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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Conversations on the Church

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I recently had an interesting discussion over burgers with a friend about the church.  Then, we had an email exchange for a bit.  After a month or so has gone by, here's my (minor) analysis:  I thought he was bashing the Emergent and emerging church without fully understanding them, or many of the benefits coming out of these movements.  I supposed I could have taken that as a personal affront, although he certainly never would have meant it that way.  He was concerned with "throwing out the baby with the bathwater."  So I reacted and began defending the challenges to traditional understandings of the church, ministry, and even theology.  I remember reading recently about the controversy on the word missional, with people who "coined" the phrase being frustrated because now the word has been co-opted to mean a type of programmatic ministry, when their challenge was imminently theological and particularly ecclesiological.  (cf. Defining Missional from Leadership Journal)   As I know reflect on our conversation and emails, we were both concerned about similar things, we just placed the emphasis in different places.  For instance, he was asking, "What are the bedrock beliefs we have that we don't want to reconsider?"  His fears - and I think these are ok - are that we are going to rethink theology so much that we mess with central items.  He's asking an important question because some in the Emergent and emerging (and other) camps (I would add consumeristic evangelicals! of which I am one - who are not immune from re-casting theology, the Bible, and Jesus - which I'll get to in some later posts). You know, if you've read this blog or know me well, that I will ask some questions when it comes to this.  The questions are, "What are the central things?"  And "Will asking questions of central things necessarily place those things in jeapordy... or will we learn, clarify, and possibly strengthen our faith in them?"  I will also ask, "Are cultural or philosophical conditions and thought different now than in other times, so that our final answer may be the same, but the way we answer may be different?"  For instance, often when engaging postmoderns we fall quickly to a classic apologetics argument about objective truth and relativism.  Well, the issues are more difficult and more subtle than they were in the early 20th century and require different apologetical answers.  That doesn't mean we don't believe in truth or that we're questioning the foundations, but that we're engaging the questions raised by our world (and sometimes ourselves) honestly.  

So, anyway, back to the conversation.  His question was mostly focused on something like this:  "Are we letting go of things we should hold on to?"  While I was at the same time asking, "Are we holding on to some things we should be letting go of?"  These are not incompatible questions, and both are important.

I'd love to just share with you some of the thoughts that this conversation stimulated and see what your response might be.  I will share only my thoughts at this time so as not to unintentionaly misrepresent my good friend.


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