The first thing to say is that McLaren doesn’t like the term Emerging for all kinds of reasons. But with no other word to replace it I’ll use it as a catch all definition of new developments on the fringe of church. He spent some time unpacking where we are and where we might be heading.
Trees grow taller by accident. They really grow fatter and that’s how we measure their growth. So instead of thinking about the emerging church as a slice of a pie, think instead of the new ring of growth on the outside of a tree. People on the outside, in this new place may have more in common with the others in that ring than with people from their tradition towards the centre. This ring of new growth reflects how the church has responded to the current climate. Like a tree, some years will see more development than others given the prevailing climate and nutrients.
3 Worlds – Pre-modern, Modern and Postmodern
Theology is framed by modernity. It’s language and world view are informed by the modern world, the world of the industrial revolution, colonisation, empire and domination.
We don’t all live in that world now. There is a move towards a new era but the problem felt is that the people making that move first are very dissatisfied with those who don’t want to move yet. The point of movement has lots of tension and friction, between the established church and the new models and expressions of church. (This had a useful diagram to explain it… not that I can reproduce it at the moment but I’ll have a go later and add it in.)
The challenge for the early movers/adopters is to imagine the new world and describe it to those they are trying to convince to move. It’s no use shouting at someone, telling them there is a better way if you can’t describe, or better show, how it can be.
McLaren used another diagram to show the downward movement from ‘high church’ through the reformation to ‘lower’ expressions. This showed:
with new expressions at the bottom. This describes the movement from control to shared responsibility, from high to low and from structure to network and micro-church.
So, is McLaren right? Does this downward pressure explain church development? And if it does, what drives the downward pressure? Are you on the fringe? An early adopter? Do you shout or convince? Complain or paint pictures of how it could be?
Neal has some good links to other bloggers who’ve heard McLaren over the weekend.