Tuesday, April 13, 2010

no longer emerging

This is a post I've considered posting many times.

Today Shane Claiborne wrote on Sojourners' website:

"So all that to say, I find the “emerging church” language, at least the Emergent™ brand, utterly unhelpful. So I will not spend much energy, beyond this note, to try and defend, or for that matter destroy, what seems to me little more than a brand name for a product no one can identify. There are many great things that have come out of the “emerging church” discussions and communities. "

I found a lot of resonances with Shane's post and I like the positive tone with which he ended that comment. It's not my purpose here to depreciate the entire emerging church conversation past and/or present.

For myself, I used to be excited by the emerging church. I was in one for 12 years; I pastored in one with one of the founders of the emerging church and had a wonderful experience while employed there. I've written a lot of articles and posted a lot of posts on the emerging church.

I'm just not sure what the term means anymore, having spilled a good bit of ink myself over its exact definition.

A number of months ago, I quietly took "emerging church" off of my blog's subtitle. I'm pretty sure no one noticed.

Everything I've written I still believe. I still love Jesus; I still try to follow Him. I still love Christ's church. I still intend to labor in Kingdom. My life, in fact, only has significance to the degree it's Christocentric.

It just seems that the term "emerging church" doesn't mean what it used to mean. Or maybe it would be more honest for me to say that the term doesn't mean what I used to hope that it could mean.

When Next Wave turned 10 in January of 2009, the publisher asked me to pen a cover story for that issue. I wrote something of a retrospective on the emerging church. I'll finish this post with the same conclusion I wrote then:

"And so the tenth anniversary of Next-Wave arrives at a critical moment for the emerging church conversation. Theological differences indeed threaten the short-term cohesion and long-term viability of the emerging church and yet in the midst of those differences, many claim some genuine ecclesiological and theological advances that may yet prove to have long term significance.

Fortunately, followers of Jesus Christ are not ultimately reliant on their own brilliance, devices, and stratagems to co-labor with God in His Kingdom. Submitted hearts can call on God for His wisdom and guidance and trust that the Spirit will lead. Human institutions, movements, and conversations come and go. But surely sometimes God chooses the canvas of human efforts to paint beautiful portraits.

Ultimately, of course, the criterion by which the long-term success of the emerging church conversation will be judged will be the degree to which it has precipitated a greater love of God and others."

And with that, I wave goodbye to the emerging church. I have enjoyed the ride. I have been blessed by the ride. I have sometimes been frustrated on the ride. I have many friends still on the ride and I'll celebrate their kingdom victories and continue to call them friends.

But for me the ride's over. Now, I'm just a Jesus-follower.

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