This week, I read two very solid articles that, in some way or other, spent time discussing the nature of the church.
For those who know me, you will know that church (or ekklesia) is very deep in my heart. Hence why I have posted 42 articles on my blog on the topic of church, one of the highest totals of any other topic in the two and half years I have been writing. Well, this article now makes it 43 in total.
What are those two articles?
The first is by Scot McKnight. It was posted on Christianity Today and is actually 4 years old. Well, in the bigger scheme of things, that isn’t old. But in today’s world, 4 years is a long time.
McKnight’s article is entitled, Five Streams of the Emerging Church, with the subtitle giving even greater clarity to the purpose of the article – Key elements of the most controversial and misunderstood movement in the church today.
I believe that 1) McKnight is a top-notch evangelical theologian in the 21st century and 2) knowing he includes himself as part of the emerging movement, as well as being willing to critique that movement, I believe he has the right to share his thoughts on the subject.
So, take some time to read this very interesting article. If anything, it might clarify some misunderstood aspects of the emerging church.
The second article was just posted this week at InternetMonk. I used to frequent the blog very often, but I don’t as much anymore. I try not to spread myself too thin in what I read on varying blogs. But I still love the Jesus-centred and pastoral way the writers of InternetMonk approach so many topics within the church and world at hand.
Earlier this week, main writer, Chaplain Mike, posted an article entitled, Is It a Church? In the article, Mike takes time to wisely (pastorally) address a concern of modern day churches, whether or not you want to label it emerging or just contemporary (or come up with another term).
One of his main critiques is that modern churches of today can become so homogeneous in nature, meaning their mission is focused on one group. Even more, that group can usually consist of people 25 and under. It all flows out of a noble heart to reach this generation, the ’emerging’ generation. But he questions the health of such a narrow focus.
Actually, focusing on a specific demographic is not just a post-modern, emerging problem. It has likely been a problem throughout the history of the church, though my small perspective might say it seems especially heightened in the church growth movement. Find your particular niche and go after those people.
Such could be a great focus as a manager within a company. But maybe not so much within something that is called to be relational at its core. This doesn’t mean we don’t have times of management, or practically putting together what our vision and mission might look like. But we are a family, with brothers and sisters; we are a body, interconnected with one another. And we are reaching those created in the image of God. We are not selling a product to consumers (or, at least, I don’t believe we should be).
Of course, the post-modern, emerging movement has a heart to reach post-modern, emerging people – those who would not step foot in a church building, even if there was a full rock-band leading the time of gathered worship, even if there was Seattle’s Best coffee at a coffee bar, even if there was never a traditional altar-call given. So these emerging church communities are meeting in cafes, bars, homes, sitting around tables without a more programmed service.
Actually, I have no problem with this. I am aware that, to reach post-modern, post-Christian western Europe, these kind of measures will need to be considered as we re-pioneer the reality of Jesus in this land.
Still, the call is to guard against being so homogeneously focused, whether we are emerging or seeker-sensitive or whatever. We don’t want to miss opportunities within our grasp because of a focus that is too narrow.
Chaplain Mike also focuses in on the difference between the gathering of the church and the mission of the church. Many churches in today’s world, with the championing of such within the emerging movement, are focused on mission. That is awesome! Mission is the call of Jesus. But it is not the only call. There is a call to growth and maturity that happens as the church gathers in its varying ways.
Mike shares thoughts on the problem of much of modern-day evangelicalism being birthed out of parachurch organisations (those organisations started alongside [‘para’] the church or as a supplement to the church), rather than the church itself. Though both consist of followers of Jesus, they are different.
I am well aware that many parachurch organisations have been initiated because of the failure of the local church to address specific needs in mission. But such is not always the case. I’ve seen such birthed out of the local church.
Thus, his challenge that we must respect and allow for both the gathering and scattering of the church. The training-discipleship and the mission-service.
Needless to say, with the reading of these two articles, I thought I would share some thoughts, some ponderings, on the nature of the church. But, in all, I would encourage you to read the words of Scot McKnight and Chaplain Mike.