Emerging church

Emergent Mission

NewImage

Brian McLaren is right. The “emergent church” movement is growing. Not as a collective group, but as a savvy, scattered chain ever-present in the fiber of the Church.

Chelsen Vicari

Chelsen Vicari has written a perceptive article on the effectiveness of the Emergent Movement. I’ve long pointed out how ineffective the emerging/emergent movement has been in making new disciples.

But that, is not their mission. They have a social agenda which is high on symbolism and low on action. I don’t think that’s their real mission either. Their real mission is to change the church and they are very good at it.

Emergent Mission

NewImage

Brian McLaren is right. The “emergent church” movement is growing. Not as a collective group, but as a savvy, scattered chain ever-present in the fiber of the Church.

Chelsen Vicari

Chelsen Vicari has written a perceptive article on the effectiveness of the Emergent Movement. I’ve long pointed out how ineffective the emerging/emergent movement has been in making new disciples.

But that, is not their mission. They have a social agenda which is high on symbolism and low on action. I don’t think that’s their real mission either. Their real mission is to change the church and they are very good at it.

Bell's hell

csl_man2_MD.jpg

A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice [clerical robe]. I feel it is a form of prostitution.

CS Lewis, 1963

When it first came out in March, Rob Bell's Love Wins was the number one Christian book on Amazon, and number four best seller of all books.

Controversy sells.

I'm thinking the next book I write will be an expose of Billy Graham as a secret Mormon.

Back in the 1960s Bishop John Robinson's Honest to God was also a best seller. It seems every forty years a new generation of second generation evangelicals has to drift from the faith of their fathers to embrace a more culturally acceptable faith.

As always it begins, not with outward denial of historic Christianity, but with unanswered questions, and musings.

I don't plan to read Rob's book. I hope this is my last post on the topic. I'm sure others will do a better job of responding to Rob Bell. Other's will defend him as a victim of the religious right.

It's a distraction.

For a hundred years Christianity in the affluent, sceptical West has been drifting from orthodoxy. Bishops, theologians and pastors have stood in line to question the very heart of our faith—the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus, the centrality of the Cross, the reality of the Resurrection and the coming Judgment.

Here's how Richard Niebuhr described this shadow of Christianity,

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a world without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.

We've spent the last 100 years discussing and redefining "mission" only to end up with a concept that is far from what Jesus actually did as recorded in the Gospels and Acts.

The results have been devastating for the church in the West.

Do not despair, the twentieth century was also the century of the greatest advance of the gospel. It happened in the most unlikely places wherever ordinary people, mostly in Asia, Africa and Latin America, take God at his word. Clerical scepticism is a luxury item that only Westerners can afford.

UPDATE

Derek Tidball of the UK Evangelical Alliance reviews Love Wins.

Bell on Hell

Rob Bell has been "stirring the possum" regarding the doctrine of hell, ahead of the release of his book on the topic.

Last time I checked it was #14 on Amazon's best seller list. Rob's a good communicator and controversy sells.

Questioning hell is not a new thing for western theologians and church leaders to do. It's been going on in recurring cycles for at least the last hundred years. Not just hell, but also belief in the uniqueness of Christ and his atoning death for our sin. And just about every other biblical truth you can think of.

I don't know what Rob will say in his book. I guess whatever he says, he's going to offend someone. Let's hope he doesn't extend the controversy by being vague about such an important truth.

Ultimately it doesn't matter what Rob believes, or what I believe. What matters is what the Scriptures teach. Rob and I don't get a vote on this, or any other doctrine.

The recurring cycle relates to the tension we all feel from the world around us. Over time we want to relieve this tension. Especially if we're a Christian leader or theologian. Ordinary believers are generally more biblically orthodox than the man in the pulpit, and always more orthodox than the denominational college or headquarters.

It's never been natural to believe in one true God who is Creator and Lord over all. The Jewish people didn't come to that conclusion because they were smarter than everyone else. It was revealed to them. It wasn't popular outside Israel in the ancient world. It wasn't popular in Paul's day. It's never been popular.

That the one true God would reveal himself in Jesus Christ—his life, his death and his resurrection—is not something that "sells" well. That Jesus' death on the Cross is our only hope of salvation is a scandal to the religious, and an absurdity to the wise.

What a negative doctrine hell is. Why should God be bothered by our sin? Surely God could just blink at evil. Surely he could forgive sin and impose his will, regardless of what we want.

I'm uncomfortable with the doctrine of hell. That's not the point. Truth is. And the best guide we have is very clear on the matter.

Yet, here we go again . . .

Emerging doubt (continued)

I've always had my doubts . . .

Four years ago emerging church leader, Brian McLaren, called for a five year moratorium on making pronouncements about homosexuality. He felt time was needed to consult "scholars in biblical studies, theology, ethics, psychology, genetics, sociology, and related fields."

With a year remaining on his moratorium, McLaren has made a pronouncement on the moral status of homosexuality. There were no surprises.

Yet another confirmation that much of the emerging/emergent "conversation" has been a postmodern rehash of western theological liberalism—minus the religious bureaucracy. Give them time.

Dynamic movements remain committed to their core beliefs, regardless of social and cultural pressures.

Denny Burk has written an excellent reply to McLaren : Why Evangelicals Should Ignore Brian McLaren.

UPDATE: Just came across Todd Miles article, A Kingdom without a King? Evaluating the Kingdom Ethic(s) of the Emerging Church. He writes, "At the end, I fear their efforts will devolve to a social gospel not unlike the failed efforts of nineteenth and twentieth century liberalism." I share his concern.

What's in a name?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet

"Missional" has now replaced "emerging" as THE word to use to describe your ministry, book, or conference.

Search for the keyword "missional" on Amazon and you'll find 393 books.

missional keyword.jpg

Search for the word "Missional" in book titles and you'll find 127 books.

missional book title.jpg

I'm pretty indifferent to the term. The English words "missionary", "mission", "missional" derive from the Latin missio (“sending”) and mittere (“to send”). The New Testament Greek verb is apostellein ("to send") from which we get our English word "apostle".

Missionary, missions, mission, missional—you can take your pick.

What matters is not the form of the word but the substance of what it means to be "sent" and how that reality is worked in everyday life and ministry.

Unfortunately, I am now convinced that the term "missional" is often used to conceal a lack of clarity about what it is we are meant to be doing, and what faithfulness and fruitfulness really looks like.