I know nothing about Dr. Steve McSwain, but according to his Huffington Post bio, his journey from Christian minister to practicing “a new kind of spirituality” has led him to being called “the voice for the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious).”
Responding to the new Pew Research showing the continuing rise of the religious “nones” (from ~16% five years ago to ~20% now), McSwain writes about “Why Christianity Is Dying While Spirituality Is Thriving.” Ironically, his article is less about spirituality and more about the emergence he sees happening within Christianity — and more specifically, the emerging church movement itself.
I am intrigued whenever a new voice enters this conversation — someone other than “the usual suspects.” McSwain certainly sounds as if he’s been reading “the usual suspects,” however, as he quotes Brian McLaren at one point and drops the “emergence Christianity” terminology fluently like he’s Phyllis Tickle.
Here’s what McSwain writes:
“Christianity is dying. Or, to put it more accurately, the Christian church is dying while the Christian faith, in too few places still, seems to be slowly, but gratefully, morphing into something new.
“And better. …
“What I’m seeing is a new and refreshing emergence within the Christian religion itself. Perhaps, as at no other time in Christian history, except perhaps the first few decades following the death of Jesus, the church today is slowly becoming, but in too few places as yet, something that I suspect Jesus himself might actually recognize. There is within this new emergence an affinity for those matters of social and personal justice, compassion, spiritual wholeness and unity within and among all people and faiths. These were the obsessions of Jesus while here on earth.“I regard these few churches as glimmers of hope scattered here and there.”
McSwain then proceeds to describe five characteristics of “this new emergence within the Christian religion”:
- “This new, emerging church is made up of people who are desperately seeking ways of understanding, and in many cases, rewriting Christian theology.”
- “These new churches have a healthier view of their sacred text known as the Bible.” (This is where he quotes McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity.)
- “These Christians no longer feel the enemy is liberalism, even ‘secular humanism,’ as it is commonly labeled in the declining and dying branches within Christianity.”
- “Further, I see this new evolving Christianity being birthed in the hearts of sincere and devoted Christ-followers who are open to what other religions can teach us about spirituality, too.”
- “Finally, but I could go on and on in my observations, this emerging new Christianity no longer interprets Christian ‘hope’ as some ‘pie-in-the-sky’ future paradise that they alone will enjoy, along with those who agree with their theology, their eschatology and their exclusivist beliefs.”
What do you think of McSwain’s take on the emerging church movement?