It appears that the rocking back and forth in practices, traditions and stereotypes have an effect on one another, directly or indirectly. In families, you can often observe that when there are extremes, in discipline, neglect, etc. the result of the next generation is often (not always) one of two scenarios; 1) identical to the parent(s) carrying on and continuing the pattern, usually because of a lack of understanding and tools as to how to break the cycle, or 2) being so disenfranchised, wounded, angry and/or frustrated, that the very opposite is expressed in the life of the child. Examples: An angry parent can see their child grow up to have the very same anger issues, or be extremely shy and timid. A sexually abusive father can result in a daughter growing up to hate men, intimacy and everything that is male, or be very sexually promiscuous with many men. Rarely do we see extremes produce balance, unless there is Divine intervention, restoration and transformation.
When referring the pendulum swings I have encounter or learned about regarding church traditions, structures and ideologies, they seem to have the same patterns. One wave or movement often appears to have a direct or indirect effect on the next “generation” or movement. I wouldn’t go as far as saying many of these swings exit doctrinal foundations, and completely miss the heart of Christ (though some do), but I would say these extremes definitely limit the power of the Holy Spirit, or the power of the truth of the Gospel, or both! In recent years we have seen a heavy fascination with “Systematic Theology” and “Apologetics”, that may have done some help in building a fine structure, a box for the holy spirit to be confined to. Is it possible that in our great efforts to be so systematic about God’s word and how to defend it, that we have forsaken (at least to some degree) the loving our neighbor as ourselves? Is it possible that others have not only unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit to emotionally experience Him to the “Fullest” , that we have actually force fed the Spirit some NEW emotions & doctrines to try out on our behalf? Is it possible that we can be so “seeker friendly” & focused on those who we project can one day, hopefully, maybe, someday walk through the doors of our “Church” that we neglect or minimize the reverent approach of corporately worshiping our Lord in Spirit and Truth in it’s entirety? As I have shared previously, I would like to be centered on Christ and His heart, without attempting to fabricate my own agenda or simple human reasoning as to how this is accomplished. My desire is to examine scripture, my own heart, church traditions and ideologies to best bring my God praise and honor. Which may result in the needing to adjust and readjust (scripture excluded).
I will share a quote by a well respected teacher, author, and in my opinion, brilliant thinker in seeking the very core, the heart of God… “One of the Devil’s finest pieces of work is getting people to spend three nights a week in Bible studies…” Wow, if that isn’t the most heretical thing you’ve ever read, I don’t know what is! Or is it??? I happen to agree with the heart of what Eugene Peterson is saying here. First, what he is NOT saying is that there is no value in reading and studying God’s Word, nor is he saying that attending multiple bible studies through the week is the work of the devil. But what Peterson is saying, is that in all the vastness and splendor of what it looks like to walk this Christian Journey, and experience, the very Spirit of God, directing you, leading and guiding you, it has been deceptively reduced. Traditional Western Cultured Christianity has somewhat reduced “Life in the Spirit” to simply studying God’s word, without it being lived out and experienced to the degree that Christ intended it. So yes! I agree with Peterson, that it could very well be a deceptive ploy of the enemy, to so affix ourselves and our time in studying the Word of God and devouring it as an intellectual chocolate cake, that it’s Words never penetrate our heart to the point of “Spirit Living”, thus missing the heart of the Gospel, the heart of Christ.
The movement, or “Conversation” as some have called it, of the “Emerging, Missional Church” is an interesting one. This fairly recent swing in ecclesiological practices (the way church is done) has seemed to spark great concern regarding its doctrinally unstable practices (or at least in perception). I would recommend you do your own research into what this movement is all about, because I will not be able to fully explain in such a short post.
First, there is no Missional Church “statement of faith”, or official website, not is there anything that can be fairly attributed to it’s ideas and goals, other than to say those in the movement are, to say the least, frustrated, dissatisfied, tired of, even angry over the way the “tradition” (typical western church) has failed to reach out to a postmodern culture, has failed to effectively incorporate the Spirit of God and core heart of the Bible when living out the great commission. What you will find, is that the swing from Systematic, Fundamental, Spirit in the Box, way of church life, has moved to one where structure in a Sunday service isn’t the primary focus, where living among the poor and seeking to “love the least of these” is a driving force, all while questioning the limiting factors of what they believe the current “traditional” churches are neglecting. So how are they doing?
I believe and am excited to see the pendulum swing once again to a more centered position in Christ and His Church. I am excited to see the church “emerge” from the intellectual, philosophical, apologetic, bent, and see doctrinal intellect, philosophical reasoning, and apologetical readiness become married with life in the Spirit, Heart and Mind together, Experiencing God and others to the degree that Christ, in his Body (the Church) is functioning as one, living together, building up one another as we carry out the mission of Christ of going out into all the world, making disciples. I am excited to see and hear about communities of believers who have this heart.
But just as one extreme parental (pendulum) swing took it’s course, unfortunately it seems that with the back swing of another, extreme is already at hand, and the heart of the church divinely “emerging” from one generational bent, is resulting in yet the next extreme. The heart of reaching a postmodern, millennial culture, in some cases has moved to becoming a postmodern church where doctrines have been misrepresented, miscommunicated, or outright replaced with eastern mysticism as an effective and approved way to reach the world. The extreme swings have moved from using the biblical theology as a foundation for the church to emerge, and moved to using postmodern philosophy as the “authority” (or lack thereof).
The Emerging, Missional Church movement in my opinion can be similarly contrasted to the Protestant movement in the 16th century in that there was no official “Protestant statement of faith”, nor is there one church that could be pointed to as the poster-child of protestantism. And although there was health being brought about through this Reformation, it also came with it’s extreme swings, where not all movements within protestantism should be understood as healthy. Similarly, I would hate to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater when speaking about the emerging church. And though the pendulum has swung too far for some of these churches, I cannot help but embrace the heart of God’s people seeking to find His core and join Him.
So where do I stand?
I’m having a difficult time aligning myself with the “emerging church” movement, because of much of the controversy surrounding it and it’s current stereotypes (accurate and inaccurate), yet I’m also having a difficult time not expressing excitement for what many emerging churches are accomplishing in bringing health to God’s Kingdom. There’s a “denomination” if you will, within the emerging movement called the “Emergant Church” with its leaders being deemed the forerunners of the movement. Unfortunately, they are the ones embracing false doctrines, and ushering in eastern mysticism. Many of the strongest voices in this movement are moving away from Biblical Christianity. Where once again the enemy has a foothold and is attempting to do his worst in the face of good. Yet there are also many, many others who i believe are more at the core of “emerging” divinely.
I have many more opinions about what is taking place in our church culture, and would be happy to share more if interested.
It’s of the utmost importance to be rooted in grounded in Christ, and never forsake His word as THE Authority.