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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: conversion

Emergent Converts

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I've found the conversation around mega-churches and emergent churches lately quit fascinating. (cf. Fitch's first post, and his redux post] I've heard many people for awhile saying, "the fruit just isn't there with the Emergent Churches."  By fruit, this usually means converts.  So, when David Fitch went after Mark Driscoll and talked about this issue, I found it quit interesting.  Being someone emergent at heart and history (and in some ways theologically, but not others) but also being currently a pastor at a mega-church (where I sometimes fit in, and other times feel like an odd-ball) these conversations are quite intriguing.  I'm particularly interested in numbers 4 and 5 of the 5 points Fitch makes, which I've listed below - this from the Out of UR Blog:  

4. Having said all this, I think that the missional communities that do persist probably have a higher conversion rate than the Driscollesque mega churches. Missional churches are much smaller, so 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church. I think it would be interesting to measure how many dollars per conversion are spent in missional churches versus mega churches. It makes me smile knowing missional churches are probably more cost effective when it comes to conversions because we resist spending money on buildings, programs, and “the show.”

5. We must recognize that "missionary conversions" take longer than megachurch conversions. The conversion of a post-Christendom "pagan," who has had little to no exposure to the language and story of Christ in Scripture, may require five years of relational immersion before a decision would even make sense. If you do not have this immersion/context, any decision that is made is prone to be little more than a consumerist decision—it is made based on the perceived immediate benefit. It lasts as long as this perceived benefit remains important. It does not lead to discipleship.

So a true missionary conversion, which I believe missional churches are after, takes a much longer period of time than the kind of conversions most often generated through a megachurch. The megachurch is largely appealing to people who grew up in old forms of church and know the Story but quit going to church many years ago. These "unchurched people" require the old messages to be made more relevant. They need to be "revived" or called back into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. There's nothing wrong with that, but we should recognize there are fewer and fewer of these kinds of people left.

These are some arguments that I myself have made in the past.  Knowing, realistically two things: 1) how inefficient mega-churches really are in reaching the lost per dollar spent and 2) how really unconcerned most members of these churches are to reach anyone.  Emerging churches are still too young to measure long term fruit and effectiveness, but it will be interesting to see the longer term effects of churches that spend less money, focus more on community, tend to care more about "holistic transformation", and are committed to individual people over programs.  The percentages of transformed lives to Jesus Lordship and Kingdom per capita and per dollar (though even talking about it that way seems, somehow, wrong) would be very intriguing to see.  So... someone do the study already.

 


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How Deconstruction and Postmodern Philosophy Saved My Faith

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I know that sounds strange to many of you when you hear it coming from the perspective of a Christian Pastor.  However, I think in some ways it’s true.  I actually could’ve written, “My Conversion, Thanks to Deconstructionism”.  I’ve been playing around with an article on this topic, but just haven’t gotten to really writing it, yet.  However, I’ve gotten a little start.  So, I thought I’d drop a little of it here. Let me just begin by saying that in the evangelical church in general, deconstructionism is pretty much a bad word.  It smacks of relativism, the loss of truth, and a philosophy that pushes against the God of the Bible.  That may be descriptively true of some versions of deconstruction and of the potential of some forms, but it certainly was not true in my case.  In fact, this is why this post is written with this particular title.  A couple things are important in relationship to this issue for me:

  1. Deconstructionism (and some other philosophy that could be considered related or prefiguring deconstructionism) really did help create a faith crisis for me back in about 1991.  In fact, it helped me to walk away from the faith I learned as a child.
  2. Deconstructionism helped me to see the world in a whole different light.  It “stripped the emperor,” if you will, on so many “faiths” that people put their trust and hope in – including my own.  This combined with the push on diversity in college campuses in the early 90’s was palpable.  My introduction to postmodern philosophy at this time opened my eyes to the many “framing stories” that people were living from, and caused me to seriously question the possibility of a grand narrative tying them all together.  At that point, I seriously questioned any viability of “one God” or “one reality.”
  3. Deconstruction for me was followed by an encounter with the living Christ.  This encounter was, of course, on a personal level, within my own cultural setting, and in the language I could understand.  Christ also spoke very directly to me in that conversion experience about the issue of diversity and pluralism, and spoke through it in a way that I found deeply troubling and beautiful all at the same time.
  4. My conversion through deconstruction, my immersion in postmodern philosophy, and my reintroduction to Christ created in me a deep passion that was deeply evangelical and yet still, interestingly, postmodern.

Ok, for many of you that sounds like a serious contradiction.  And here’s the trouble.  Since 1993 when I both came to know Christ and inhaled much postmodern philosophy, I began to develop an understanding of faith in Jesus Christ that I felt was still evangelical, still deeply committed to One God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), still committed to issues of truth, and yet I still considered myself both postmodern and in some ways, a deconstructionist.  And yet, I sensed no necessary contradiction.  In fact, in my own mind, I was able to work out an understanding of my Christian faith that was still biblical, faithful, evangelical, and still in many ways postmodern.  But what I heard from so many Christians was that this wasn’t possible, that postmodernity inevitably lead to relativism and the loss of truth, and that deconstructionists were truth haters undermining the faith.  I just didn’t see it that way.  But I felt quite alone.  It's one of the reasons that I've often felt like I didn't "fit".

Times have changed.  I’m 35 now (still not very old, or wise for that matter), and I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin.  I have had some unbelievable breakthroughs in understanding more clearly how and why I was not so uncomfortable with postmodern philosophy or deconstruction even as a deeply committed evangelical Christian.  I’m not afraid of the labels anymore… partly because many of the people who like to put labels on a) don’t understand what we’re talking about and are only derivatively dismissive out of fear or some other external driving force or b) won’t take the time to listen what I (and/ or others) really think.  So, if you’re tempted after this post to label me, be slow to label until you listen a bit more.


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