Emerging, Missional or Something Else…
Well it looks like a new academic year is bringing with it a fresh round of debate and potentially some division over the whole emerging thing. Jamie Arpin-Ricci at (e)mergent Voyageurs has at great discussion entitled Redemptive Taxonomy In The Emerging/Missional Divide, Mark Van Steenwyk at MissionThink has some great thoughts entitled Did I miss […]
Well it looks like a new academic year is bringing with it a fresh round of debate and potentially some division over the whole emerging thing. Jamie Arpin-Ricci at (e)mergent Voyageurs has at great discussion entitled Redemptive Taxonomy In The Emerging/Missional Divide, Mark Van Steenwyk at MissionThink has some great thoughts entitled Did I miss something? (thoughts on the ‚Äúmissional‚Äù church) and Steve McCoy at Reformissionary links via his piece called 9Marks & The Missing Keller to a very interesting piece called What in the World is the Missional Church? by Jonathan Leeman.
I welcome this debate, despite the potential for some conflict, because in its best instances it is properly theological. Talking openly about the terms we use to describe ourselves is not only healthy, it is necessary.
Part of the reason for this is that when you look at the emerging.missional church around the world, we see people have come to somewhat similar practical positions from a variety of different backgrounds. Take the term emerging, for example. I found this piece on The Daily Bacon (link via Jason Clark) fascinating, not just because of the way it is discusses emergence, but because Tim Goodfellow wrote with such a radically different take on the idea of Emerging, to the one I have.
For me, the “Emerging” bit in Emerging church is analagous to the way people speak about emerging markets, or emerging economies. Part of what I see as attractive in the emerging.missional thing is the sense of hope, the new networks, the inclusion and the feeling of opportunity. Emerging in this sense means that those who did not have a voice, now have one, those who were not allowed a place at the table now have one. Importantly, emerging economies are not just about trade on a macro level, they are also the product of social changes within each country and the evolution of global networking.
One important factor of emerging economies is that they force some hard questions upon all of us. They force us to see that different approaches can work, that different points of view have to be taken seriously, that power arrangements need to be re-written. Emerging economies also raise important questions related to racism and class structures.
In the same way emerging.missional churches create problems and raise questions for exisiting churches, denominations and theological institutions.
That’s why I keep retelling the few emerging.missional stories I have, becuase they shouldn’t have worked, but they did. I tried something when I was at Gordon that went against both the dominant seeker model of the time and the nascent Missional ideas that some were talking about – and it worked!
To me, that is why this current debate matters – it is a natural extenstion of creating a conceptual problem within the church. That’s why the emerging.missional thing is getting bad press. Some do not want to rethink the church, or have a fear or distrust of that approach.
If there is a downside to the current debate, it is the possibility of the emerging.missional defining itself in the negative as it faces criticism. I came to faith in a Baptist association that at the time seemed to totally define itself in opposition to the Pentecostals on one side and the evangelical Anglicans on the other. This was highly disfunctional.
In the end these terms are just words. Emerging or missional – the only people that stand to really lose anything if we drop them are those who have a commerical interest (e.g., Emerging Inc.). Personally I’ve held the emerging.missional thing rather loosely, as an outsider. It matters to me because it is part of a greater process of rethinking church, a process that needs to continue for a long time to come.
[tags] Missional, Ecclesiology [/tags]