Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Ancient-Future Church

This morning I stumbled across an article in The Christian Century entitled The Emergent matrix: A new kind of church? Although some will most likely disagree with the author, I found it to be one of the more thorough yet concise considerations of the emergent conversation I've discovered. I cannot attest to its accuracy, as I have had minimal experiential exposure to many of the things mentioned. But it certainly got my attention. Consider this excerpt;

Unlike the megachurch and church growth movements of the 1980s and ’90s, emerging churches resist models and templates—the franchising of church life. Instead they tend to emphasize the particular gifts of the local community and the creative involvement of the laity. Karen Ward, pastor of Church of the Apostles in Seattle, wrote in a recent blog, “In the emerging church the people shift from being consumers of church to producers of church.”
Getting away from the consumer mentality; the "what have you done for me lately?" attitude that casts clergy in the role of chief sales manager. Is it possible?

Holly Rankin Zaher, a member of the Emergent Coordinating Group, and her husband, Jim, are founding members of Three Nails, an Episcopal church plant near Pittsburgh. Jim describes it as “a cell group thing that looks incredibly different from other Episcopal churches. Right now we have six cell groups, and that’s where the core is. People ask us where our church is and we say, ‘Well, it’s not,’ because we have groups meeting all over Pittsburgh. We don’t own a building, we just rent a place where we meet as a group once a month.”
No building! Imagine not having to invest all that energy in maintaining the shrine. The core is small groups. That's certainly true to my experience. 25 years ago, I committed to meeting with a group of 12 on Sunday nights for 2 years. It was in that small group that I learned what it meant to be a Christian. Jesus seemed to understand the importance of small group. Wesley's bands might be another example. If folks just show up on Sunday for corporate worship, my experience is that they aren't going to be spiritually fed, and they aren't going to be stretched in order to grow into the full stature of Christ.

The article even got in a quote from Rowan Williams, which, of course, I have to include;

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, recently issued a call to the Church of England that speaks to this challenge: “We have to ask whether we are capable of moving towards a more ‘mixed economy’—recognizing church where it appears and having the willingness and the skill to work with it. Mission, it’s been said, is finding out what God is doing and joining in. And at present . . . more and more patterns of worship and shared life are appearing on the edge of our mainstream life that cry out for our support, understanding and nurture if they are not to get isolated and unaccountable.”
There's some real meat to chew on in this article, and some fair (or so it seems to me) criticism as well. At the end, the web version corrects a typo that appeared in the print version of their lists of resources. The correction was a pointer to maggi dawn, someone that many of us already know as one of the best voices to be found in the blogdom.

There's some exciting things going on around the edge of the mainstream; an emerging conversation that may just be able to move beyond the labels of conservative and liberal as well as evangelical and catholic. One can only hope.


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