I went down last week and served as part of a panel on the Emerging Concerns Course before the National Pastor's Convention in San Diego. There were six of us -- three pastors, three professors, and Tony Jones as MC. How it worked -- a pastor would present, followed by questions, comments by three professors, and later the audience. Next, a professor would present, followed by three pastors, and later the audience. It was a good format. The pastors, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, and John Burke, all had fairly different churches in different parts of the country. The professors, LeRon Shults (theologian) Scot McKnight (New Testament) and me (missiologist) all had different perspectives as well. So, it was a good mix.
The audience was not made of Emerging Church people -- ECers were the exception. I would say it was made up primarily of those in traditional churches trying to make sense out of the movement. I would say most came to learn from these emerging church people. The tone was really positive, even though, at times, there may have been real difference of opinion (over terms such as fundamentalism, foundationalism, conversion).
Strengths of a gathering like this include getting a fairly quick onramp to new forms of church perspectives. The weaknesses are the same -- too quickly does one get into thick traffic -- not able to figure things out one lane at a time -- So many of our responses would have benefited by longer discussions, yet, always we needed to move on...
One thing I observed from our time together ---
These conversations consist of traditional church staff, asking questions to former church staff (ECers), how to do what they do without leaving church staff.
The questions to the emerging church people are always about 'how to do this without leaving my church'. What hit me is that they are asking these questions to those who have left the church. The big challenge, in the next few years, will be to develop the stories of those emerging churches that work within existing churches. In the US, we have very few examples of these...
On a personal note, I really enjoyed meeting the other panelists -- never met Scot or LeRon or John before --