Thursday, June 05, 2008

The New Christians 2

In this chapter Jones sees the emergent church and the establishment church through an allegory of the frontier of the West in contrast to the established settlements on the Eastern seaboard. He brings up 3 Dispatches in explaining the Emergent church.

Dispatch 3: The gospel is like lava: no matter how much crust has formed over it, it will always find a weak point and burst through.

A basic reading of the Gospels show that Jesus did not play by any one's rules but the Father's. And ironically that really upset the status quo in the religious establishments of his day. But all throughout history we see time after time when religion becomes domesticated, institutionalized and bureaucratic, somewhere along the way God brings something or someone along to break through the crust and breath new life into the body of believers yearning for more than what the institutions are offering. We even see this prior to Christ as the prophets call out to the nation of Israel to let them know that God wants obedience over the sacrifices, their hearts rather than their token offerings. I do believe that we are at a time when a thick crust has hardened over the church as we know it and in considering all of the seismic shifts that have been occurring within the world, new life is going to break through in ways that we can not imagine or control.

Dispatch 4: The emergent phenomenon began in the late 1990s when a group of Christian leaders began a conversation about how postmodernism was affecting the faith.

The is no doubt that in my experience growing up the Bible was interpreted through a very modernistic mindset. The Bible was systematized and explained very scientifically as if the truth could be like a pure diamond with no flaws. But it wasn't until I entered into college and took Dr. Ellis's history classes at Lorain County Community College that I began to discover deconstructionism. As we looked at various times of American history and read many books, we discovered that with every single book there will always be bias. There is a particular filter or grid in which the author interprets history as well as how the reader interprets the book for himself. It is the same when a community studies the Bible together. Their micro-narrative of that community will have specific ramifications for how they look at Scripture. I noticed this in a huge way when I moved from North East Ohio ( a very strong liberal, Catholic, blue collar area) to Lynchburg, Virginia (a very militant conservative, fundamentalist area). There were times when I was shocked by the massive differences in how the faith was lived out by those two communities both using the same Bible.

Dispatch 5: The emergent movement is not exclusively North American; it is growing around the globe.

Jones believes that the DNA of this movement comes from "the golden era of American youth ministry" during the 70's and 80's. My youth group experience was during the early to mid-80's. It was fun to belong to a large youth group and have many of the experiences I had growing up. I even learned a lot, both good and bad, as I turned my back on it all my Senior year. Ironically, over the course of 3 different colleges and a seminary education, I ended up in career youth ministry. Although I do see that postmodern thought has influenced the emergent church I really had to think about the implications of this emergent movement possibly being heavily influenced by those of us who have come out of "the golden age of youth ministry." Did the church accomplish what it had hoped through the establishment of youth ministry or did youth ministry evolved into something else? Did the advent of youth ministry inspire the new thoughts and ideas that would break through the crust that was hardened over during the end of the 20th century by the establishment church? Either way, it is exciting that with today's technology and the new forms of communication, this is definitely a movement that has long reaching influence all around the world.

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