The emerging church as missionaries to the mainstream church

TSK posted a link

The Saint psp

a good and well worked challenge to the hearers.

The experimentation and practice of the emerging church is cool and will go so far, but in terms of influencing mainstream church, if we are serious about reformation then we may need to adopt missionary principles in reverse.

Take communication for example, The question of how we communicate to established church is as important as what we communicate. In the same way as choosing the language we use within our culture at times we need to choose the language of the church. If that means preaching in a style that they be familiar with and changing the medium as you speak (bringing them with you) so be it.

The anarchist in me doesn’t like it, the pragmatist approves, but holding two together is one of the most important pieces of advice I was taught at college “learn the rules of the game and learn how to break the rules without people realising you’re doing so”.

All of which brings me back to the need for an authentic theologically grounded redefinition of church. So we need people to step up and start working this stuff through in a way that will be heard.


In response to info on DO-BE-DO at the moment it is just shorthand as a way of putting into action this chaotic but intentional way of living within a redefined paradigm of church.

It is little more than a framework encouraging action (DO) – reflection (BE) – action (DO), so there is no long explanation, or place to look at it.

One element of DO-BE-DO stems from some of my observations that many of the emerging church groups seem to locate the church element, in the process of coming together to plan a service or event that may take place monthly or a few times a year. This can reinforce the old paradigm of church as an event at a particular time, and yet for many it is the community that evolves through the planning process that is key. People bring their ideas and concerns to the planning process and a theme develops then an event is put on; the community that evolves is a positive by-product. I would suggest that within DO-BE-DO the worship event should be just one of the things the group does, and if people can bring the whole of their interest to the group then the collapse between church and the whole of life may begin. For example I know that within Grace, Jonny (Baker) has an interest in ad busting (sorry to pick on you Jonny), could the group come together to explore this and undertake some adbusts together (maybe they have) as part of their activity? Within my redefinition (see manifesto), this kind of activity would be encompassed within church.

I would love to hear from any of the emerging groups, if any of this resonates with you, and if you have had shared experiences outside of the worship planning process where you have questioned if it was church.

A second element of DO-BE-DO would incorporate the kind of issue Rivertribemike faces and raised in the comments when TSK posted the manifesto.

This is primarily where the intentionality element comes in, being in a group that sees the whole of life as church and so carries this mindset into all they do. The group can either participate with Mike in the birthday celebrations and then help him reflect on how he can grow through the experiences, or by Mike bringing his experiences from the celebration to the group in order to reflect and grow. His comments already show that he was thinking about how God connects with his birthday and who knows how bringing others into the reflection process (either in advance of the day or after) may change him and others involved.

Any thoughts on where to next also appreciated?

10 Steps towards a redefinition of church

Thanks for the comments and feedback here and on other blogs on the past three posts around “Emerging church a manifestation of our sub cultural weakness”. I thought I would try and bullet point a few of the key issues and where we have got to so far incorporating the discussions we have had along the way.

A Manifesto Calling for a New Way of Being and Defining Church.

1. The first reformation gave the bible back to the people and we need to give church back to the people (not just christian people).

2. This will take a redefinition of church NOT just a change in style.

3. The churches sub cultural weakness is a leaning towards evolution over revolution, hence style over definition.

4. Theologically there are many examples of revolutionary steps or leaps in thinking, eg Peters vision, Jesus new covenant and so redefinition is plausible.

5. Any redefinition that is put forward needs to collapse the old ways of being that distinguish between church/worship/prayer and the whole of life, BUT hold the tension that whole of life may not be church. (which is where intentionality comes in)

6. The redefinition we are offering of Church in the post- Christendom west is a way of being and living that is a series of chaotic but intentional encounters with God, one another, and the world, founded on the holistic teaching of Christ, and encompassing the whole of life.

7. This encompasses the critical outcome of the imagery of church used in the bible, this being that all the bibles images of church include “attitude and course of action”.

8. This whole of life process is not about walls, rules or fences but about wells, mutuality and redemptive processes.

9. The theological processes and reflections offered so far are consistent with the biblical tradition and can be seen to offer an authentic and consistent redefinition of church.

10. DO-BE-DO, offers one practical way of putting this redefinition into action.

Emerging church as a manifestation of our subcultures weakness PART 3 – A way forward

Please note this is a work in process and an offering but will be developing as I think more and get feedback, but first a bit more background to set the context.

Dulles identifies several models/aspects that are present in church, community, herald, servant, institution, sacrament, disciples, but as I pointed out in Off the Beaten Track, Dulles talks about church being a union with the divine, not fully intelligible to human minds “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.� This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the Church.’(Eph 5 vs 31-32). Dulles suggests that this concept of mystery is closely linked to the mystery of Christ which is why the bible uses imagery when describing church, therefore it may be easier to define what the church is not (which we have discussed in earlier posts). He goes onto to say that images can suggest “attitude and a course of action� .

Therefore I would suggest that the attitude should one that redefined the theology of church as whole of the life balanced with the course of action that is about the process of chaotic and intentional being. (for more on the anarchistic God check out Gen 28 10-22, Exodus 3 or 2 Sam 7)

In my minds eye I see a group of people (some of whom are committed to exploring chaotic but intentional encounters with God, one another, and the world) coming together to engage in a process being together, doing together, reflecting together, doing together and so on. Each person regardless of age, status in the group or ability, suggests activities that the group engage with and so the process starts. Different people will bring their different passions and interests to the group, and as they engage together in this breadth of activities, and bring the breadth of their lives to the group, together they will start being church with the whole of our life.

The core group would have an understanding that this chaotic but intentional encounters was church AND that the encounters of life (when the group is not together) are part of or add to the shared chaotic experiences. It would be group facilitated rather than led. Implicit within this is the notion of process, recognising that we find God in the seeking and the ongoing nature of process. When Jesus says seek and you will find, doesn’t necessarily mean that you fill the God shaped whole in your life but that as the mystics would say any God we know cannot be god as God is always bigger etc, we are human becomings as Pip Wilson would say.

This approach would allow for a variety of things to be done, if I look at in my context with just one other family involved at the start, I could see people suggesting, going on a demo, eating together, visiting the local organic fair, colouring, computer games, the FaSt game, a party, an alternative worship event. All of which would be discussed and reflected on together, and create a sense of growing openness and a greater outwardness. It would change the way we approach childrens work as they could suggest stuff as equal members and their thoughts and opinions equally valued and acted on.

I know there is lots of tweaking needed and issues with this kind of openness, but a story from my friend Soren helps that came from conversation with a farmer in the Australian outback. When farming over such a vast area, Soren wondered how could they control the animals, maintaining the fences must take forever. The farmers response was “we don’t have fences we just have wells�. This redefining of church gives space for loosing the rules and regulations of what is or isn’t church and all the rules attached and replaces it with an open attitude that allows people to journey towards becoming more fully human whist the intentionally chaotic actions and activities add to the process acting as the wells that draw people together and to the source.

The key is a mindset change on what is church and then finding ways to act on this in life. I have offered one possible outlook, that is by no means whole, and for many will be in part what they are doing already and are drawn towards, but I think when the definition of church is changed/explored it becomes a liberating and validating process.

Emerging church as a manifestation of our subcultures weakness PART 2

Often interpreted as a place of shelter and support for birds, the mustard seed of Jesus has indeed grown into a huge tree, but the birds are scavengers that have taken the seed of the word from the world, and are now a great evil harbouring in the branches of the church, that over time has corrupted it. The seed of the word has been genetically modified and what has been re-sown into the world is only a shadow of it’s former self.

A sweeping statement, and I know there are good and bad, but I wanted to start with this alternative interpretation of the Mustard seed, as I seek to re frame church in order to highlight and recognise the need for change.

Over time the corruption has led to a multi-faceted dualism, that splits worship between lifestyle or an activity, sees church as activity rather than a community, changed the inclusive kingdom of Jesus to an exclusive club, and reduced prayer to a time rather than a constant. So how do we progress if as in the last post, radical change is seen as inappropriate, and evolution is part of this trees sub cultural weakness. (Read yesterday’s post to see how this fits)

One thing we can take from the emerging church is the willingness to experiment, but we need to experiment from a different starting point. One that is different to the multi-faceted dualism, but which starts with defining Church in the light of the whole of the word, rather than one that focuses on style or a single activity. An emerging church that does not address mission, or is about a group of people coming together to worship in ways that they can relate to stemming from their cultural experience, cannot be church. Whilst I acknowledge the emerging churches would hope to develop a more holistic approach (and many have), there is still much to do.

We need to reconnect church with a life of worship (thus redeeming worship), reconnect church with prayer that never ceases (redeeming prayer) and by doing so to reconnect church with the life of faith and church the whole of our life.

Therefore a new definition of Church in the post- Christendom west that I would suggest is a way of being and living that is a series of chaotic but intentional encounters with God, one another, and the world, founded on the holistic teaching of Christ.

We need a community led approach to church that is inclusive of outsiders, and exhibits this chaotic but intentional way of being. I would advocate a valuing and engagement of all that each member of community brings, regardless of whether it is deemed as secular or sacred because through the redemptive process of reflection (see Outside In part 2) even that which seemed wrong or difficult can add to help us understand God, connect with one another and engage the world.

I will post what I think this can/may look like in practice tomorrow.

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.

Blog the whole

There has been quite a bit of discussion in blog-land on the Spirituality of blogging much of which was sparked off by TSK stuff from Greenbelt . Phil has looked at the holistic blogging. At the moment I have been thinking a lot about the old Christians mystics who would pray to rid themselves of the god they knew, for any god they knew could not be God as He is so much more (apologies for my crap paraphrase of an ancient spiritual truth). As I think of the mess of life and what it is to blog the whole, I was sparked by Frederick’s about the death of his father, to rethink the place I have come to in relation to my fathers death. My hope is that this blog is about blogging holistically but a kind of holisticism that moves me (and maybe others) on, to discover more of God and to loose sight of the god I know. So THANK-YOU to those who share the journey.

Part of the journey for me at the moment are the questions I posed here. Thanks Annie and Charlotte for the thoughts, more comments welcome

The Star Wars Fallacy

As we all know, the Star Wars epic is a story of a battle of good against evil, where the evil empire uses fatal force to ensure it’s dominance against the good rebel alliance who also use fatal force against the enemy to ensure their dominance.

Unfortunately for us, we are taken in by this idea that good can defeat evil using hate – the tool of evil – but we find it hard to accept that the tool of good is love, and that the only hope of defeating evil is with love. Jesus set an example of love and perhaps the hardest commandment was to ‘love your enemy’, which seems to entailing doing the same stuff to your enemies as you do to your friends!

For some reason we find it easier to accept the violence fallacy as being the ultimate power rather than the supremacy of the truth of love! Let’s not be fooled by the myths and legends of our culture, which present the idea that violence is the ultimate arbiter. Let’s accept Christ’s example on the cross and incorporate his message fully into our lives as we are changed by his love for us.

To lose someone close

Sorry, but it was a while since i posted.

The summer has been quite turbulent for me. My father died in the middle of June. First I reacted very strongly – but then it has been quite okey. But now the last couple of weeks the lost of my father has come over me again – in another way. I really miss our conversations and his presence.
My father was just 61 years old – its not that old I think. He had a lot of friends and I come to realize that he was appreciated of many in the town were he lived. One of the question after the funeral was – who gonna be standing at my grave and say that my life meant something for them – will it just be the same kind of people as I am or will it be – as in my fathers case – people who he gave dignity because of the way he treated them. My father always took the poor and disadvantage side.

I often understand my life through the texts of U2 so also in this case. In the lyrics of “You can’t always make it on your own” (a text which doesn’t explain the our relationship very well in every aspect) there is a passage which is something like – “can you here me when I sing – cause your the reason that I sing.” I came to understand due to these lyrics that I will miss that my father was proud of what I did. My be it sounds ridiculous – but it is the way it is. I am an academic, he wasn’t but he was proud over what I accomplished and tried to understand the paper I wrote. His life was more down to earth – and I hope I will learn from that.

Peace – “the swede”!

Travellers (and the) Rest

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1)… and gave it to oil barons, multinational mining corporations and property tycoons. No, seriously, it was not God’s intention that a powerful minority would control access to the earth’s natural resources – land and its natural deposits being the most obvious.

One example of sharing the land is that of nomadic tribes who do not recognise private ownership of land but see it as the inheritance of their society to be shared fairly. Another alternative pattern was laid out in the laws of Jubilee in the Old Testament (Lev. 25:10) where land was to return to the original family every fifty years.

We see today that it is the landless who are least able to lift themselves out of poverty. To merely exist they have to pay those who own the land. To work they have to use someone else’s land, either paying them rent or working for that other person on that other person’s land. I cannot imagine that many of you, the readers, have not had to pay someone (usually over a long period of time) for the land you live on. It is also likely that you work on either someone else’s land or land that you have paid for.

For some of us an inheritance in middle age is as close as we come to getting on a level playing field; a point in time where we can stop paying others for the privilege of merely existing.

Travellers are a continuation of the nomadic way of life and set of values, where access to land is a societal right. Those of us who participate in the system of property ownership (whether we are paying rent, paying off a mortgage or own our ‘patch’) find it easy to resent those who have managed to have access to land without paying for it. Perhaps we should question the nature of our land ownership and think about what we are doing to our children who find themselves landless and having to exchange their labour for someone else’s land.