A colleague from another school recently asked if I could list the innovations of Emerging Churches. The question implies that Emerging Churches introduced 'tweaks' or glosses, small external changes to expressions of church. However, I believe the change introduced is much more fundamental and cannot be reduced to incremental shifts. Those new forms of church that only tweak the church service I identify as Gen X/Y churches, not Emerging Churches. I've noted nine practices or patterns that encompass a range of expressions. These patterns are not unique to Emerging Churches, as churches in history have practiced some of these activities at one time or another. Two things are novel about the expressions now -- one, the unique constellation of particular practices, and two, the fact that these patterns are embodied within a particular culture, i.e. postmodern/global culture. Given those caveats, I'll attempt an all-too brief snapshot. Again, each of these 'innovations' give rise to multiple expressions in Emerging Churches (and I will not list those):
- A return to Jesus/sermon on the mount as central to faith, thus ethics are central to their concerns as opposed to simply heart questions...
- Emerging Churches do not believe in a secular realm, thus, church services will look very secular to the outsider. Correspondingly, emerging church people see many things in the so-called secular realm as spiritual (they see God's fingerprints everywhere).
- ECs believe in community more than they do in 'church' -- thus community gives rise to a church service and not vice-versa --
- They give space to outsiders (including other faiths) and focus on similarities and relationship rather than differences. They do not gloss over differences, but they get the relationship part right first.
- Hospitality becomes central practice of the church -- some churches see this as essential discipleship -- they train people how to open up their homes. Hospitality often manifests in service to others, especially in the realm formerly known as secular...
- Creativity is an expression of worship to God, giving honor to the Creator by creating. Church services honor God to the extent so that creativity occurs by all participants. Leaders are responsible to facilitate these venues, to help provide a context for this very physical, material encounter with God. These contexts provide space for worship production by all.
- Leading is not fixed around the single leader -- leaders lead, but the single leader leading all things is anathema. Those who are gifted to lead particular activities, because of their passion, expertise, or wisdom, are able to do so without restraint. A move in the direction of consensus and shared leadership occurs.
- The spiritual has to do with all of life and not simply with acts of devotion. Thus, there is an embrace of those pre-modern and pre-Reformation practices that recognize God's work everywhere, not simply in the quiet time or worship service.
An all too brief snapshot, and it is simply my 'take' on things. Again, these patterns give rise to a multitude of expressions. Hopefully this will facilitate more conversation with my colleague regarding the Emerging Church...
Technorati Tags: Emerging_Church