Friday, February 13, 2009

Random personal tidbits...

First. I just got a new Blackberry, and I love it! I think the lesson for me is that I am not a super early adapter (the last few phones i have gotten have been 'the latest thing' and I've been unhappy with them). When it comes to technology, give me the thing that's been out for a couple of years, has got all its kinks worked out, and the best version has risen to the top. Like the blackberry. :) Oh, if any blackberry user out there has advice for me on how to get the most out of it, I'd love to hear it.

Second. The family and I are going to Phoenix to spend the week (two Sundays!) with my folks. This will be the first (and second) Sundays I've had off (not counting the Sundays spent in the hospital) since we planted CPCP August of 2006.

Third. A friend of mine just had a baby and these are the cutest pictures ever!

Fourth. I need a new XBox 360 game to play when I get home. Any suggestions?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Third “mark” of an Emerging Church: Community based theology and ecclesiology

Saying that authentic community is important to the Emerging Church doesn't distinguish it from other churches. Most churches have “building authentic community” as one of their missions or goals. You can see this in the time and energy spent on small group ministries or Sunday School. I will leave analysis the effectiveness of those two models for another time. Because what I believe is different about the Emerging Church is that this community focus must make its way both in the way we do theology and the way we structure our churches (ecclesiology).

“Will the generation that created Wikipedia be content with a traditional top down church hierarchical structure?” (Hat tip to Mike S.).

This question has helped to shape my thinking on this subject, because if the answer is no, and I believe, for most of us, it is, then that has serious consequences on how we form our communities. It doesn’t mean there is no leader (Wikipedia still has a CEO) but that the leader’s role in the community is different than it has been in the past. More facilitator and less boss, more coach, and less charismatic leader, more friend, and a little less priest.

And it means that we must create opportunities for our Christian communities to be shaped and led by everyone in the community who shows up. Not just the pastor, or staff, or leadership team, or the longest standing members, or the biggest givers, or whatever. All those people have roles to pay, but so does everyone who calls the church home.

But its more than structural, it’s theological also. I believe that the spirit is just as likely (if not decidedly more likely) to speak truth to the community then it is to speak truth to me. I believe the spirit is just as likely to give us guidance through the community as it is to give guidance to me. And believing that has consequences on how we do church as well. A simple example in my community is that after almost every sermon there is a time for discussion, for questions, for thoughts, for places where someone might disagree with me, etc. it’s a small thing but it seems to have a big affect on people.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


This is a test of Microsoft Word's blog creation software.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Second “mark” of an Emerging Church: Experimental theology and worship

For a church to be an Emerging Church in my mind in needs to be at least exploring new ways of communicating with, and about, God.

By new ways of communicating with God, I am referring primarily to things that might happen on a Sunday (or whenever the community gathers together for “worship”). This includes all the things you might normally think of when you think of an Emerging Church: stations, labyrinths, body prayer, discussion based sermons, etc.

Probably the best known and most interesting examples of this are Grace church in the UK with Johnny Baker and Icon in Dublin with Pete Rollins. But other churches are doing more humble things that I think are just as invigorating (e.g. The Common Table in Vienna VA, and my own community, CPCP in College Park, MD).

Ultimately, however, I think that experimental ways of communicating with God are hollow if they don’t allow for and encourage new ways of talking about God. This is one of the reasons why I think starting an “Emerging Service” within an established congregation can be so difficult – they often don’t have the stomach for new thoughts about God.

So let me just list some of the ideas about God (and broader theological issues) that I see being put on the table and rethunk in various Emerging Churches:

• Foundationalist understanding of truth
• Biblical inerrancy
• Predestination
• Original sin
• Eternal damnation
• Penal substitutionary atonement
• Homosexuality as sin
• God’s nature as being omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent
• And more…

Now, of course, I’m not saying that to be an Emerging Church a community must tackle all of these, and I certainly don’t think that to be an Emerging Church you have to come to the same conclusion on all (or any) of these. In fact a community might consider one of these things and decide that they still think the way they have always thunk is right, hopefully coming to a deeper and more nuanced opinion on the matter in the process. All I am saying is that I think for a church to be truly an “Emerging Church” it needs to be able to have an open conversation about things like the issues represented here, and if questioning any of these undermines your faith in the living God, well then I wouldn’t suggest seeking out an Emerging Church to worship in.

On the other, I don’t believe, as some might argue, that everything is up in the air in Emerging Churches. There are traditional theological ideas that I don’t see being questioned, but actually embraced whole heartedly as the real “stuff” of Christianity, and the way forward. Examples would include:

• The Trinity
• Incarnation
• Resurrection
• And more…

I would love to hear what others would add (or remove) to either of these lists.