Posts filed under ‘Emerging Church’

Jonny Baker Coming to Oklahoma

Check this out, it is really exciting. November 6-8, 2008 the Oklahoma United Methodist Young Adult Council will be bringing Jonny Baker to Oklahoma to lead a worship workshop. He will lead those who attend in workshops, conversation, and the hands-on creation of an alternative worship experience. Even more exciting, this experience will be opened to the public in Bricktown in Oklahoma City on that Friday night. This is terrific news, and I expect this to be a huge event. So, mark your calendars, and I’ll try to get more information out as it comes.

October 17, 2007 at 6:35 pm Leave a comment

Walk to Emmaus

I had an incredible time at the Walk to Emmaus this weekend. It was really interesting going back as an Assistant Spiritual Director on something that had such an incredible impact on my life several years ago. Believe it or not, I think this retreat really has some important connections with the sensibilities of the emerging movement. It is ecumenical, eucharistically focused, and embedded in faithful practices such as prayer. It also features experiential worship and table fellowship. Sounds emergent to me…heck we even have lectio divina. Perhaps these central practices and one of the reasons it has such a profound impact on the men and women who participate.

So, you might ask, after such a spiritually challenging and renewing weekend, what am I doing now? Working on Charge Conference stuff for my churches! Oh well, didn’t Jesus say, “The paperwork you’ll have with you always,” or something like that. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong!

October 3, 2007 at 7:42 am 1 comment

Emerging Movement as the Evangelical Vatican II?

Tony Jones posted an interesting email on the Emergent Village weblog from a Roman Catholic who compares the emerging church movement to Vatican II. Read what he says and see if you agree,

The Second Vatican Council took place in the Catholic Church from 1962 to 1965. Called by Pope John XXIII, finished by Pope Paul VI, it was the first time in over four centuries that the Catholic Church really took a look around and said, “Hey, there’s a whole wide world out there, that isn’t so bad….maybe we oughta find out what’s going on in it, and see if it has anything to do with our community of faith”. The opening lines of The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (in Latin, Gaudium et Spes) set the tone for this new way of being church: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts”. No longer would, or could, Catholics remain isolated, insular, or reactionary to the world, or others in it. The Catholic Church’s new mission became the world itself, and its transformation would transform the Church as well.

That seems to be what’s happening in Emergent. The people involved seem to all of a sudden see that there’s a big, wide world out there that we all live in- and most of it isn’t even considered “Christian”!- and somehow they have to do everything they can to learn more about it. Somehow everything they’ve learned up to this point – about being a Christian, about being part of the Church – has to change, so that they can truly be a follower of Christ every day of the week. Emergent seems to be a kind of Evangelical Vatican II, for many Christians that got their institutional start a hundred years ago- and maybe not even that long for others!

Pope John XXIII’s legendary quip about Vatican II was that he convened the Council because he wanted to let a little fresh air into the Church by opening up a few windows. I hope the Emergent conversation can do the same for my Evangelical friends, and I look forward to being a part of it for those in my own neighborhood.

Before Vatican II, the RCs worshiped in Latin, and then moved to vernacular masses.  I wonder if part of what is happening in the emerging movement is the move from our version of Latin (whatever that might be) to vernacular church.  In any case, this is definitely something to think about.

September 27, 2007 at 6:54 am 2 comments

Franchising United Methodist Churches?

I don’t know how comfortable I am with the franchising language used here, but I do wonder if this might be a real possibility for United Methodist congregations? Can you imagine this happening in your conference? Would people attend and grow as disciples at “Windsor Village UMC, Oklahoma City?” What about “Church of the Resurrection, Tulsa?” Is this already happening in an informal way when churches pattern themselves after these larger congregations in other conferences?

I know this might sound strange or even too “commercial,” but I’ve often heard the idea that denominations are based on the idea of “local franchises” of the mother denomination. Let me know what you think. Is this a dangerous idea? Is this catering to crass commercialism? More pragmatically, would it work? If so, what are the theological concerns we need to think about?

September 12, 2007 at 10:36 am 9 comments

Off-Road Disciplines

Off-Road DisciplinesI have been on a self-imposed book buying moratorium as I wait to begin my D.Min. program. Something tells me that I’ll be buying a lot of books during my time in that program, so I should save my book money for those. However, my trips to the local libraries just aren’t enough. I guess I’m too used to ordering stuff from at the drop of a hat! So yesterday when I went to Tulsa to take my truck back for a recall, I stopped by Cokesbury and bought a new book: Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders by Earl Creps.

So far, I am very impressed with this book. When I read books, I often think of the kind of person who would really benefit the most from reading it. For me, this book is an excellent introduction to postmodern/emerging concepts for those conservative or evangelical clergypersons who might be suspicious of these movements, but are still passionate about reaching people influenced by postmodernity in a missional way.  To be honest, this book seems to be written for an older audience.  I’m pretty sure the reason this might fit those types well is related to Creps’ socio-cultural context, which I mention a bit below.

Let me offer you a few great quotes from my early reading, as I’ve found myself underlining quite a bit so far. In the first chapter, Creps talks about the need to move from a centralized model of leadership (the big, authoritarian pastor model) to a model where Christ is at the center of our lives in missional communities. Unfortunately for us, he believes this shift is often, if not always, motivated by death of our dreams and ambitions.

A missional life, then, experiences the centrality of Christ as our failures expose the illusion that we merit the center position. Failure, among other forces, reveals this illusion for what it is, crucifying it and giving us the chance to invite Christ to assume the central role in practice, instead of just in doctrine (p. 10).

He continues later in the chapter with what I believe is the biggest danger for those of us who care about reaching people for Christ in creative and culturally-sensitive ways. Emerging Church “techniques” imposed on a community can easily devolve into what he describes here,

We like to transform things technologically, thinking of ministry as an instrumentality, ourselves as the CEO, the Holy Spirit as a sort of power cell, and the church as an object we modify. In so doing, we risk creating not much more than a hipper version of irrelevance (p. 14).

He closes this chapter with a challenge that speaks to me in a way that is painfully clear,

In it all, God calls me out of the center that He alone rightfully occupies, to let go of things I treasure, to meet Him among the marginalized where He is always most at work. I will meet Him there most profoundly if the transformation of my inner life is at stake (p. 14).

I really relate to a lot of what Creps is doing in this book. He is operating out of the Assemblies of God tradition and runs the D.Min. program at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri, so I imagine he has many of the same challenges as those of us in mainline denominations who are used to doing things a certain way – especially those of us with more “conservative” theological pedigrees. No doubt he has plenty of challenges unique to his setting as well. In any case, I’m looking forward to continuing my conversation with Creps through this book, and I pray that God will continue to mold me into the missional leader I am called to be.

August 15, 2007 at 7:21 am 6 comments

Happy Feast of Saint Cyril of Alexandria!

St. Cyril of AlexandriaWith apologies to my Nestorian brothers and sisters out there, today is June 27th, which we all know is the feast of Saint Cyril of Alexandria! Good old Cyril, Bishop/Saint/Doctor of the Church, was born in Alexandria, Egypt. He was most famous for his battle with the Nestorians.

The Catholic Online website recounts some of this battle, “In 430 Cyril became embroiled with Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, who was preaching that Mary was not the Mother of God since Christ was Divine and not human, and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her.”

The article at Catholic Online continues by describing more of Cyril’s work, “During the rest of his life, Cyril wrote treatises that clarified the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation and that helped prevent Nestorianism and Pelagianism from taking long-term deep root in the Christian community.”

Perhaps it is an appropriate day to think about the teaching role of bishops. Do you think our United Methodist bishops neglect this task? I know William Willimon and Timothy Whitaker are two sterling examples of teaching bishops. What about the rest? Should this be a central or important role for our episcopal leaders?

This feast day also makes me think about the post-modern movement of the Church. It is interesting that we are concerned to recover many early Christian practices, but we don’t seem to have a huge concern about apologetics. Don’t get me wrong, I know that for many this is considred a thoroughly modernist enterprise, but maybe we need to ask why it was also part of the pre-modernist enterprise. It seems that folks as early as Justin Martyr cared about apologetics, even though you’d never think he was a modernist.  If it is a premodern Christian practice, does it have a place in the post-modern emerging Church?

Anyway…happy feast day!

June 27, 2007 at 6:18 am Leave a comment

Is Technology Exclusive?

My last post led me to ask this question within the comments discussion. What do you think?

Are ministries that emphasize or take advantage of technological advances exclusive (i.e. They might not include those unable to afford or understand the technologies.) or inclusive (i.e. Are we simply ministering relevantly and including those on the ‘cutting edge’ technologically?)?

Is there a more nuanced way to look at this?

June 8, 2007 at 8:02 pm 1 comment


I find the account of Pentecost in Acts to be very interesting. One thing I’ve noticed is the interpretive model that Peter uses. There are three responses to the dynamic outpouring of the Holy Spirit. 1.) Confusion: as seen in the folks who asked, “What’s going on?” 2.) Skepticism demonstrated by the folks who said, “They’re just drunk…don’t we all speak foreign languages when we’re drunk? Don’t we?” and 3.) Peter’s interpretive act whereby he clarifies and interprets the event through the lens of Old Testament prophecy.

What is our response to strange events in our lives? Are we too confused to look for answers, do we respond with the same old staid skepticism, or are we steeped enough in the narrative of Scripture to interpret them through the lens of God’s ongoing drama of Salvation?

I’m pretty smitten with some of the post-modern/emergent ways of thinking, and I really appreciate the emphasis on mystery and awe found in that way of being the Church. However, sometimes I think we can over-mystify things to the point that we neglect placing them in the trajectory of God’s story of salvation. This passage seems to suggest that there are times that what seems confusing or strange, even mysterious, can be interpreted when placed in the right interpretive framework.

On another note, here are some helpful thoughts on Pentecost from Dan Clendenin.

May 21, 2007 at 7:24 am Leave a comment

Emerging Churches & Southern Baptists Redux

Here is a link to Dr. Mark DeVine’s blog post where he discusses the emerging church as it relates to the Southern Baptist denomination (h/t Tall Skinny Kiwi). There is a link in this post to an article he wrote for the Midwestern Journal of Theology. In it he cites Bolger and Gibbs’ book, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures and Scot McKnight’s article from Christianity Today, “Five Streams of the Emerging Church: Key Elements of the Most Controversial and Misunderstood Movement in the Church Today.”

Interestingly he notes the emergent critique of evangelicalism is similar to several movements, including Methodism (something noted by Adam Hamilton some time back). Of course you will find yourself disagreeing with DeVine on several points about the emergent movement, but I still believe it is helpful to examine his look at the emergent movement.

In the end, I’m still confident that United Methodists have the right “DNA” to minister from the emergent paradigm and reach postmodern folks. It remains to be seen how these will fit into our structural arrangement with itinerant ministers and connectionalism.

March 19, 2007 at 11:12 am 2 comments

Fear, Identity, and the Emerging Church

Scot McKnight has a very interesting post on liberals, evangelical/conservatives, and the emerging church. In his series, “Letters to Emerging Christians,” he looks at the question, “What does our greatest fear tell us about ourselves?” He then answers this for conservative/evangelical, liberal, and emerging Christians. You really should read the whole article, but the breakdown is roughly this.

  • Liberals – Intolerance
  • Conservatives – Change
  • Emergents -Power & Authority

If you read the post and care about both the emerging church and the UMC, you’ll immediately wonder about the way that our system will cause a great deal of fear and trepidation among those with emergent sensibilities. If we’re ever going to get serious about ministering from this paradigm, we’ll have to address these questions.

March 16, 2007 at 4:52 am 3 comments

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