Monday, December 28, 2009

Emergents (De)constructing Houses

I have stated in the past, and will continue to argue that the emergent church movement (and whatever forms it takes on now) is, well, silly. And by silly, I mean without any real grounding in substantive reflection or biblical work. Most emergent types have a passion to reach a world without Christ, and that is obviously a good thing. But they tend to hitch their stars to orbit-less asteroids. Emergent would rather ask questions and deconstruct than be so intolerant and reactionary as to provide an answer or two to very straight-forward questions or issues.

The latest case in point is a pair of blog posts at Christianity Today’s Out of Ur. The first is by a leading emergent pastor, Dan Kimball, who admits he was wrong in the past about church buildings. He used to think them out of date and a relic of Christendom, and now (surprisingly he now has a healthy church meeting in a building), he sees their value. I’m glad Kimball has leveled off a bit about church buildings – clearly lots of good churches do a lot of good, God-honoring things with buildings.

But we can’t leave it there.

Ken Eastburn, a house church movement leader (one of the latest evolutions of the emergent movement), wrote back. Though Eastburn respects Kimball, he corrects several points Kimball made in favor of house churches. Very heady stuff indeed.

The result? A really silly and totally unnecessary exchange. A mouse masquerading as an elephant. A conversation that has a simple and obvious solution, but which will not reach said solution given the starting points of the emergent mind.

The root problem in this little debate is that a lot of the emergent movement and its off-shoots haven’t bothered to ground themselves theologically or philosophically. By their very DNA, they would rather not. So, as a result, we get tempest in teapots about the relative merits of church buildings and house churches, with each claiming their pitcher’s mound as the high ground.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Hi Phil!

Thought I would leave a response to your post. You mention that the whole emergent/emerging (I use the term emerging as there is a difference) is silly. I guess I would never see it that way, as the birth of it in my experience was about the mission of seeing people who don't know Jesus come to a saving knowledge of Him, repent, trust Him and follow Him. That to me is not silly by any means! That is about human lives in this life and in all eternity and where they stand with God and know Him (or not). So for me, the whole discussion was birthed from this critical mission. It meant rethinking some our practices in the church, as emerging generations were disapearing from churches.

You mention there isn't theological grounding which is odd to hear. Not that seminary degrees "ground" someone, but most of all all had theological degrees and have a grounding in doctrine and Scripture. The whole discussion has been about theology really if you follow it. All our church practices stem from our theology, what we believe about salvation stems from theology and doctrine, the primary arguments and streams that occurred within the whole scene were about theology and doctrine. So even if methods of worship were discussed, it was with a theological grid from which the discussion was coming from.

Our church examines all we do or ever change within it by Scripture. Everything we ever do is through a prayerful and Scriptural lens. So as we may do things different than we used to, we are always asking whether it aligns with Scripture or compromises the gospel message in any way.

Yes, we can have some surface and fun discussions about the house church only folk or those who meet in buildings (like the Out of Ur articles you mentioned). But by no means is that the only thing we have talked about. We are about being on mission as the church for what Jesus commanded us with - and desperate to see the Spirit use us for the gospel in seeing people come to know who Jesus is, eternal life, salvation and then growing and thriving as a disciple of His. That is not "silly" whatsoever, but the most important mission we can be about and the most urgent one which causes great dependance on the Spirit of God and deep theological discussion about issues that come up all the time when you are on mission.

Anyway, wanted to add some comments when I saw the words silly and ungrounded - as those are two things from the experiences I have had which are very far from reality.

Thank you for posting your thoughts and alowing comments on your blog. Hope this helps give another perspective.

Serving on the mission of Jesus with you,