Disclaimer: If you're in ministry of any sort, you might want to place all objects that could be deemed throwable in your desk drawer. I will not be responsible if you get so frustrated with me that you chuck a stapler at your monitor.
pick your own title:
"I detect an Emergency" or "Not sure what to call it, but it sure ain't no butterfly."
I have made the grevious error of taking a friend's advice recently. For a few minutes, I blog-surfed. Have you ever done it? Click on a link from one blog to the next...two clicks take you to someone you vaguely know, a third takes you off-the-map, and by the fourth you're in another galaxy. I read about forty blogs over the course of a few days - not in their entirety, but enough entries to get a sense of what they were about. I am disturbed.
The most disturbing entries were written by christian leaders or leader-aspirants. (Note: to aspire to leadership can be a very honorable thing). Most were written by those on the younger end of the spectrum who were frustrated by the church as they have known it. I notices a few interesting trends.
1) They generate and discard labels like the marketing arm of a soup can factory.
Call them what you want: post modern, emergent*, emerging, simple, home, relevant, community, authentic or infantile. There are a million other labels. Whatever the case, the label you use will undoubtably be rejected as being "So 2003 of you...". I understand their frustration with labeling - I have it myself - but these guys generate up the very words they're rejecting. Simply put, it's cool to resist definition. It also makes it easy when it comes time to distance yourself from those you deem not post modern, emergent, or simple enough.
*I am not talking about a specific group - i.e. Emergent. Granted, there are those in that camp who this will probably apply to, but they'll change their label soon anyway. Don't take this an an indictment of an organization.
2) There's a lot of anger out there.
I'm not talking about mere frustration, I'm talking about 'lay-down-and-talk-about-it-to-a-professional" anger. They vent towards their former churches, or in the case of a few dim bulbs, their present church. They rail against those who 'just don't get it'. Many are not clear what 'it' is. In some cases, i think it is ministry to their generation. In other cases, it appears to be a virus. Whatever it is, don't presume to get it - they'll be quick to tell you that you don't get it (and can't get it). The elusive "it". In all this, I see much passion and little love. In most cases it seems like they're correctly motivated and horribly emotionally immature. Meaning to stir me to action, many of them just make me sad. Some of these guys have the experience of a 25 year old with the bitterness that used to take thirty years of ministry to develop.
3) I perceive an incongruency of values.
One of the core tenants of this impossible-to-label group (because I don't get it, remember) is an appreciation for church history, but only church history that goes so far back that no one alive remembers the actual personalities. They read the mystics and the church fathers of the early centuries and go to the coffee shops to pontificate on one writer over the other, connecting with the history of what God has done through the centuries, providing those centuries are far enough back that no one will find the skeletons in the closet. They proudly stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before...providing those shoulders didn't minister to their parents' generation. To them, the church was a glorious thing in the middle ages and a horrendous thing in the mid 1950's. Now, I don't want to go back to the 50's - I could never swing the hair-do and the music makes me very weary - but the shoulders of that generation are as strong as any other. There were apostolic and prophetic voices all through church history. One cannot venerate a select group and vilify another. Then again, has any generation ever honored the immediately preceding one? Seems to me I read something in Malachi suggesting that something along those lines should happen.
There is a politically correct form of new church that is forming. To it's credit, it reaches hard toward the unbeliever and strips away much religiosity that has to go...in the process, though, it seems to be tossing the rest of the church (the moderns, the establishment, the man, affix a label) an obscene gesture...and it saddens me. One would expect the wing of the church that promotes diversity to be open to it. This new wing of the church behaves more like bratty teenagers with a few good ideas...convinced that their fathers are morons that are unable to tie their own shoes, they're unwilling to admit the huge roll that those fathers have played in their development.
This is probably not the first time that the young bucks (or in some cases, old bucks with too little sense to act like old bucks) have kicked and snorted at the church, but this is the first strata who have enjoyed electronic publishing. Thoughts scatter through our heads and out our fingertips with so little processing. The blog, with it's instant-gratification and history-revisioning ability (hit the edit key!) - so important in the rapid development of this culture - may well be it's undoing.
I embrace the move towards relevance in the church. I'm all for simple. I love community and desire authenticity in myself and others. There is so much good in this sort. I just hope the post modern, emergent, emerging, simple, home, relevant, community, authentic church becomes the maturing church. I pray for more butterflies, less slugs.
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." / Jesus
I can tolerate not being cool. I cannot tolerate seeing those within the kingdom rail against the bride of the King. Now pardon me while I go find that old asbestos in the garage.