Living the questions and trying to think theologically... and practically. Learning that these things are more synonymous than I once thought.

Location: Dallas, TX

Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Good Start to a Conversation about the Church

Ok, what I am about to post is a narrative on my thought and feelings about the emerging church and it's worship. It's not exactly how I planned to start my series, but I had to do it as a part of my final exam in my "Worship in the Emerging Church" class. I hope it will be a good way to begin this conversation. It's all I have time for right now at least. (Two finals down, two left to go!) So here you go.....

Two weeks ago, I enjoyed a true treat within my community of faith. During, the music portion of our worship gathering, we sang only hymns. I loved it. Some of the songs, I had not heard in years. Many I sang countless times while growing up in strictly Baptist churches. The versions of the hymns the surprisingly good makeshift worship team (Crowder was out of town, along with Dutton, and a few of the girls who usually lead worship in their absence) sang would be pretty foreign to most congregations. There was a little U2 mixed into a John Newton hymn which would undoubtedly make some of our forerunners cry blasphemy. For me however, the songs felt strangely like home, although the places where I first encountered them will most likely never be home again.

All of that to say that emerging churches, like the one I am a part of, are indeed embracing the things of the past while not ignoring the needs of the present and future contexts of the church. To me there is something authentic about this, and from what I am beginning to understand and experience, the desire for authenticity is at the heart of so many emerging churches. The best summation I can give for who and what emerging churches are trying to be is in the form of a question that many continue to ask: “How do we strive to live together as the people of God in the rhythms of God in the world today?“

Whether what’s going on with emerging churches is new or old will continue to be matter of debate for some time. As best as I see it, it is a both/and as opposed to an either/or situation. It is, in many ways, a group of people embracing ancient elements of the faith. As discussed in class, we are in many ways trying to embrace that which is most central and core to our faith- Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God, and what it means to love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. While Jesus preached this so long ago, our world has evolved into a very different place. Just as the audience that first heard his words was shaped by their particular culture, we too as people in 2005 are not unaffected by our culture. Time did not freeze for the world, nor, in all honesty, has it for the church, although there are particular times in our history people embrace as the “most Christian” and many likely wish they could freeze time there. Emerging churches are different and new because so many things about people and the world in which we live are new. At the same time they are ancient because theirs is a faith of the ages, and we are living in a new chapter in the story of the ages. People’s wants and needs are different than they were fifty years or five thousand years ago, yet in some ways they are much the same. Therefore, it stands to reason that the way we worship God and love God and seek to share His love looks both new and old in our world today. Emerging churches understand and embrace this, and therefore they are offering a home to so many in people who consider themselves postmodern and are offended or confused by many churches who have not yet embraced these days, or who are trying to ignore them.

I am reminded of the term Scott Bayder-Saye so appropriately titles “relevant resistance”. Within my community of faith, we often express this as “being counter-cultural in the best way possible”. To me, both these things mean choosing to live and walk as Jesus did- not preaching condemnation to outsiders, but being a light to the world through the way we love God and each other and live our lives with honesty and integrity. Both now and in the time of Jesus, this was the best way to be relevant in the world yet not be like the world. This would be the opposite of being counter cultural as some seek to be- preaching condemnation against those with uncertain spiritual backgrounds, and expecting everyone to live according to what you and your denomination or particular church believe is right. I don’t believe emerging churches are perfect in practice or theology, but no church is. It is my prayer that emerging churches and all the buzz around them might help us all rethink the way we worship both inside and outside the walls of a church building- that we would be truly authentic in the way we love and adore God and each other.


Blogger Sam Davidson said...

Thanks for the good words and for making sense of the ancient/present dilemma. Your explanation in on target and I am glad to have read these words.

5:51 PM  
Blogger el.fro said...

rate this funnily obsessed with a touch of hysteria

6:43 PM  
Blogger Janalee said...

You guys won't believe this, but this is the second random person from the Netherlands to comment on my blog. If you are reading again El.fro, which is doubtful, are you referring to my entire blog or this particular post? I'm not trying to be defensive, I was just wondering. Always good to have an international perspective. thanks for commenting.

6:51 PM  
Blogger D.R. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:10 PM  
Blogger D.R. said...

Please define the word "authentic" (and "authenticity"). You used it often, but what does it mean when you say it? And please react to my blog on this subject. I would like to know what you think of my assessment.

Have fun in NashVegas,


9:11 PM  
Blogger Janalee said...

Great question Dr and thanks for your comment. Let me get through exams and I'll do a whole post on authenticity. I defintely think (well I know)it's a lot more than just allowing people to use profanity, but I've run across that too.

9:25 PM  
Blogger Not-Your-Average-Preacher-Boy said...

Now that's about the best blog I've seen you post in a while. I think I'm going to like being in conversation with you about emerging church and how other "not-so-emerging" churches should interact with and learn from emerging ones. By the way... Life is good! And I'm going to MS on the 12th... maybe I'll catch and pass you on the way.

10:25 PM  

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