Thursday, December 31, 2009

My thoughts on the "death" of the emerging church movement

"In my opinion, 2009 marks the year when the emerging church suddenly and decisively ceased to be a radical and controversial movement in global Christianity."
Andrew "Tall Skinny Kiwi" Jones

I have a lot of love and respect for Andrew Jones. When he speaks... I tend to listen. His podcast was a highlight for me in 2009.

He's written a piece about the death of the emerging church as a radical movement... and his comments have responded to by a number of folks. Tony Jones, Drew Tatusko and Danielle Shroyer have notable contributions to the discussion.

The gist of their contributions is that the movement isn't dead but transforming... possibly accomplished... and maybe becoming domesticated. I particularly like Danielle's reference to the Suffragette movement:
"When women gained the right to vote, nobody said the suffragette movement was over. They said the suffragette movement was successfully accomplished. If 2009 is an end-date, it’s that our hopes of gaining influence among church leaders and Jesus followers has been rousingly, beautifully, Spirit-infusingly, globally accomplished.
It would be my hope too!

I would like to throw in my tu'pence worth by pointing to this article by David Cushman - it is completely unrelated to the above discussion but, I believe, points to an answer of sorts.

In his post 2020 vision he looks to 2020 and makes these predictions...
But we are embarking on 10 years in which people all over the globe will realise the self-organising power now at their fingertips - and start turning that realisation into the world they want; niche by niche.

Which means everything you know is up for grabs. Everything.

Everything that is organised or mediated can and will be disrupted by this.

That's pretty much every aspect of society, then.
He goes on to declare that...
The self-organised future will begin taking shape, new structures for education, law, government - all the apparatus of the state - will emerge. And as they do the state itself, as a formalised centrally-controlled collective based on geography, will submerge.

This new form of organisation will over-ride more traditional methods primarily because it provides a more effective tool for the allocation of increasingly scarce resources. But also because people like doing stuff together. It's a better fit with the reality of our social selves.

Lowest common denominator models will disappear wherever communities of purpose can self-organise (which is pretty much everywhere and anytime).
Lastly he points to...
In a decade of realisation we move beyond being passive consumers in all aspects of our lives - government policy included.

We won't sit back and wait for the centre's solution. Instead we quietly and determinedly get on with wikifixing our world - collaborating across borders, ignoring the fictional silos the nation state has imagined and attempted to impose.

The impact of the edge on the centre has the potential to be cataclysmic. If change from without happens faster than change from within, something will tear. Fundamental organisational change is hard to imagine as a gentle process.
Please read his whole post... and put his blog in your RSS. I enjoy reading his ideas and find them refreshingly inspirational.

I'm not big on books and I haven't been to seminary or anything like that. I'm just a "fanboy" in this convo.

I personally don't see the emerging church as an entity as such but as a sweeping change in the way we are "church" and express God's love in our communities.

This change and the themes within have guided me... nurtured me... instructed me on the opportunities available... both to me and to "church" if we only open our eyes & see... open our ears & hear... use our imaginations and, most importantly, listen to the quiet voice of the Spirit.

As such... I agree with Andrew in that it has stopped being controversial... but it is only not longer radical for me, because I see it as part of me. It has shaped me. It is part of my makeup.
That doesn't mean it still isn't controversial for folks who haven't followed the conversation. Some people are ahead of the curve and some people are behind it. There will always be folks playing catch up. Change doesn't happen in a uniform manner... but in a life cycle or even cycles.

That said... I also see it within the wider change that's happening to the way we live. This whole emerging "thing" is just one part of a wider decentralisation that's happening just now.

The rules of "catch up" will similarly apply - just as this shift in life is no longer controversial for someone who acknowledges it and seeks to live within it... it will be controversial to those folks who aren't up there... at the front.

The words I use for church when I dream - collaboration... participation... interest-based as well as location-based... person-to-person - are also the words being used to describe the future for our lives.

As we move into the "teens" I see this wider change becoming part of our lives... whether we like it or not.

Its like the bit in "the Incredibles" where the baddy speaks of making everyone super... so that no one will be super.

When we accept that this change is part of our lives... we no longer classify ourselves as "emerging"... it just becomes part of who we are and is no longer controversial. Being a Scot is part of who I am... I don't class myself as being one... I don't run around telling everyone I am one... I just am one.

As such... I see this as transformation... with domestication or solidification the real threat.

At the end of the day... I think Jesus was plenty radical and controversial for me. If I seek to mirror Him then my life will be plenty radical and controversial... even in the midst of the changes that are upon us.



Jonathan Blundell said...

Great thoughts Thomas.

It's interesting that a while back Dave McHam commented on my blog that he didn't see the value in labeling oneself emergent or not.

We simply need to follow Christ as best as we can.

Our faith should be a part of us - no matter what tradition/movement we find ourselves in.

I think that echoes what you're saying. Emergent Christianity is simply a part of who we are now.

weareallghosts said...

Yes... that's it. For me... emerging is part of who I am. Its one of many labels. In fact I have so many labels that the best one is:

Thomas... imperfect Jesus follower.



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