I finished Emerging Churches a few days ago, and I have to say that I found myself resonating pretty strongly with most of the ideas presented in the book. As I look back on that past five years here at Heartland, I think we’re actually evolving from what the book would call a "new paradigm" church (Vineyard and Calvary Chapel fall into this category) into an emerging church, at least according to the definition Gibbs and Bolger give in the book. Of course, since the definition of "emerging church" is still somewhat fluid and evolving itself, it’s hard to categorize these things (thank God!).
But the nine practices of emerging churches they lay out in the book are a good general picture of where we have been headed for the past few years:
- Identifying with Jesus (a kingdom focus instead of a church focus – discipleship to Jesus takes center-stage over being "good church members" – mission of God over church programs)
- Transforming Secular Space (dismantling the sacred/secular divide, living Christianly 24/7)
- Living as Community (renewed focus on relationships, affecting spiritual formation and mission – relationships shape the meetings, not vice-versa)
- Welcoming the Stranger (rethinking the gospel, renewed focus on hospitality, inclusion – belonging before believing)
- Serving with Generosity (the gospel propels us to "good works" – serving the community by feeding the poor, etc, with no agenda attached – embodied witness breaks down the resistance to spoken witness)
- Participating as Producers (priesthood of all believers, everyone participates in ministry and mission, like, omigosh, passive spectatorism is so 1983!)
- Creating as Created Beings (renewed focus on everyone being creative – creativity’s ability to speak to deeper realities)
- Leading as a Body (no more super-pastors – team leadership – no personality-centered systems – leadership as influence rather than control – decentralized and diversified leadership)
- Merging Ancient and Contemporary Spiritualities (a return to more contemplative spiritualities to combat the noise and glitter of modern life – increased use of liturgy and the arts – less linear and more layered, less simplistic explanation and more space and silence and mystery, less direction and more exploration, I could go on!)
This isn’t an exclusive picture of where things are going, but it’s a decent overview. An established church emerging into something new. We could say we are established and we are emerging. The process is exciting and frustrating, glorious and tedious. There are hang-ups and stall-outs, but these are exciting days.