[Despite promises to the contrary, I haven’t posted on the whole ‘emerging’ thing for a while. I’ve not been good at following up my random thoughts on this with decent blog posts. Sorry. Here’s a little attempt at rectifying that somewhat…]
The wonderful Phil Togwell posts today on the latest of his group discussions on the book ‘Schools of Conversion: 12 Marks of a New Monasticism’. The discussion is all about racial division in the church, and is well worth a look, but what jumped out at me was this:
“Gradually, others joined in. “The church just reflects it’s surrounding culture, including it’s divisions,” mused Dewi. Perhaps this is a root problem – that the church lacks it’s counter-cultural, salt-and-light, prophetic edge? Perhaps it follows culture more than it leads and influences culture. Perhaps this counter-cultural, salt-and-light, prophetic edge/centre is what we most need to regain… to become (again) a people who *live* Jesus’ sermon-on-the-mount?”
I’ve mentioned Barney Skrentny on this blog before now. He is Associate Pastor (whatever that means) at our church. As part of his research for his PhD Barney has looked at the whole emerging thing and his comment, which Phil’s post draws me back to, is that
“adjusting church to follow the changes in culture is neither radical nor counter-cultural”
[that’s a paraphrase. Barney, feel free to use that if its better than your own words 😉 ]
If there is a change from Modern to Post-modern culture, changing the church from Modern to Post-modern isn’t really a radical thing. It is just part of the changes in the wider culture. And it kinda misses the point of being church.
The Early Church, the church of the first two centuries A.D. [sorry, I’m a traditionalist when it comes to dating conventions] was so radically different in its culture from the Hebrew and Greco-Roman cultures that surrounded it that it was actively persecuted by first the Jewish state and then the Roman one. The church presented a view on the world that challenged the status quo to the extent that they were considered dangerously subversive.
This is still true of the church in places like North Korea, China, Burma and parts of the Middle East, but it isn’t true of the church in the West. We are more concerned with how closely we track and match the ebb and flow of cultural changes.
This is one thing I agree with Barney on (which makes a change); Jesus’ message of reconciliation to God, of the inclusion of all, of living for the outcast rather than yourself, is still radical in this society… its just that as a church, we don’t really seem to know (or want to know) how to live it.