Posts Tagged “emerging”


In his comment on part 1 of this little series of posts John grasps on of the key criticisms of both Emerging Church and of Youth Work… lack of substance.

I often hear that both are prone to style over content.  Both suffer from a tendancy towards the flash and attractive.  I’ve seen it and can hold my hand up and say that I’ve also done it.

But I’m not sure that lack of substance is a fair criticism of either Emerging Church or Youth Work done well.

At the heart of both seems to be a desire for relationship.

Youth work has struggled to get past the attractional model where we put on some big fancy event that lots of young people will come to and hope that for some strange reason that will be enough to get them to stay for the rather naff games and poor attempts at bible study where we tell them what the Bible should mean to them.

Emerging Church is informed by a similar process where big church for grown ups had a go at being all interesting and attractive.  It was called ‘Alternative Worship’.  Churches discovered that presentation mattered and that people wanted to be involved but many of the ‘Alternative Worship’ experiments were little more than a reformatted version of the standard church service.  People saw through it and discovered that, like attractional youth work, all that glitters is not gold.

Substance is the goal for both.  Depth of relationship, participation, learning, sharing and growing together seem to be the key factors in youth work… and in emerging church.

The cycle has been the same.  Attractional followed by a move to deeper more substantial communities.

I wonder if that is because those who now inhabit leadership positions in the church and experienced the attractional youth work model are now being joined by a younger generation of leaders who have grown up on incarnational youth work and who experienced youth groups where they were loved and valued and experienced opportunities to know God?

It seems to me that both areas are rediscovering something that has been lost.  Both youth work and emerging church are pursuing models where stillness, spiritual practices, relationship building and learning in a collaborative manner are all valued.

These seem to me to be the practices that grow from the values of community work I outlined in part 2.

It also grows from a sense of disconnection.  I heard Mark Lau Branson talk about how he has abandoned the lectionary because the people in his church don’t understand the context of these weekly fragments of scripture as they jump around the highlights of the Christian story.  That seems to bear out my own experience and those of many worship leaders I meet.

I think that’s partly the fault of the attractional youth work model which focused on highlights, particularly from the Gospel because that was the most important bit and the rest didn’t matter much.

Church has been the same.  Scotland has never been big on Bible Study for adults.  The 15 minute sermon on a Sunday morning has been the main teaching for the majority of adults.  In any other context 15 minutes a week would be laughable.  Can you imagine trying to learn a language, to play an instrument or to build a relationship by spending 15 minutes a week on it?

Youth work is about building community.  Church should be too.  Emerging Church seems to be up for going deeper… but still needs to guard against the ‘cool for the sake of it’ phenomena which happens when any group of creative people get together… apparently.emerging

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Tonight, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of, I was invited to sit on a panel for a discussion of ‘The Emerging Church’ at International Christian College.  If you read yesterday’s post you’ll probably realise that i was pretty nervous about it for a number of reasons.

If you missed it, my article on Emerging Church is in the newly published OneKirk Journal (along with an interview with Scott Rennie and some amazing words written by Roddy Hamilton).

However, back to tonight.  It went pretty well I thought, despite me outing myself as never having been an ‘Evangelical’ which I guess was one of the inevitabilities of taking part.  Oh well.  Never mind.  I think my ‘outsider in terms of the evangelical church but maybe more insider in terms of emerging church’ position added a wider perspective to the debate.

I enjoyed the discussion but there were some things that I wanted to pick up on and perhaps save others having the same problems.

The first is that we always need to be pretty clear which emerging church we’re talking about.  This evening’s discussion grew out of the visit of Brian McLaren last year and the students wanted a forum to discuss some of their unanswered questions.  I saw the value of this but I’m not sure I see the point of only discussing what McLaren thinks the emerging church is, no matter how much fun that might be.

I don’t buy that McLaren is leading this emergence on his own.  I’m concerned that if we focus all of the discussion on what Brain thinks we miss the very real question about why stuff is emerging from ALL kinds of churches.  What is driving this experimentation?  What is it that people are dissatisfied with?  I think McLaren has a go at answering some of those questions, but he’s not the only voice in the discussion.

The second is that, believe it or not, this ain’t America.  The drivers for the Emerging Church in America are its particular political, social, cultural and spiritual context… none of which are the same here in Scotland, despite the very obvious homogenisation of western culture.  The evangelical context in America has a social and political dimension that is not replicated here in the UK where the ‘religious right’ doesn’t have the same influence in the political or social agenda.

I think we need to be more deliberate about finding out what’s happening here and who, if anyone, is writing about it.  That’s one of my hopes for Emerging Scotland, that people will share their stories and begin to chronicle the emerging church here in Scotland.

The third is that, even though it’s a crowd pleaser, cheap stereotypes about liberals sitting round candles isn’t an accurate representation of any of the Emerging Church.   Please don’t make fun of people who are trying honestly and earnestly to seek God’s will and to worship Him in ways that make more sense to them than whatever they have found in a denominational church setting.

So, overall, a good night I think.  It was filmed but I don’t know if or where that might appear…

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Tomorrow afternoon I’ve been invited to be part of a panel at International Christian College to discuss what the Emerging Church is, what can be learned from it (by the evangelical church I guess) and what the downsides of emerging church are.

Along with me there will be people on the panel who know actual stuff, so any help, ideas, thoughts or general prayers or good last minute excuses would be welcome so I don’t look like a complete idiot (again).

Thanks. (off to look up what hermeneutics are/is/were/taste like!)

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The new issue of the OneKirk Journal is now available online.

It has some great stuff including:

  • reflection on the use of torture
  • a guide to some of the notable events at General Assembly
  • ‘champagne bubbles’ by Roddy Hamilton
  • A conversation with Scott M Rennie
  • and an Introduction to Emerging Church by some guy called Stewart Cutler

Have a look.

OneKirk is not a club, pressure group or party. Rather it is a network of Church of Scotland people that is being developed to support, enable and facilitate one another in our various ministries, whether they are lay ministries or ordained. OneKirk seeks to help us discern the meaning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our generation.

It is our hope that we can foster and encourage an atmosphere of open and theologically informed debate on matters of spiritual, social and political import within the Church of Scotland and, indeed, the wider church and society.

We seek to include all people in the life of the Church of Scotland regardless of past life, or present, for we recognise that God’s love is for all.

[update: the journal conversation with Scott M Rennie has been widely quoted in the press.  It’s nice to know that people are interested in the person rather than the picture painted of him by some]

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The growing online community of people interested in all things (or perhaps just some things) emerging/emergent Church over at Emerging Scotland are busy beavering away being creative, innovative and generally moving their communities of faith forward.  The network is growing and people are sharing their stories and resources online, but that’s not the same as meeting up and talking it through…

So, if you want to grab a coffee and a chat with some emerging/missional types then get yourself virtually to Emerging Scotland and join up and in the real world come to Starbucks in Borders, Buchanan Street, Glasgow on Thursday 28th May at 7pm.  It would be great to see you there.

If you’re not in or around Glasgow then why not plan your own Meet Up where you are.  Just join one of the meet up groups at Emerging Scotland.

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In December Brian McLaren spoke to various groups of Christians in Scotland.  I blogged about it here and here.

I found this podcast of his talk at Vertigo, Strathclyde University.

Chris discovered this short video of some of what he said!

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