gentry13

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2005 at 4:49 pm

soybean bible, ecclesiastical zeitgeist and a penchant for salt

during the years that i attended soybean bible, the seeker church was the constant topic of conversation. most of the professors openly questioned the way that seeker churches: accommodated unbelievers, transformed worship services into evangelistic infomercials and drained the vitality of smaller congregations through transfer growth. i can still remember hearing faculty members bristle at the fact that, courtesy of john wasem, they had received the willow creek association (wca) newsletter in their mail boxes.

since i spent the majority of my time at soybean working with river glen christian church, a seeker-sensitive, w.c.a. affiliated church that was effectively evangelizing upper-middle class suburbanites and enabling them to follow Jesus, i took many of my professor’s opinions with a grain of salt. most of the time, their critiques of the seeker church did not square with my experience, but i never attempted to mount an apologetic or say much of anything about it. i figured that my role was to use my gifts to honor God and to seek to build up the church, so that’s what i spent my time doing.

after i left soybean, i spent a little over two years working with a seeker church in manchester, new hampshire. i enjoyed my time at manchester christian church and was proud to oversee a twenty-something ministry that welcomed and sought to equip everyone from missionary kids to wiccans to young adults who were in the midst of trysts with strippers. sure, there were times that i was terrified to hear three hundred suburbanites jubilantly singing “show us your power, O Lord our God” and other times when my hands trembled as i listened to sermons on topics like the prayer of jabez, but, by and large, my time there was quite fruitful.

after i had spent a few years there, i felt like it was time to either move to manchester and immerse myself in that ministry, since it’s hard to bail your small group members out of jail when you live sixty miles away and i didn’t want the girl who left laughably demonic messages on my cell phone to be saddled with excessive long distance charges, or become part of a ministry that was incarnating both the good news and the overwhelming compassion of Jesus within my local community. when rick bennett and j & b wilcox invited me to take part in the latter, i decided to move to beverly and invest my life in sinners and saints.

that transition took place over three years ago. since that time our little community has been worshipping God together, studying the Bible in an (mostly) expository manner, regularly volunteering with our local social services organization, welcoming sinners and saints, the drunk and the brain damaged to share life with us, and contributing a significant amount of prayer and payola to God’s subversive mission in the world. i don’t want to sound like a pollyanna when i say that it has been the most intriguing and fruitful period of my life thus far, but it has been a pretty wonderful experience.

anyway, after spending three years in the a-institutional church that God placed me in, developing friendships and partnerships with a number of people who are participating in the mission of God in innovative ways and walking with those who are seeking to re-imagine the way we talk about God, interpret His words and, individually and communally reflect His beauty, goodness and truth, i admit that i have a lot in common with and am deeply appreciative of the fellowship i share with those who play a part in the conversation and mission that is known as emergent (as a copywriter, i must confess that this is a horribly written, run-on sentence. maybe i’ll use it as an example of “what not to do” in my next training seminar). as a result, i have found that i am once again affiliated with the group that currently sits in the cross-hairs of many of the professors and mentors that i deeply respect. many of these men, a number of which questioned the validity of the seeker church, are now wholly invested within those church structures. now that the seeker sensitive methodology has transitioned from an innovation to an acceptable institution, they have apparently chosen to critique and deconstruct emergent.

i find the latter situation rather ironic. it leads me to wonder whether in ten years emergent will become such a part of the evangelical fabric that we’ll no longer question its existence or viability. on a more negative note, it makes me wonder whether Christians (please note: i am including emergent folk in this crass generalization) spend our time critiquing, defending and deconstructing church structures and systems because those tasks are a hell of a lot easier than fully pouring ourselves into the mission of compassion and proclamation that God is calling us to.

in the end, that’s why i’m taking the pronouncements of my former professors (whom i deeply love, respect and am eager to please) with a grain of salt.

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