A friend and former student (Troy Johnson) asked me how Biola went and asked for my opinions on it -- A few thoughts -- Biola, the professors, administration, and students went over the top in welcoming us -- no small feat -- they exemplified the kingdom in that regard and my respect for them increased a couple of big notches.
I felt like it was a friendly first gathering. As some of the bloggers have mentioned, many of us talked past each other, as the topics were quite broad. I don't think this is entirely bad -- I think we need to walk before we run. If another conference is to happen, specific questions can be posed to which we respond. The final roundtable at the end of the day had this characteristic, and it might have been the most productive encounter of the day. Overall, I think what happened in the various dyads and discussions is the realization that the Emerging Church and Biola share a common passion.
That is not to say there weren't differences. I felt like the early presentations focused on the church service -- changing worship forms, adding this approach or that. To me, that is not the primary difference of Emerging Churches -- it is the primary caricature however. In our book, we see technique changes to church (adding visuals, candles, narratives, raw preaching, round tables) in the category of young adult services, GenX/Y services, churches-within-a-church, but not Emerging Churches.
Emerging Churches do not focus on creating a relevant worship service. The energy and creative passion is directed towards the culture, to those outside. As Mal Calladine told me, "we want a sustainable church service, where 85% of our energy is directed outside the church rather than inside". So, from my vantage point, if the energy is on the show, it is a young adult service; if it is on embodying the way of Jesus within the culture, it is emerging. I see emerging churches as a subset of the missional church (church is not a place or time, or a vendor of religious goods and services, but a 'sent' people).
So, at Biola, I tried to direct the conversation to mission. I see Emerging Churches as a missional movement within Western culture, not 'tweaks' on a church service. Tweaks on the service is Christendom, 'come-to-us' rather than missional, 'live-with-them'.
I better stop, this is already becoming a long post...