Derek Elkins offers some critiques of emerging churches:

It seems that the principal that most defines the postmodern religious experience happens to be the one the Church is most threatened by: pluralism. In an effort to keep things cut and dry, black and white, the Church has laid out it’s own “12-step” program for Christian faith and experience of God. When I compare the beliefs of an emergent church with those of a traditional congregation, there’s virtually no difference…

…For the emergent church to truly emerge, the people inside the Church, like you and me, are going to have to figure some things out too. We can add flash to our websites, we can cover every song Chris Tomlin can write. We can light every candle in the world and dig up every ancient prayer ever written, but if we don’t change our hearts and our minds, if we don’t change our faith and our theology, then the people waiting for the emergent church to emerge will continue to look right through us.

No surprises that I agree with this guy for those who know me well. Yes, yes, he’s stereotyping a bit. But while there are voices within the emerging church movement that are tackling the pluralism issue, they are still way too few and far between. Unfortunately, missional and emergent are still far from synonymous.

Pluralism can’t be addressed from within the deconstructing monoculture.

Fact is, I recon we need a submerging church more than an emerging church.

7 thoughts on “Beyond liturgical rediscovery

  1. Submerging Church

    I enjoy reading Eclectic Itchings because Matt keeps asking some very good questions. His latest ones on emerging being about more than just liturgical rediscovery got me thinking. In particular this line stood out,
    we need a submerging chur…

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  2. “We can light every candle in the world and dig up every ancient prayer ever written, but if we don’t change our hearts and our minds, if we don’t change our faith and our theology, then the people waiting for the emergent church to emerge will continue to look right through us.” What does this mean? I am especially concerned about the call to “change our faith and our theology.” I sympathize with the emergent church movement, but at what point do we stop and realize we’ve created a consumer driven faith? There are easily digestable tenets to Christianity and there are some that are tough to swallow, but what makes following Jesus worth following is that it’s real, and part of being real is that it has both of these qualities.
    Can anyone clarify how changing our faith and theology to accomodate one’s wishes is profitable to anyone?

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  3. “There are easily digestable tenets to Christianity and there are some that are tough to swallow, but what makes following Jesus worth following is that it’s real, and part of being real is that it has both of these qualities”
    Is the church actually following Jesus, yes they say Jesus is their saviour and they follow him. But Jesus taught not to judge, not to kill for the cause of converting, heck he even said praying in public will get you more favours in the eyes of men than it will in heaven. I have seen the Church do all of these, saying it’s in the name of Jesus, even though Jesus told them not to, how is that following Jesus?
    As for the Bible, even considering it may have been inspired by God, it was written by man. I think many Christians forget this and think that God just wrote it himself. Those names that title the Books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, those are names of men who viewed the inspiring life of Jesus from different points of view. It is safe to say with the changing of time, culture, and even politics the points of view from the many authors of the Bible changed. They wrote what was right in their time. Maybe instead of continuing to live in the mentality of their time, it is better to move into our time.

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  4. Mark,
    All theology is culturally contextual to one degree or another. Just as langauge needs to be recontextualised when communicating between cultures, so must our theology be, if the spirit of the gospel is to be maintained across the cultural gap.
    The change being advocated here is not arbitary, to suit ones wishes, but critically contextual. This is a well established approach in overseas mission, the only innovation being the arguement that it should now be practiced at home too, given the erosion of overseas/local cultural distinctions.
    The profit is that people may understand the gospel.

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  5. Matt, I agree that the emerging church is not necessarily synonymous with missional church concepts. I don’t think this distinction is always recognized by the emerging church. While I appreciate their efforts at rethinking the faith in light of the encounter with post-modernism, and their efforts at cultural relevancy, this does not always equate with missional church, and this is why I concentrate my efforts at mission to emerging spiritualities within the broader context of missional church in the Western world. However, I do have a greater appreciation for the emerging church as incorporating an experiment in missional ecclesiology in light of the book Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger (Baker Academic, 2006). My hope is that missiologists and missional church advocates can dialogue in greater ways with emerging church leaders to clarify the issues and to encourage the emerging church to move beyond epistemology, ecclesiology, and reaction against Modernist evangelicalism to embrace a deep missiology (with a nod to Philip Johnson).

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  6. Matt,
    I couldn’t agree with you more in stating the need for a contextual understanding of Scripture. Unless we understand 1st century Mediteranean and Jewish culture, as well as the specific situations to which Scripture is addressed, we will not understand it. Therefore, I understand the need to change language as times change because language changes.
    This is extremely evident in political terms like “liberal” and “conservative”, but also in ordinary words like “dude” and “good.” What I did not agree with was the call to “change our faith and our theology.” At times, the words we use to express our faith and theology must be reconsidered, but our actual faith remains the same because I believe it transcends language.
    If this was not the case, I wouldn’t be worshipping the same Jesus that Christians in 700 AD worshipped. Fortunately, God has blessed us with minds and the ability to understand context. Thus we can understand the essentials of the faith, convey it in modern language, and participate in the same faith as those who’ve gone before us.
    It seems we are saying something very similar, and maybe by “changing our faith and theology” you meant “changing the words we use to communicate our faith and theology”?

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  7. That was what I understood Derek to be meaning. Goes deeper than words alone though. Symbols and story structures and the very questions we are asking come into it too. In shifting into post-literate contexts we also have to reconsider enlightenment emphasis on the written word. For faith to stay the same it must change 🙂

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