THIS IS PART THREE. GO HERE FOR PART ONE. GO HERE FOR PART TWO.
"It seems to me that the Church (that’s big ‘C’) needs something like the emerging church / fresh expressions conversation in order to remain true to the Missio Dei and relevant to culture-at-large. There are three specific areas where this could play out nicely if the relationship is embraced by both arenas, creating a truly symbiotic relationship: Identity and Ownership, Institution vs. Community and Investment at Home. The collective identity of the Church seems to be largely skewed in the minds of many Christians. The increasingly pervasive charge that Western Christianity is a ‘me’ faith system has proven to be largely true. My own experience of this flavour of Christianity for over 20 years has often focussed in on one’s own salvation (me and God) and largely neglected the larger picture. The exception, of course, has been in the collective push to chalk up souls through antiquated practices and a damaging reductionist worldview which turns people into projects. This does not and will not work. The image of God in each person will raise the flag of insincerity in the face of Christians on this sort of dehumanising crusade. Here is where the emerging church conversation could help facilitate a turn in the tide of the Church’s theological infrastructure. This challenge is vital in Christ’s Body owning and operating out of an identity of a people loved and called to love (which, of course, is a verb). An axiom I once read at a bus stop describes this well, ‘You can’t help unless you’ve first been helped.’ It follows then that we can’t truly love, unless we’ve first received Love. How can I more honestly invite God into those spaces in my soul where attachments and resistances preclude God from bringing healing and wholeness?
On the issue of Institution vs. Community, there is no question that movement toward a more communal understanding of the ‘community’ of faith is taking place. For too long we have settled for a way of being Christian that abdicates the ‘work of God’ to a select few whom we pay to get on with it, and ‘get on with it’ they have for more than a millennia and a half. It’s a joyous thing when clergy come to understand their role not as a ‘do it [all] yourself’ vocation, but as mobilisers and equippers to actuate other Christians in their respective vocations. When clergy begin to settle into their ordination as catalyst, change happens and the Church will begin to become all God has dreamt it could be from the beginning of time. A movement from an institutional or hierarchical model to one of a shared calling and a partnering together in the work of God will revolutionise the very nature of what it means to be Christian. This revolution into a like-hearted ‘missio consortio’ will in turn change the world as it flows out of the identity of being called ‘Beloved’. The emerging church conversation (partly due to its timely birth out of post-modernity) has a very leveling edge to it; a ‘priesthood of all believers’ focus which engenders a more biblical approach to life in Christ. What is my unique contribution to be made to those within and without my particular community of faith? How am I receiving from others?
It’s a natural movement then for the Church to redirect much of its relational, financial and creative capital from within its own boundaries toward the benefit of those considered ‘other’ within the home / host communities where Christian collectives reside. Let’s face it, God chose the Jewish race to be messengers by which He intended to disseminate Himself to the rest of the world. When they became self-serving and proud as God’s chosen [messengers], He broke the mould and spilled out amoung the Gentiles. Now Israel (as it’s understood spiritually as opposed to historically), the new chosen of God, have for the last two millennia followed the same trend as that of the historical Israelites: hoarding God while creating a strict system by which the rest of humanity must abide to partake of Him. “Freely you have received and freely you should give” we have not lived by, thinking we could dole out God as we saw fit; but God in his love will not be contained and now He’s spilling over again. The Message puts this phrase from Matthew 10:8 beautifully, “You have been treated generously, so live generously.” By living ungenerously, we negate our very identity as the ‘Beloved’ and the nature of our community as change-agents in the world. As self-emptying repositories of God we will find our ‘shalom’. Again, the emerging church conversation has challenged our insularity and helped to bring our long misplaced focus back to God’s original intention for the Church as a people ‘called out’ in order to be ‘called to’ the service of others. How can we live more generously through our existing networks within our ‘home’ communities?
The similarities in relationship between the Anam Cara / directee and the emerging church conversation / wider Church are many. My hope is the that the sometimes tenuous relationship between the Church and the emerging conversation can avoid becoming more polemical, and may be embraced (unlike Martin Luther was) by the Church (big ‘C’) as an opportunity to pause and reflect if nothing else. If it is embraced, a posture characterised by ‘open borders’ might be encouraged where Christians foster a generous spirituality that creates (safe) space for the other, where there is greater trust in the action of the Holy Spirit (following, not forcing) and where a commitment to process shapes our understanding of how people journey with Jesus into greater freedom and wholeness.
Now that’s more exciting than any kung fu action I’ve ever seen!"
THAT CONCLUDES THE ARTICLE.
I'd love some constructive criticism / comments / conversation around this article friends!