Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is Hills an Emerging Church?

Good Question!
I've had to think about that a bit over the last little bit and have had to do some more reading. The previous two posts will give you a bit of background on emerging and missional movements. However there is no real clear expression of what an emerging church really is. If I were required to accept everything that proponents of the emerging church advocate it would make me very uncomfortable. However in true postmodern emergent style let me tell you what we do instead of a list of our statement of faith - because in terms of theology, I am a evangelical who is part of a pentecostal denomination. But what we do doesn't really fit too many categories.

Do I think Hills is an emerging church? Yes and no. ... Someone described Hills as "a small church, a house church, not that unlike a cell group that meets (except with better musicians of course) ... with the removal of formality and hierarchy and format … “ I would add that we have a commitment to whole church participation, praying for one another every week, meals together (not as often as I’d like) a lack of a fixed order of service (although we definitely follow a pattern) and hopefully a responsiveness to the Spirit. I don’t think we are doctrinally different from the Evangelical mainstream although I am a bit offbeat sometimes. Living out life – we encourage holiness, prayer, evangelism, neighbouring. Approach to evangelism - God has placed you where you work and live – love God, love your neighbour, help your neighbour love God. Look for divine appointments.

I'll give you a general description of emerging church from my point of view. I’m not sure where the term originates, but I think there are those who take the concept to absurd extremes as well as others who react to it with equally absurd extremes. In general it is to me a view and practice of Christianity that recognizes its unbiblical practices (dating back to Constantine and the ongoing unbiblical changes made to the church) and tries to recreate church in ways that line up more closely to the New Testament and tries to address the needs found in our world.

Even as I say that, I know that I still participate in some of the stuff I feel has little Scriptural basis Рhowever my approach is to hold those things lightly and make them our own. The best example of that is our Advent sevices РI think many of our Christmas traditions have pagan origins but they can be used to point to Christ and incorporate Scriptural teaching. (The whole debate over the past few years about Christmas trees and cr̬ches and saying Merry Christmas is just so silly to me.)

What all this means to me is that many of the things that we traditionally consider Christian are at best merely conveniences or traditions and at worst heretical. For example the traditional Sunday morning church service has very little biblical backing. Things like church buildings, professional paid staff (ouch), hierarchies of denominations, sitting quietly, one main speaker, choirs, worship teams, the centrality of the pastor/teacher role, lack of participation by 95% of the people, to say nothing of paganized and commercialized celebrations (like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc.). This has resulted in a passive Christianity with a lack of discipleship, purpose, anemic Christians who don’t use their gifts, a complete disappearance of certain functions (apostles, prophets, etc.) - building centred worship, consuming all of our resources on ourselves, a “come to us – all are welcome” mentality that has for the most part lost credibility and relevance to much of our world. What comes with that is a top down control structure that borrows more and more from the corporate model. Large churches need a CEO type senior pastor in order to make sure everything happens right and very little is flexible enough to meet the changing needs of our communities. This structure also makes everyone so busy with church that they have no time to be connecting with their neighbours, and with their communities.

I see the emerging church as a way of viewing life and a reaction to the churchy traditions of the past that have hurt rather than helped individuals and communities. It meets because it has to meet and because it wants to meet. The people celebrate what God has done during the week. Its people live out what they believe. They know each other and hold one another accountable. It’s small and nimble, able to adjust to its surroundings. It’s tough to do in our busy, commuter world. It’s tough to do with Christians who have gone to traditional churches because they think that the pastor is an expert who knows God and Scripture better than they do and who can block for them (football analogy) as they go through life.

I'm sure there's much more I could say to describe us but that's all for now. Next I think I would like to address some of the shortcomings and even heresies included in the emerging church movement. Stay tuned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,
Do not worry or bother to much.
Just preach the word. The ‘WORD of GOD' finds its way and solves personal and church questions. How is the Dr. coming?
You know