March 5, 2009
Over the last few years the fight for truth has heated up between fundamental and postmodern thinkers. Those on the side of postmodernism proclaim that the church has lost its power an influence in our culture. Those in the fundamentalist movement accuse leaders of the emerging church movement of syncretism. So what are we too make of this whole debate? Who is right and how can we find balance in the midst of the chaos? Both are right on some level and wrong on another.
Let me suggest a few things for you to consider.
1. Let’s be honest. The church has lost touch with this culture. The latest research from David Olsen reveals that only 17.5% of Americans attend church on any given Sunday. I hope that number causes you to stop and weep. For decades the Church as fallen asleep at the wheel and slowly but surely lost touch with the culture they serve and survive in.
Some in the fundamental camp say, “Well, that is just a sign of the times, that is the way things will be in the end. People will fall away from the truth.” True, the scripture reminds us of that fact several times. My problem is that those who quote that phrase too often use it a way of excusing themselves from fulfilling the great commission by engaging the culture in an appropriate way. “Oh well, that is just the way things are.” What a foolish and lazy perspective. As if God has excused us from trying because we live in a sinful world.
2. Again, being honest. Many in the emerging church movement are way out of line. Theologically liberal, lacking any moral and ethical base, except that which is relative to the situation. This movement was born out of a frustration at the established Churches in ability to address the culture. I do think the emerging church needs to be heard. While I do not agree with every writer, (some I agree with very little) still they offer the Church the ability to enter into dialogue about being Jesus to the world.
Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, in their book, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Baker Academic, 2005) define emerging in this way:
"Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities."
Its hard to speak against these 9 practices. After all, this is what the church should be. The difficulty, as I see it, with the emerging church movement is that it is too young to have any strong bearings yet. Typically this movement is stereotyped by the most liberal leaders in the movement like Chris Seay, Tim Keel, Brian McLaren, and Mark Oestreicher.
I thinks it is important for us to step back away from both sides and take a proper, objective look at both sides. Instead of using fear-mongering tactics to ignite discord among believers, open dialogue and learn how to best reach a sin-sick culture with the Truth of God’s word.