Emerging church as a manifestation of our subcultures weakness PART 2 | home | 10 Steps towards a redefinition of church

September 9, 2005

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. http://www.sundaypapers.org.uk/?p=167

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.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Church,Emerging,Theology @ 2:43 pm

10 comments

  • At 4:38 pm on September 9, 2005, frewen commented:

    I think you do some really interesting reflections. But what I miss (my be you said something about it earlier…) is some kind of commitment to each other. We don’t happen to pop in at just some well (to use your picture) I have committed me to a particular well. And it is around that particular well all you mention happens. And I think church is just that time and process of reflection about what the church should and will practice.

  • At 5:06 pm on September 9, 2005, alexander commented:

    again, i see much of what you lay out has been happening in our own context. tho because the Holy Spirit orchestrates most of it there is a forward/progressive/journeying dynamic in our group life. but yes most of it appears chaotic most of the time! ‘group facilitated rather than led’ has certainly been the case. encouraging.

  • At 4:18 pm on September 10, 2005, tk commented:

    I love the picture you paint with the sentences below.
    ” 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. ”

    In my opinion, one of the major weaknesses of the church is its lack of breadth and lack of “different” and lack of “varying people” of “varying ages” making suggestions of what and where to do things.

    On this side of the pond, another weakness I see in the church and its attenders is its inability to see beyond Sunday morning.

    “…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.”
    I feel like I need to spend much more time turning this phrase over in my mind, and sharing it with others and figuring out what it might look like in our context. Then may be get beyond ourselves and Sunday mornings.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • At 10:20 pm on September 10, 2005, Richard Passmore commented:

    Hi TK let me know how you get on. One thing I am wondering is how often people bring their own ideas of stuff to do to a group (say for example adbusting) and then the group get on board and do some adbusting but fail to see the fullness of the connection that it was church ( i’d be interested to hear your reflections). I think this could happen quite a lot but because the definition has not been challenged for so long we miss out. (this is the churches subcultural weakness)

  • At 1:36 pm on September 13, 2005, tk commented:

    I couldn’t agree more. Church has been reduced to a specific place and time. From my experiences here in New England, if church isn’t on Sunday mornings in a white clapboard building with a steeple, it’s not really church.

    Over the summer our high school and college students get together to play ultimate frisbee. This past summer I saw church happen on that field on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, if you were to ask those students if they recognized what they had just done as church the answer would be a resounding “no!”
    The frustrating thing is I have no idea how to move our community forward to a place where they recognize church outside of Sunday morning. Again, not that it’s not happening but that it is not recognized.

  • At 10:43 pm on September 13, 2005, Richard commented:

    I wonder if a moving any group forward is learning what type of appraoch they would respond to. I n your context maybe it is about a teaching based upfront approach from the pulpit. One of the most important things I learnt was “learn the rules of the game and how to break the rules without people realising your doing so”

  • At 1:20 am on September 14, 2005, Tony Myles commented:

    There are some great conversations happening all around Christendom on this. I’m thankful your insights! Thanks for wrestling it down!

  • At 1:29 pm on June 17, 2007, Alan Bright commented:

    “Over the summer our high school and college students get together to play ultimate frisbee. This past summer I saw church happen on that field on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, if you were to ask those students if they recognized what they had just done as church the answer would be a resounding “no!â€?”

    I too was young once. I too had lots of time to hang out with Christian friends of the same age.

    What I thought at the time was an exciting new sort Christian fellowship was in fact just Christians with few responsibiities, at a similar stage of life and from similar backgrounds.

    Sure, it was fellowship, Christian fellowship even, but a lot of it could be explained by ‘non-spiritual’ factors (if you could allow me that vague phrase).

    “What once seemed black and white,
    turns to so many shades of gray.
    We lose ourselves in work to do
    Work to do and bills to pay”.

    Thus wrote Bruce Springsteen, a American rock singer. As life goes on, you have work to do and bills to pay. And a model of fellowship based on people with time on their hands at a simlar stage of life and from similar backgrounds just isn’t sustainable.

    Why is there no Middle Aged With A Mission For Christ?

  • At 1:35 pm on June 19, 2007, tk commented:

    Alan, I believe you have made some inaccurate assumptions about high school and college students and the nature of what this weekly frisbee game is about.
    Do students have more time on their hands than their middle aged counterparts? Yes. Do these students have alot of free time? no.

    This frisbee game is a very intentional mission field for the christian kids who show up. On any given week, 30-50 students show up. On any given week up to half of those kids have never darkened the door of the church, never mind call themselves christians.

    I see students show up who are clearly on the fringes of their social worlds and they are welcomed with the beauty and grace of christ. I see christian kids figuring out how to live in the convergence of life and faith.

    And while I agree that a “model of fellowship based on people with time on their hands at a simlar stage of life and from similar backgrounds just isn’t sustainable.” I do believe that a model of life where the grace and truth of Jesus shows up in places and times other than church buildings and sunday mornings is very sustainable.

  • At 8:31 pm on June 19, 2007, Alan Bright commented:

    Hello, tk

    I suspect I might have been less than wholly grace-full in my original post and I was certainly making unfounded and inaccurate assumptions. I apologise. I’m sorry.

    I do believe that a model of life where the grace and truth of Jesus shows up in places and times other than church buildings and sunday mornings is very sustainable. I agree and I look forward to Simple Church like that. I have been having a great time meeting with half a dozen men over the past eight months at our local St Arbuck’s. We break open the Bible, eat, drink, study, talk and pray.

    Although, we wouldn’t have met had it not been for having already met in a church building on a Sunday morning.

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