I am still emergence

Flickr Photo: gadl

After the recent Emergence Christianity Gathering in Memphis, there have been some interesting responses about Phyllis Tickle’s presentation, the future of the emergent church, the response to privilege, etc. As I have skimmed the blogs, I have seen feisty conversations with some valid critiques and, for the most part, respectful interaction. Whether invested in the emergent church conversation or not, I choose to believe that all of these conversations will be good for the emergent body of Christ as we all seek a way forward.

Here are a few posts that have been shared, though Kimberly Roth seems to have a great list on her post, EC13 Reflections: Prologue.

My input into the conversation is this — As we venture forward, we must be careful not to assume that the power of the emergent church lies in the hearts, minds or actions of any single person, any one gathering or any group of leaders. There are certainly respected individuals who fill traditional roles of organizational leadership, but I have always believed that the impact of the emergent church is most profoundly experienced through the inertia and momentum of the many groups of people who are gathering together, wherever they are or however they are lead — each living and seeking to move closer and closer to who and what God hopes the church to be.

Yes, there is a place for conferences, books and other traditional means of convening religious people, but these things do not, must not, be the sole definers of what it means to be the emergent church. If we allow this to happen, then those who sit outside of these spaces pointing fingers and tweets accusing the emergent church of just being the next iteration of what we have always done before . . . they will be right and these relationships built on emergence sensibilities that have been nurtured along the way, they will get lost in the fray.

Three years ago, I posted this I am emergence post as a confession of sorts . . . none of which has to do with a group of leaders, a “movement” or a defined set of beliefs.

because I believe that Jesus called us into individual and communal lives that are inspired and fueled by the wonderfully ambiguous, immeasurable and nuanced challenge of BEING the church;

because I believe the “T”ruth that God speaks to humanity must be discovered and rediscovered through a consistent and exhibited life of shared authority, communal theologizing and institutional fluidity;

because I believe that the political, theological and ecclesiastical “other” is discerning God’s calling on their lives just as faithfully as I am, but do not feel the need to stay in relationships that are confined by false, forced or unjust relationships;

because I embrace, respect and stand up for world that is does not exist in controllable and unyielding bounds of culture, class, sexuality, gender, economies, geography . . .;

and because I just am.

[full post]

I’m okay with these words. I guess, I am still emergence.

So, let’s keep growing by challenging AND defending one another, let’s keep gathering at conferences AND at the local pub, let’s keep gathering on the margins AND in the mainline . . .  lets keep being this amorphous thing that has been and will be a powerful presence in the world even if none of us can say exactly what it is.

And if you want a little more emergence talk, here is my friend Anthony Smith.

Videos via Sogo Media.

Originally posted over at www.reyes-chow.com.

Why Are Some Christians Such Losers?

Photo by proimos on Flickr

Whenever I talk about Christianity and the issues, passions and positions that so many Christians hold, someone inevitably lobs the “Why do you bother? What you are doing doesn’t make any difference!” argument into the mix. This comes both from people of faith who have been burned-out by living what feels like a life of futility as well as from those who are committed to work against the kinds of change that many Christians hope to see.

Believe me, there are times when I wonder the same thing . . .

Seriously, why bother? What we do, doesn’t do anything, anyway. What a bunch of losers!

At a certain level, the question of effectiveness is a valid one, but when it comes right down to it, I do not enter into these seemingly fruitless endeavors only to find success. Of course when facing some of the world’s messed up situations that need to change, success is fulfilling, perseverance is important and stewardship of resources vital, but for many Christians, we do not live and express our faith solely so we can get something in return. Instead, by living our faith in response to what and who God has been in our lives, we return thanks to God . . . even if/when those expressions don’t always lead to an immediate reward, success or victory.

Not just about semantics of faith, the perspective with one sees blessings, rewards and gifts from God greatly determines one’s perspective on faith. On one hand there are some who believe in what is often called the “property gospel” in that, if you are faithful, God will reward you. This is a very simplistic read, but basically you are faithful in order to earn God’s blessings of spirit and material prosperity. And yes, there are many passages in the Bible that are used to support this perspective, Joshua 1:8 for example:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

And then there are those, like myself, who understand blessings and gifts from God as something completely unearned or undeserved, so in response to God’s blessings in life: material, physical and spiritual, we live faithfully. We express love in the world, because of the love that God has shown us and not in order to earn it. There are also many passages that support the idea of grace freely given by God, such as Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Now keep in mind that there is much wrapped into all of this and we could go on and on and on: understanding of faith itself, the role of salvation, the nature of Jesus Christ, how we measure success, etc. but in case you were wondering why some of us Christian losers bother doing stuff that seems like a waste of time, now you know.