. in hopes that I can influence openness in what ever way I can.

     
  • At 7/31/2006 10:42:00 PM, Blogger Jae Abercrombie

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  • At 7/31/2006 10:44:00 PM, Blogger Aj Schwanz

    Oh, it's such a tricky line to walk: to exist within an "assimilated" church and still recognize our exile status (I'm reading "Exiles" by Michael Frost - *excellent* read). It seems that folks have different calls: some are called to leave and create something new; I'm called to stay within my "traditional" church and help them be transformed as they sit at the feet of Christ. I don't think we are to leave the established church behind: I don't think we are to leave anyone behind - if they choose to leave, that's something else.

    Graham Cooke says church is a paradox (two seemingly opposite things contained in the same truth): it's a building (static, inflexible, unchanging) and a body (fluid, flexible, changing). The building nature of the church defines who we are: children of God, redeemed in Christ, etc. The body nature of the church describes what we do: how we respond to culture at this present moment. Oftentimes we get it backwards: we are inflexible in what we do, and we are flexible in defining who we are.

    I think traditional churches have hope if those realities are put right, and it's the job of prophetic voices to point out areas of needed change. But man, it's a tough calling.

     
  • At 7/31/2006 11:17:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    You've hit on one of the big questions within the emerging church movement: stay and reform the old, or go out and start something new and fresh. Most of the leaders I've talked to about this (e.g. Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, etc.) have agreed that both are necessary. It's not an either/or. Let's have new churches and reform the existing ones.

    However, that's easier said than done. My wife, Julie, and I were pastors within a very traditional Baptist church that was not at all open to change of any sort, much less in an emergent direction. But we valued the friendships and relationships there and were committed to working from within for as long as it took to bring about positive change and growth.

    However, when the church eventually found out about our differing viewpoints they decided for us that we needed to go. (We were too "postmodern" and too politically "liberal".) In other words, we were willing to work from within for change, but the church itself was entirely unwilling to be changed or even make room for those of us who thought differently.

    This is how it commonly goes with reform movements within the church. Few of the great reformers of the past (Luther, Wesley, etc.) set out to be schismatic. They were almost always pushed out by the existing church establishment. So, unwilling to give up their calling, they were forced to start something new, even at the risk of being schismatic. That is the same choice that my wife and I faced when we decided to plant this new church.

    I think we have to face the fact that many traditional churches don't want to be changed; and I sometimes wonder if it's perhaps arrogant and selfish of us to think that it's our job to make them. If God is doing good work through them - even if it's not the work we would like to see happen - then who are we to say that they need to change to accomodate us? Perhaps we need to be more generous and simply say to them "God bless you in your calling. Keep doing what you're doing, but as for us, God is calling us to do something different." Being schismatic perhaps has less to do with whether you stay within your current church or not, and more to do with the attitude with which one leaves. Are you leaving out of anger or simply from a desire to expand God's work in new directions that your previous church is unwilling to go?

    Anyhow, I just wanted to share my thoughts and experiences on the matter. I hope you don't mind a male perspective intruding here on the blog. ;)

    Peace,

    -Mike

     
  • At 8/01/2006 08:22:00 AM, Blogger soldiermom

    My two cents go like this: Christians have been leaving churches, splitting churches and causing division, well since the church began. I cringe when I think of the reasons that I used to leave various churches. Postmodern vs modern is just the tone of the day. While I choose a more postmodern view, I believe God is in control and he will move these people or me when He is ready. We are called to love in the midst of the hurt that these divisions cause.

    For me, I no longer encourage people to leave a church or to join mine if they are in a church now. For whatever reason, God has placed them in that church and they should stick it out to see what God has for them to learn there. They need to be part of the growth of the body, wherever they are planted. Not just uproot themselves over and over again to find what they think is a good fit.

    My church has split several times while our pastors and leadership have taken us in a more Postmodern direction than a "Sunday Event" type of experience. Starting this church is seriously the most painful thing I have ever done. Watching people leave and hearing what they say behind our backs is so hurtful that I refuse to do the same to them. As Mike said, “May God bless you in your calling, as he is blessing me in mine." And meaning it is the best attitude to have, in my opinion.

    While I don't think this directly answers your questions, I would say that people are going to split, churches are going to look down their noses at others, simply don't be part of it. Don't tolerate it in your presence. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

    I think by your thoughtful question, your fears are that you will be part of the problem by joining this "revolution". Your heart will show you differently. You don't have to walk in the gutter to bring about change, but you do have to know that it is there.

     
  • At 8/01/2006 09:46:00 AM, Blogger Jamie Arpin-Ricci

    Great post. This is why I recently posted on the emerging conversation as something that we are shaped and informed by, not something we belong to. It offers values that shape identity, but shouldn't be the basis for identity.

    Peace,
    Jamie Arpin-Ricci
    www.emergentvoyageurs.blog.com

     
  • At 8/01/2006 02:00:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    It is painful to see lines draw and splits occuring. It was painful as Mike mentioned for us to be pushed out of our old church - being told that theology and politics were more important than long term relationships. But I have to also be honest to where I fel God calling me. He has opened my eyes to the reality of his kingdom and the need to be missional. I can't be a faithful follower of christ if I ignore what I have learned and had my eyes open to. Some curches like the one we were in, insist that I ignore it and I can't stay there if I am truly to follow God. It goes beyond not liking the music style or the tweaking of the service performance. Its about being faithful.

     
  • At 8/01/2006 02:03:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

    I agree Mike, both are needed; I am encouraged to know that this is the predominant view. It seems though that maybe not even of our own choice, splitting off and creating new churches is the more prevalent practice. I do not think that forming new churches that stem from alternate views is in itself negative, however, I wonder if the dilemma lies in identifying ourselves as a movement (or conversation). As opposed to "Churches of Christ", we are creating "Emerging Churches of Christ". And although I have no qualm labeling a church to describe itself, I wonder what stereotypes are emerging; it is bold to proclaim that tradition is outdated. Emergent or not, we are all followers of Jesus, and non-believer should see us as one. Yes, our differing views can and should be known, however to those outside the church altogether, I wonder if this movement paints a different picture; one of chaos and uncertainty. I guess what it boils down to for me is this: Through our division, how do we remain connected? How do we express our differing theologies while maintaining one body (especially in communities where postmodern views are not thought highly of)?

     
  • At 8/05/2006 01:59:00 AM, Blogger Cori

    Added to the problem of transforming the church from within or starting something new is how one stays in the church. One of the Emergent Movements central themes seems to be humility, and yet the very desire to change things to what seems better to me seems to lack humility. I struggle with the idea of 'who am I to tell this church which has been here for much longer than I have that it's time to change'?

    And yet so much of me feels and believes that the kinds of things the Emergent Movement is about need to become a reality in our traditional churches!

     
  • At 8/05/2006 12:48:00 PM, Blogger Len

    Some random thoughts..

    John Frye writes that "when Jesus broke bread, He broke Israel..." By starting a new movement and inaugurating a new covenant, did Jesus realize he was the first "church splitter?" Shouldn't he instead have worked for change within the system? It seems that new wine often bursts old skins.. and that is painful and messy.. but perhaps God is in the mess.

     
  • At 8/07/2006 09:16:00 AM, Blogger soldiermom

    I hear what you are all saying and am moved by your various experiences. It leads me to wonder, what is unity? I think that brings us back to Tiffanie's question, how do we stay connected? What is unity and how might it be reflected in the churches we are in and those we are called to leave? What say you?

     
  • At 8/07/2006 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

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  • At 8/07/2006 06:42:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

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  • At 8/07/2006 06:43:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

    In chapter six of A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren, Neo encourages Dan to avoid an “us” and “them” kind of thinking. I don’t think that the issue of unity is so much a matter of what we are doing, yet consists more of how we do it. Might our ideas be better tolerated if they were not accompanied by a label or a proclamation of the new and better way? New buildings don’t create divisions any more than proximity ensures unity. Again, I wonder if anyone else struggles to identify themselves as an emergent.

    Soldiermom asked a great question; what is unity? How will we convey to the rest of the world that we are one body? What issues are so prominent that lead us to sometimes take an “us” and “them” stance?

    OR

    I recently attended a talk on persecution. Can I apply it to my concerns here? For righteousness sake, we will be persecuted. If we are following God’s will in our lives by “emerging” maybe this is all irrelevant? Are these concerns holding back my potential?

    Would appreciate your thoughts; as mine are still emerging.

     
  • At 8/08/2006 06:13:00 AM, Blogger Cori

    Tiffanie, I definitely go with your first statement and not your second:

    The first was:
    "Might our ideas be better tolerated if they were not accompanied by a label or a proclamation of the new and better way?"

    And the second, if I understood it correctly, was that perhaps resistance to the change the emergent movement wants to bring is persecution due to its 'righteousness'.

    The second really worries me because then, in the face of criticism, one can just keep saying, 'That's persecution, I don't have to listen to that.' It seems to suggest taking the moral high ground and that always seems to me a dangerous place to be standing!

    The first idea, of not proclaiming quite so loudly that we have a new and better way seems tops to me. I have already felt disillusioned by people who have claimed to have 'new and better' ways of doing church under the banner of emergent and yet were doing the same old human things that hurt others (like being arrogant, speaking more than listening, wanting to teach and tell others what to do rather than humbly learning).

    Perhaps the emergent thing should be more about 'being' than 'doing'. More about being in a church, regardless of the church, than doing all these things to look and sound emergent, more about being in relationship and in community than doing a whole lot of relational/community activities with a bad 'state of being'.

    So many movements (within the church) have come and gone, and irritated the mainstream church, proclaiming a new and better way, and proclaiming their own moral high ground (and bemoaned their persecution at the hands of other Christians). Let's not become another one of those!

     
  • At 8/09/2006 12:33:00 AM, Blogger Stephen

    I really like a lot of what's been said. I hope this isn't tangential, but I want to comment on several different parts of this conversation.

    Tiffanie, I think your last post has a both/and answer if what you're getting at with the second option is a sort of comparison to new ideas being attacked by the "establishment" (i.e. Protestant Reformation brought new ideas that the Catholic church resisted). Though I don't think that the theological differences are as drastic I understand the comparison. In this case, I think you didn't mean PERSECUTION so much as looked down upon or simply overlooked. And you brought the word persecution in more as an analogy. (am I right here?) Cori I think your notion of the large stream of ecclesial/theological movements getting shot down and Tiffanie's second option aren't as far apart as they appeared.

    BTW - I LOVE YOU TIFFANIE!!

    The question of unity in/with the emergent church and evangelicalism at large is difficult. I think mostly because the emerging chruch is so diverse. For simplicity I'll reduce the emerging church to two main streams of thought in this post (I think Scot McKnight recently used them): missional church and postmodern church. Missional I will define as wanting to reach the lost primarily in the individual's own sphere of influence rather than bringing them into the church's sphere of influence as soon as possible. Postmodern church I will define as adapting church practices, philosophies, and theologies to one extent or another to draw in people who are postmodern. To be fair these definitions are sometimes blurred and each of the categories often informs the other to various degrees. But for this post I think they can stand as distinct subcategories in the emerging church.

    Ok, so I think evangelicalism at large has more of a problem with the postmodern push than the missional push, but often still has a problem with both. Why? Again, complex, but I think you can narrow it down a great deal by categorizing a little more (this is nowhere near comprehensive). There's resistance: 1) because of perceived or actual hypocrisy in emerging church ideals vs. praxis, 2) because of establishment tendencies in the evangelical culture, 3) to all things postmodern.

    So back to the both/and response to criticism. I'm only echoing other's comments here, but the Body of Christ needs people who are informed by emerging church thought to be both in more mainstream evangelical churches and to form new churches that more completely embody the currently-still-developing emerging theologies/philosophies. Not every person needs to do both, but certainly there is NO cause for a wholesale abandonment of the evangelical church (it has it's place too). Every believer should be informed and shaped by other believers and so too should each denomination/movement/whatever be informed, influenced, and shaped by others. This takes a great deal of humility on both the part of evangelicals and emergers. We tend to think that the burden of humility is on the evangelical side, but this is not necessarily the case. If we think we have "new" insight then it is our burden to live out these things quietly rather than to squawk them and lord them over others.

    On a personal note, I choose to remain in my church with the brothers and sisters in Christ that God has put in my life. I may be overlooked or looked down upon, but that's ok. If my life continues to (or ever does) immulate Christ's nature then I will have my chance to share Christ's work in me and influence the thinking of others. I think this is primarily the way that emerging thought will filter into the church at large. Popularity contests, cool gimmicks, crowd pleasers, and shouting matches won't ever make the cut.

    Sorry for that last bit of rant. I think I might expound on some of this on my pretty crappy blog in the next few days if anyone is interested.


    By the way, I really like what you guys are doing here at Emerging Women!

    Sorry to raise the testosterone level briefly, but I appreciate the ability to comment and hope that I didn't completely forget what I was talking about.

    Your brother,
    Stephen
    lunchroomtheology.typepad.com

     
  • At 8/09/2006 02:14:00 AM, Blogger Stephen

    Correction to my previous post:

    I really like what you gals are doing here at Emerging Women!

    Sorry about that.

     
  • At 8/09/2006 04:46:00 PM, Blogger Tiffanie

    My Conclusions:
    As I struggle to lean in either direction, I agree with Stephen; it is a both/and issue. I have concluded that the emerging church must exist on two dimensions: 1) within non-emerging communities, 2) through the formation of new churches. Further, within each dimension we encompass two roles; we are the church, yet we are also individuals who make up the church. Both of these roles, while distinct and separable, are finely intertwined with each other.

    On the whole - I think that the emerging church must be proactively seeking to establish and maintain unity between itself and mainstream evangelicalism. It must value humility and avoid arrogance. With the former in mind, it must seek to minimize uninformed judgment and misinterpretations. Each of these will surly generate a more tolerant attitude and ease the resistance to change.
    As individuals - I think that we as emergent’s should focus less on the negative responses we are generating, and more on the implementation of the changes we desire to bring about. We must not be reluctant to share our thoughts and theologies. Criticism (both positive and negative) is inevitable, however our focus should remain on influencing whatever community we have committed to.

    To summarize: both inside and apart from the traditional church; while on one hand we need to be concerned with the overall appearance of the emerging church and work to promote a positive and “united with all believers” image, on the other we need to place a greater emphasis on our personal contributions than on the negative “attention” the emerging church receives; while on one hand we need to support the emerging church body, on the other we need to first give loyalty to God and apart from any “movement” fulfill His will in our lives.

    Somewhere above lays a concept (though I am fumbling to articulate) that I believe will be challenging, yet essential to establish.

     
  • At 8/10/2006 05:01:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    tiffanie - i like your conclusions. things are held in tension. it is healthy to overcome the negative aspects of the whole thing. For so many the process of emerging involves a decontruction of what has come before. That is often a negative process that involves a lot of pain. It also can cause more pain as the negative reactions to the movement are encountered. I have found that often those at the beginning of the process and those who have come through it call for there to be less negativity, but those who are deeply caught up in it the negative aspects are necessary for growth and development.

    I am all for building, and moving forward, and trying to heal relationships (some of the time ;) ) , but without some of the negative aspects i encountered I would never have been pushed to grow. that's why balance is so hard, but still necessary.

     

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