Emerging Churches: Identifying with Jesus

I am beginning to see why I feel ‘at home’ with the Emergent Church movement. Bolger and Gibbs describe the centrality of Jesus to the entire project. The focus is on imitating Christ rather than simply “accepting” Christ. Because of this emphasis, the missio Dei calls emergent-minded folks to go into mission rather than seeing mission as getting folks to come to us. I really appreciate the witness of those who are in the UK pub and rave scene seeking to model Jesus in reaching out to the least, the last, and the lost. In my setting, I wonder how this applies. Perhaps it happens when I go and have a good time with my family at the local football and basketball games. Could being a joyful Christian in public be part of the missio Dei? I think so.

I still wonder how we could take worship and gathering to the unchurched. Like most modern churches, the majority of folks we reach are the ‘formerly churched.’ Where would rural/small town churches meet to reach the totally unchurched? We don’t have bookstores or coffee houses. Is it the local restaurant? Maybe, but there’s not much connection going on there. Is it sponsoring discussion groups? Maybe, but I don’t know where. I really think this is a key area that needs some serious thought for the majority of pastors in rural/small town settings.

I like Dieter Zander’s comment about what most folks understand as ‘being Christian.’

* give a little
* do a little
* pay membership dues
* get a “going to heaven” ticket (through accepting the gospel)

He really hits the nail on the head. Zander continues, “[for come church people] Populating heaven is the main part of the gospel. Instead, the gospel is about being increasingly alive to God in the world. It is concerned with bringing heaven to earth. This really throws people off (p. 55).” He goes on to say that the ‘four spiritual laws’ are not good news – the call to participate in God’s goodness is truly good news (p. 56).

Bolger and Gibbs conclude, “The kingdom, or the reign of God, is about our life here and now, and it is concerned not just with individual needs and aspirations but also with the well-being and mission of the community of Christ’s representatives…The gospel of emerging churches is not confined to personal salvation. It is social transformation arising from the presence and permeation of the reign of Christ (p. 63).” I really feel like this is a Wesleyan distinctive. To me, the emergent movement fits well with Methodist values and emphases. The question is, however, does it fit with United Methodist ecclesiology? I wonder.

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