Emerging church as a manifestation of our subcultures weakness

Regular readers and people who know me may have guessed from the last few posts I have been mulling something over re the church thing. Annie has been looking at worship and Conrad makes a great response, outlining a positive wholistic approach to worship/life.

(Conrad in response to Annie) When Paul talks in Romans 12:1 about your whole life being an act of worship, he would be horrified if he thought the Christians were mistaking a life of faith for worship, as horrified as James, who said faith without works is dead, would be if Christians started taking that to mean social action was the same thing as faith.
Conrad goes on too ask
What’s my subculture’s weakness? If you’re in a place where you’re likely to neglect the actions, what the New Testament wants of you is not merely works, but a faith that isn’t lacking works. But if you’re in a place where everything has to be about us or the effects we have or the numbers we win — about what we get out of it or someone else gets out of it, then maybe it’s time to be told that there’s a time for prayer and worship that is about God and him only. The Christians’ true worship is more than this, but it isn’t less.

My initial response (in Annies comments) was around a wondering if there is something more in Conrads comments that stems from a confusion around the kingdom and church. I started arguing in Off the Beaten Track that they are far closer to each other than evangelicalism sees. Our current approach to church and worship is discontinuous with this kingdom perspective of wholeness and shalomness that we should be progressing and to me is what Conrad was on about in his first comment when he was balancing James (deeds) and Corinthians (worship) so brilliantly. I still think that we may need a paradigm jump in our definitions of church rather than the emerging shift that is going on which often seems to focus on style rather than definition, and so in the end may not move us that far forward.

On further reflection I wonder if our subculture’s weakness stems from a commitment to a paradigm of church and worship that is no longer relevant or biblical. We are using an old wineskin, and even our new wine-skins are irrelevant. Theology and culture is moving on, it is time to move onto wine bottles, but this kind of radical shift IS our subcultures weakness. Radical shift is deemed inappropriate or unbiblical, and this is again part of our subcultures weakness; a commitment to evolution rather than revolution. I would argue that Jesus was the embodiment of a radical shift and whilst people may cite philosophers who promote evolution (Marx, Camus) look what an evolutionary approach has done for socialism. Other voices for revolution are needed but take care as Herbert Marcuse wrote: “In every revolution, there seems to have been a historical moment when the struggle against domination might have been victorious…. but the moment passed.� So care is needed in the process but it is one that can see real change.

Years ago I felt we needed a new reformation but couldn’t quite put my finger on what was needed. The more I think about it the more convinced I am that it is our whole conception of church that needs reforming. Our thinking about what is church, and what is kingdom. A reformation of church that is far more about definition than style.

The current emerging model could be stemming from our subcultures weakness (surely it is a model that is more about evolution than revolution) and so will not achieve the shift required. Luther nailed definition to the doors and started a revolution. I value the conversational nature of the emerging church (and imagine something similar was going on in limited form in Luther’s time) and I value the emerging churches non combativeness, I think, the generous orthodoxy, has added much to the process. But we need to see the current emerging church stuff for what it is, a valuable early conversation that is bubbling away, but not a great hope for future change, and without care a possible hindrance to real change. Take heed of Marcuse and lets not allow this moment to pass.

Okay I recognise I have not offered an alternative definition of church, but I am working on it and hope to nail it the door soon.


I have been thinking about what it means if we are to Pray with out ceasing and to live our life as a life of worship, and what implications this has for our construction or paradigm of church? Does it mean our paradigm is way too small?

Do we need to re-frame to “live your life as life of church or church without ceasing?

I have been doing some thinking how/what this could look like but before I discuss this I wanted to do some more thinking hence the above questions so any thoughts appreciated.The Last Days of Disco movie

Hearing from my Inward self

Apologies for the sporadic blogging, June is a mad month for work. It seems that everyone is trying to cram stuff in before the summer. I hate it when I get too busy especially if it means being late.

Yesterday I met an interesting guy from New Zealand a church leader looking at emerging church and stuff as part of a sabbatical. I am finding more and more leaders open to new stuff which is SO encouraging. Less people shouting heretic and more people open change has to be a good thing in my mind. On another matter, one reason for my busyness is that I am sorting a fund raising event for FYT- The Virtual Cycle Ride. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but it will something that everyone can join in, whether your 8 or 80.

FYT have some great projects in the offing, which is great but I must remind myself of the need for balance. So for all you other activists out there, with a mad June or July approaching, here is a word of warning from Henry Thoreau.

“when our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper or been told by a neighbour; and for the most part the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper or been out to tea and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails we go more constantly and desperately to the post office. You may depend on it that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters proud of his extensive correspondence has not heard from himself in a long while.”

The Foot Fist Way psp

Church Calendar

I’m of the thinking that a Church calendar puts ‘rules’ about what happens in church before the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – that it limits our ability to respond to the Holy Spirit’s.

Is this true at Pentecost?

As we are now around the time of Pentecost many of us are hearing the story told at the beginning of Acts. So can being taught about the Holy Spirit get in the way of the intentions of the Holy Spirit???

I’m tempted to think ‘yes it can’!!!

My worship’s better than your worship

Hi, new contributor signing in. Look at my profile if you want to find out who the hell I am! Thought I’d dive straight in to the shallow end and comment on the worship thread. I also struggle with much of what’s described as ‘worship’ in church, for some of the same reasons Richard mentioned (narrow understanding of worship, few of the songs express my understanding of God/Jesus/Good News/Kingdom etc).
I attended an ‘alternative worship’ event last week, run by a bunch of people who have been doing this stuff in Cardiff for years and are really creative and interesting. The evening was engaging, reflective and made a lot of sense to me where I’m currently at, and involved no singing at all. However, the feel was very much each person, in their own space, with their own thoughts. Surely if there is any strength in singing a bunch of songs together in a group it’s that, for once, we are at least (literally) singing from the same song sheet. How do we retain and promote this sense of ‘corporateness’ and lose some of the trash that’s become attached? Historically singing songs together has been an important way in which people experience community and share their common stories and experiences. Is there still a place for music/communal singing in the church community? What is it?

More Best Worship Books Ever

To add to Richard’s excellent post on Worship:

Book Review: True Worship, by Vaughan Roberts
(this book review by Mark Porthouse and first published in Benchmark Magazine)

The path of faith takes each one of us on a journey from (attempted) self reliance into a relationship of trust in our perfect father. During that path we seek to put away our own ideas and give ourselves wholly to God and his (infinitely better) wisdom and knowledge.

‘True Worship’ tackles one area in which much of man’s ‘wisdom’, tradition and habit have taken root in modern Christianity – worship. Vaughan quotes a friend of his, who says ‘To say, “I’m going to church to worship”, is about as silly as saying, “I’m off to bed to breathe for a while”.’ Balance surprising statements like that with his chapter ‘The Purpose of Christian Meetings’ and you have a truly rounded book. Throughout the book Vaughan Roberts confronts us with a series of questions and answers which we cannot fail to take note of.

If you are thinking ‘this book isn’t for me, we have great praise and worship at our church’ then you are definitely the person that Vaughan wrote this book for. If your church has ‘worship leaders’ then I would suggest that you need to get this book in front of your church leaders ASAP (but try and sneak a read of it first!).

I recommend this book (ever so) highly to anyone who, as an individual or a church leader, is looking to move forward in their walk with Christ (I hope that might be everyone who reads this!). The book covers the topic of worship very broadly, not just focussing on the obvious issues . Speaking personally, the key part of the book was the message about what should happen when we (the Church) meet. To implement what Vaughan is suggesting in your own life or in the life of your church won’t be easy as we have accumulated quite a number of odd traditions over the last two thousand years, but once read you will find it hard to live with anything less than ‘True Worship’.

You can get hold of the book here:

and no doubt loads of other places!

More best worship songs ever

I have just seen an advert during Coronation Street for the triple CD Album “More best worship songs ever”. I JUST DON’T GET IT. And I don’t get it from so many angles. I don’t get many worship songs, in fact I turned to my son in a church service today and asked him if he knew what the chorus was on about. “Nope” he replied with a shrug. He may only be 9 but my response as a 34 yr old was “me neither“. I don’t get them at the best of time, let alone advertising a CD of them. I recognise that many people value and find a help from chorus’ but I don’t get the context, rarely understand the point of singing those words in the context they are being used in. I don’t get how they are “worship” songs or a time of worship. I don’t get coming into the presence of God. I don’t get the lack of resonance with current music culture. I don’t get the all too often acoustic guitar thing, that feels like I should don a cowboy hat. I guess my sister who is a country and western freak might line dance to some, but she wouldn’t get them either. I don’t get the consumerism of many songs. I don’t get the lack of community, I don’t get the individualism or the triumphalism. I JUST DON’T GET IT.