Thursday, November 09, 2006

Emerging Again

Before I continue with my own experience, I would like to comment on Mark Driscoll's paper, which I think readers of this blog have found quite helpful. Mark identifies three types of models of Church. I think it easiest to quote him:

'Church 1.0 is traditional, institutional, and generally marked by the following traits:

· The cultural context is modern.

· The church holds a privileged place in the larger culture.

· Pastors are teachers who lead people by virtue of their spiritual authority.

· Church services are marked by choirs, robes, hymnals, and organs.

· Missions involves sending Americans and dollars overseas through denominations and mission agencies.

As the Church 1.0 model becomes less popular, the Church 2.0 model becomes more prominent. Church 2.0 is contemporary, with the following traits:

· The cultural context is in transition from modern to postmodern.

· A culture war is being fought to regain a lost position of privilege in culture.

· Pastors are CEOs running businesses that market spiritual goods and services to customers.

· Church services use 1980s and 1990s pop culture such as acoustic guitars and drama in an effort to attract non-Christian seekers.

· Missions is a church department organizing overseas trips and funding.

Today, the Church 2.0 model is the dominant American church form, but is being replaced by yet another incarnation of the Church.

The Church 3.0 model is emerging, missional, and bound together by the following traits:

· The cultural context is postmodern and pluralistic.

· The church accepts that it is marginalized in culture.

· Pastors are local missionaries.

· Church services blend ancient forms and current local styles.

· Missions is “glocal” (global and local).'

I am sure that Mark (who I do not know) would acknowledge that this is a deliberate oversimplification, having acknowledged that, it is, nevertheless, helpful in defining church styles - and not just in America. I will discuss my own background and ministry more later, but my present Church is still a Model 1.0 church. Many are and like it that way. Many in our churches love the traditional style of services and remember when the Church had a privileged place in society. This is just as true here, in a former British colony, as it is in the UK. For such Christians, the longing is to stay the same, or even to go back, to what is still a fondly remembered period in church history.

In this thinkers and writers about the Church are often out of sync with where many church members are at. The thinkers and writers are working for a very different church, when church members themselves are simply not ready for the change and, indeed, are resistant to it.

For church leaders, this can cause immense tension. We read the books and blogs, and go to the conferences. We hear about all we should and could be doing, and we are excited by it. But when it comes to reality, to ordinary every day church life, this is not what our congregations want to hear or are interested in.

This is an issue I want the emerging church leaders to address. It is not an issue in newly planted churches because they are beginning from scratch and can establish their own church culture. But for those of us in long-established churches, it is a massive issue. Unless we just abandon exisiting churches, it is hard to know what to do.

I would love somone of Andrew Jones' experience to address this in his excellent blog ( ).

It is something that I don't think emerging church leaders are willing to address at the moment. Their focus is on creating model 3.0 churches. Fair enough, but unless they are careful, they are going to go down the path the charismatic movement went down and attract many who are disgruntled in the churches they are in. In the case of the emerging church, those in model 1.0 and model 2.0 churches.

If you are wanting to be truly missional, this should not be what you want. What you should want is to attract the unchurched. Ironically, if the emerging movement attracts a significant number from the established churches, all it will do is to weaken those churches. The net result ironically may then even be a net drop in people attending any church as those 'left behind' in weakened churches drift away from the Church altogether.

Is this a silly argument? Well, look at Alpha. All the Alpha-ministers tell me that Alpha is growing their churches. But the plain fact of church membership in the UK, for example, is that overall attendance is dropping. Alpha grows some churches, but weakens others. Some may say they deserve to be weakened, and, in some cases, this may indeed be true, but it is hardly a cause for rejoicing.

Andrew quite rightly insists on the missional element of the emerging church. This will only ring true to some of us when emerging/emergent people work with those in the established churches to find a way to emerge together.

It is my earnest prayer that they will.

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