emergent convention reflections and ponderings



for those who know me this will come as a great shock. i needed some downtime and space. i forwent (is that a word) the worship offerings for the evening, even tho i really wanted to experience Harp 46, and came back to the room for some reflection space and downtime.

this has been a great week of meeting folks and exploring this emerging church conversation in “intense-time”. by which i mean that i have the pleasure of exploring it in blog-time alot and in real-time with several good friends (kevin, alan, bill, chris, chad, julie, sarah). but this week has been good for an immersed/intense-time of conversation. but i’m weary. i wish i had more energy but i need to regroup in my soul and time for external processing will happen later.

i suppose this is sorta external processing, but it doesn’t really feel like it. this post is really for me and you can read it if you want, but if not that’s fine. several interesting things have happened this week. here are four that i will highlight:

1. none of this is new. really, this is weird for me. when i was in youth ministry 4ish years ago this whole postmodern ministry conversation thing was new to me and exhilarating and exciting. it was mind-blowing and paradigm-shifting. then seminar (at fuller in pasadena) was an extension and deeping of that. then the blogosphere gave me a forum to explore this more. and vineyard central gave me a place to live this stuff out. so i’d say some 99% of the stuff i’ve heard this week was unsurprising. which is NOT to say that it isn’t good. Nor is it to say that I “know it all” (i def. don’t). and it is NOT saying i didn’t need to hear it again. but it hasn’t been wholly new in a way that blows up old paradigms. it has been actually refreshing to hear others stories of how they are attempting to live out the same stuff we are trying to do.

B. convergence of a new way of being Christian. this may be something of the 1% (i’m overstating to make a point i guess) of stuff i’ve heard that has been formative for me. in Phyllis Tickle’s seminar on being Post-Reformational (my word, not hers) she talked about a German theologian (the name is escaping me presently) who wrote about “the new rose” – an emerging form of Christianity that comes as something of a convergence of Liturgical, Social Justice, Pentecostals/Charismatics, and Conservatives (a poor word, but sufficient for this purpose). and that this is where the emerging church is located (she puts us there). this explains and helps me understand where we are in a historical and socio-cultural perspective. what is most stimulating to me is this next thought.

what i heard phyllis saying is that this “convergent church” (again my phrase, not hers) has a long way to go before it is fully formed. out of respect for her let me just add the caveat that what i’m saying here is me processing what i think i heard her saying …. don’t hold her responsible for my misunderstanding. anyway, this idea of a convergent church … moving beyond emergent/emerging into something more fully formed is striking to me on the following levels:

a. it scares me. i am afraid of the institutionalization and resulting apathy and lethargy that it may produce.

b. it excites me. i sense the broader formative road ahead that we have the privelege of being a part of.

c. it helps me. it gives me perspective that to whatever extent that how we are trying to “be Christian” and to the extent that this is different than how it has meant (for the last 500 yrs or so) to “be Christian” that we are still in process and its OK to not have fully formed thoughts and ideas and structures and practices and leadership. – – – – this is exactly where VC is and tho we are in a grand clarifying process it gives me historical presidence for locating our present struggle in the life of the North American Church.

3. the pull of popularity. when i’m at big gatherings like this its pretty obvious that there are 3 categories of people.

Cool Kids
Almost Cool Kids
Average Kids

i don’t mean this to be deragitory. in this context of the emergent conv. i have been impressed by how those percieved as cool kids don’t act like it and are extremely unpresumptious and humble. but it is still obvious that some are just more “in” than others. this isn’t bad i guess – just normal human behavior.

there are those who are almost cool and do a lot of the work and know the cool kids but aren’t in the limelight as much.

then the average kids are really cool, but they basically watch and listen to the other two groups and talk amongst themselves about what the cool kids say and do.

oh. and then there’s me. who finds himself wanting to be a cool kid or atleast an almost cool kid and feeling frustrated cuz i don’t want to want to be a cool kid or even an almost cool kid but i don’t want to denigrate the cool kids or almost cool kids for my own self-aggradizement or ego. so i say God bless the cool kids and the almost cool kids and the average kids and Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

D. paid pastors as a paradigm. last thought. in the last month we’ve had lots of conversations about the Identity and Destiny for Vineyard Central (vc). Kevin just wrote a great e-pistle (that i hope he posts on his blog [hint, hint]) about it all lately. but i had lunch with a venerable church scholar and guru of things missional and emerging. both he and another venerable fella have said to us (vc) that we should pay pastor(s) so that they would have the time available for the hard work of tending to flock by listening and leading. while i have deep respect for these leaders/thinkers in the faith, i have to admit that i’m disappointed. i’m disappointed of the lack of creativity in this solution.

i admit that if we are not going to pay pastors/leaders we need to have better reasons than that it is a reaction to CEO-paid pastors. and better reasons than a dualistic thinking the money is a polutant. money is important and we should not be so naive to think that just by not paying a leader that we have somehow “fixed” the problem with money. but i do believe there are good reasons for not paying a pastor/leader and tho i don’t know fully how to express them i do believe that this is who God is calling us to be. i’ll also admit that i am less critical of churches that do pay pastors because i am beginning to see some examples of paid pastors being healthy leaders in/for a community of faith. but i don’t think that is what God has for us at VC. i don’t know completely how to say it, but it just FEELS right. it resonates well within me for the life and rhythm of our community. there is an integrity to it that i can’t explain and don’t understand but i believe it is still right.

i do believe that we need to create more availability as leaders (to be with those we lead and serve) and as followers (to be with those we journey with). we need more availability to one another across the board. and we need to be clear on our roles and responsibilities. who does what and why. but that does not equal paid leadership. it may mean tweaked work schedules or less money in our jobs (or different jobs) but it doesn’t have to mean paid pastors.

granted, i am fully able to be wrong about anything i’ve just written and i will remind the faithful reader that i am very tired and in decompressing/process-mode. please comment on anything that stirs your fancy or a question you may have.

ps – for audio (podcast) and video (vlog) of the emergent conv. from yours truly go to www.conversatio.com


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