Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Emerging Church

I literally just finished Dan Kimball's "The Emerging Church". Also, to make me feel really cool i'll also add in that I recently attended a workshop tought by Mr. Kimball, and got to chat with him briefly. He's a cool guy, who handles critisicm VERY graciously as I saw folks taking issue with him in his own workshop.

To put it shortly, Kimball is addressing the cultural, phiosophical, and theological (plus many other words that end in "al") issues that "emerging generations" are facing. Or more accurately, the issues that the church is facing in dealing with these new generations.

I think he makes lots of great points, highlighting "modern" approaches just don't satisfy people like they used to; as America has moved past a largely judeo-christian worldview into a more pluaralist and individually motivated worldview. So things like 5 point sermons with all the answers won't cut it for folks, especially when they don't want to set foot in a church at all. To paraphrase David Crowder, people are tired of neat solutions to sloppy questions.

So, lots of great stuff. But I also feel like it's too complicated. Suggestions for layouts of services, lighting, incorporation of experiential elements into worship services, getting outside the building of a church, etc. Lots of things he talks about are great!

But I find some irony here. For instance, he asserts that emerging generations are put off by organized religion...then explains how to organize your religion emergently.

I'm really oversimplifying things here, but the more I think about stuff the more I realize that people haven't really changed in thousands of years, and really...ever. The Hebrews argued about the same things 20th century Christians argued about. Thomas a' Kempis talked about how men couldn't sit still...and in the 15th century they didn't even have cell phones or iPods or ritalin. To me it's sad yet comforting that people are still dealing with the same crap we always have. There is no progress. We can just distract ourselves more efficiantly, have more faster access to information, more convienient travel, and our capacity to inflict pain is wider and more devastating (laser guided bombs, etc).

So I will definately rip off/steal plenty of things from Dan Kimball's book! But also, we can dress up or name human needs all we want (adding "post" infront of words, etc). I have noticed and felt some of the shifts he's talking about myself. As the church lets work to address culture all of its ebbing and flowing states in creative and meaningful ways. But I think that human needs haven't changed a bit, we're just finding different ways (or going back to more 'vintage' as Kimball might say) to meet them. To pepper this blog with another quote...as Rob Bell might say- if it's true than it isn't new.

That being said, he brings up some great points to get us to think why the church does certain things. Anybody know what the letters "IHS" stand for on so many crosses on our alters? I don't. There's just one little symbol that probably goes un-noticed, definately goes unexplained. How many other things do we do that are just mindless tradition to the familar and foriegn ritual to the rookie?

Having read this thought provoking book, i'm going to try and get at the question "Why" in ministry a lot more. A good but dangerous thing.


Dad said...

Hi Adam,

Two thins: 1) you were on ritalin once (you might want to give it another shot), and 2) IHS are the first three letters of the name of Jesus in greek (and you think spanish is hard).

See you in a few days,


St. Peter's UCC said...

"To me it's sad yet comforting that people are still dealing with the same crap we always have. There is no progress."

Adam, good post, but THERE IS PROGRESS.

Would you choose a 15th century lifestyle, a la Thomas a' Kempis? You could, right now! Forgo modern medicine, electricity, hundreds of years of art and culture.

If I can reflect back to you what you're saying in different words... human nature is the same as in the 15th century, and as in Jesus' time. Yes; of course. But we have learned a lot about how to channel and frame our nature in order to make things better for everyone (democracy - free markets - accountability - the scientific method - on and on). That's progress, my friend!

And morality? Even better! Quick example; 1950's American sci-fi comics and literature frequently talked about star travel, Mars bases, and flying cars... all piloted/built/used by WHITE MEN. We don't have any of those things, but men and women of many different ages/ethnicities/orientations are working in space - contratry to popular belief, in this case moral progress has moved more quickly than technology!

(example courtesy David Brin - http://davidbrin.blogspot.com )

I hope you can look again and see that despite the dark side of human nature (and because of the light!), we continue to make progress. -howie

The Millers-Because we like it Original! said...

I was thinking the same thing when I was reading about the sermon on the mount, where Jesus was talking about letting go of the riches, or immorality, or coveting. We still do all those things today.

I just realised that people have been kissing for centuries...I need to get out more.