About a week ago I posted the clever question of a reader/commenter. In the post I mentioned that Kris said, “Well, about you? We’re emerging and go to Willow!” So, here’s the question I was asked:
But I have often wondered how you believe what you believe and still attend Willow? I mean Praying with the Church doesn’t seem like a Willow type of thing. And the many emerging ideas you present seem to squarely contradict the mega-church approach – whether it be Willow or any other mega-church. So, to repeat your wife’s question: “What about you?”
So, here’s my answer:
First, don’t box me in. We emerging types are embedded in communities and not just creating our own communities. I am embedded at Willow, for a number of reasons, and have no desire to leave for another faith community. Not all emerging types are in house churches or at coffee shops; and folks like me might well think those kinds of churches are a really good thing.
Second, on those four rivers I detail in the WTS paper, and they are Postmodernity, Praxis, Postevangelical, and Politics:
I’m a critical realist: I think there is an object out there that is objective, and that making knowledge is not simply spinning a story in my head; but I think I’ve got a “cracked Eikon mind” and that means that my “story” or theology will never be purely objective, it will never be identical to that objective reality out there, and that I need to hold my story in tension with other stories and with ongoing learning.
Second, I think orthopraxy is more important than orthodoxy. Also, I do think orthodoxy is very important. But, I listen too much to the Sermon on the Mount and to the judgment themes of the Bible to think relationship to God is simply what I believe. What I do is most important, and I’ve got plenty to work on. In the same stream, I think worship should be ecumenical — drawing on all the great traditions. I like some of the funky stuff, and I like the liturgical developments, and I like candles and aesthetics.
I think the focus of church work should be small and local; I think if you gather in a big place — fine — but the work of God doesn’t take place simply when we are gathered but when we are reaching into the lives of others. So, I think “missional” is the key for the future. For me, the church is what happens during the week more than what happens on the weekend; I don’t think the singular point of the church is gathering on Sunday for a sermon; I think it all fits together into a community of faith that embodies the gospel and individuals whose lives flow out of that community — in whatever calling a person has.
My own “missional world” is teaching, writing books and to people who write me, speaking in churches, etc etc…..
Third, I’m postevangelical in many ways: I think the evangelicalism of the 50s-90s is in need of serious reshapings at places (especially in the praxis elements I mention in the paper; I’m basically post Bible study piety and post systematics but not post theology; I’m all for a narrative structure to our theology). This is not to say that I am against evangelicalism or nonevangelical. I’m an evangelical in the postevangelical mode — that is, in some ways I’m postconservative and sometimes I join ranks with the postliberals (for those who get into terms like that, which seem to be used differently by everyone who uses them — so I’ll not try to define them).
Fourth, on politics I strive as much as possible to let my passions be for God and for the Church and for others (the Jesus Creed). I place no confidence in redemption by way of politics. The political hope ebbs and flows every 8 years now; I don’t get all riled up if a Republican or a Democrat wins; I don’t think it matters that much to what we are called to do on a daily basis.
Put simply, I’m thoroughly of the belief that the church is a small group rather than a large group, or better yet, I’m anabaptistic (that is, the church is a sect in society rather than the power over society). I try to focus on the kingdom and on Jesus Christ and following him. I think the Church should be the alternative society that far too many hope will come as a result of the next election.