Rethinking Church, A Perspective on the Emergent Church
I heard Phyllis Tickle speak at a Preaching Conference at Luther Seminary three years ago and then I read her book The Great Emergence. Dr. David Lose first put me on the understanding of the dynamics of the transformations facing our society and thus also the church, and since then I have been dabbling in reading about the emergent church.
When I heard Phyllis talk about how she got into studying this phenomenon - the mainline publishers were trying to find out why there was such an explosion of books on spirituality back in the 70's, I realized that the kind of books she was talking about were the ones that I read in high school and college. I realized that I was part of the movement and not even realizing it.
I have had a variety of influences from various faith traditions, charismatic and Pentecostalism, American evangelicalism, Methodism, and, most recently, the Jesuit spirituality of St. Ignatius. I have been privileged to experience the strengths and weaknesses of each of these from the perspective of Lutheran theology. I remain committed to the core of Lutheran theology with its emphasis:
- upon the cross of Jesus being the means by which God works in the world;
- that we are called to a cross shaped life--dying to sin, self, and evil;
- that the resurrection of Jesus is the power that brings life to us now and on into eternity,
- that the Scriptures are the Word of God that makes Jesus the Son of God known to us,
- that God loves us with an overwhelming love,
- that grace is the absolute character of God and God's action towards us,
- that faith and not works is our response,
- that what you believe matters,
- that all of us are called by God to serve God with the gifts and abilities God has given to us,
- that belief in Jesus comes as a work of the Holy Spirit in our individual and corporate lives,
- that the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist are means by which God connects with us in our daily lives, and
- that a life of service lived in response to the Gospel is God's design for us.
Out of the other traditions I have come to understand
- the importance of relying upon the Holy Spirit in the midst of our daily lives for guidance and wisdom and for the power, peace, and presence of God.
- the creation manifests God,
- that care for creation is part of the highest call for humanity,
- that life is sacred,
- that war is not of God,
- that we are called to peacemaking in all its forms,
- that prayers of silence, solitude, and presence are absolutely essential in this loud busy world, and
- that learning to simply be in the presence of God is the mark of a life centered in God.
As regards to the world I have become convinced that:
- we are indeed at a pivotal moment in history where change—and the acceleration of change—is creating a world that a hundred years from now will be so radically different that we have no idea now what it will look like,
- that NO ONE knows the future,
- that scientific and technological changes in the world are both creating a world that is better and healthier for more people than ever before,
- but those same changes are coming at the expense of spirituality so that folks are looking to understand these changes withmore than scientific conclusions,
- that the globalization of the world is creating access to information never seen before and those providing more folks with the means to transform their lives,
- that the globalization of the world, especially through global corporations, is causing a great divide between those who have wealth and those who do not,
- that the young people are not willing for this trend to continue,
- that the forces of greed that cause dehumanization are also the forces that create violence and murder,
- that the church that preaches a vengeful, angry god is simply not acceptable,
- that a church which cares more about caring for its own than caring for the world will die,
- that the church in the places in the world where violence and poverty are the greatest has the most to say to us,
- that the church which will not wrestle with the issues of the day will become radicalized,
- that God uses the church despite its flaws,
- that the church of tomorrow will look nothing like today, and
- that, since we do not know what the church of tomorrow will be, now is the time to experiment and fail and try and try again until we find what works.
These are just some of the reflections that I am having as I discern what is happening in our world and what God is doing in the world.
What do you see?