The Emergent Church Isn’t Dead — Here’s Proof

I was in Dallas over the weekend (at the National Youth Workers Convention), and I had the good fortune to visit Union Coffee Shop. Union is the vision of Mike Baughman, whom I first met at Princeton. Mike is entrepreneurial and ambitious, the very characteristics that are so often mitigated against and even squashed in mainline denominations.

But Mike didn’t let that stultifying environment deter him. Instead, he’s rallied 12 Methodist church and numerous individual donors to chip in. His vision, which he’s in the process of realizing, is a coffeeshop adjacent to the SMU campus, that combines caffeine, a warm communal space, a commitment to causes of justice, and, eventually, a worshipping community.

The soft launch of the space was Friday. Brad Cecil and I stopped by on Saturday evening. I loved the feel of the space (photos here). At the center stands a sturdy wooden table, and it’s already become the gravitational center of the space. When we were there, most of the patrons at the shop were seated around that table.

When the (Tuesday evening) worship launches, that table will become the altar, from which the Eucharist is served. This, I think, is a perfect metaphor for what communion ought to be — this table will take on loads of meaning and memory before the communion elements are even placed on it.

I encourage you to visit Union when you’re in DFW. I encourage you to support it financially if you are looking to make a year-end donation somewhere. And I encourage you to take courage in Mike’s example that new life is possible in old denominations — I know I am.

Robert Jeffress: What’s Not to Like? (A Lot, Actually)

Rev. Robert Jeffress and his floppy Bible (D Magazine/Elizabeth Lavin)

At D Magazine, Michael Mooney writes a long profile of Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Dallas.  Jeffress has said that Muhammed was a terrorist, that Mitt Romney is not a Christian, and that Oprah is a tool of Satan.  In spite, of that Mooney finds reason to like him:

Before I met Robert Jeffress, I wanted to hate him. Jeffress is the conservative preacher who made national headlines in October, when he called Mormonism a cult. He’s the senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas, the oldest megachurch in America, and I am certainly not a Baptist. He endorsed Rick Perry for president, and I’m definitely no fan of Perry’s. As a matter of fact, Robert Jeffress and I probably disagree on every major political and religious issue. And yet, I really, really like him.

It would be easy to dislike him if he were a hypocrite or a bigot, if he were an insufferable megalomaniac or the kind of man who preaches out of hate and anger. But he’s none of those things. He’s actually delightful to be around. He’s not just polite; he earnestly cares about people. He may not believe in evolution, but he really does want to know how your day has been. He may oppose certain rights for gay people, but he genuinely desires for you to be merry on Christmas. If he talks with you, he’s attentive and giving. He’s curious about you and about the world.

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The Baby Jesus in 3-D

Where else but Dallas and who else but Ed Young, Jr., would pass out 3-D glasses for their Christmas Eve services, dim the lights, and run the video?  And wouldn’t you know it, at least one of the videos was about Jesus Young himself!

The Dallas Morning News is on the scene:

“It’s a little cheesy, but cheese works,” said Ed Young, pastor of the Grapevine-based megachurch with campuses in Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth and Miami.

On Saturday night in Grapevine, about 4,000 people – nearly a full house – came for the first of the church’s well-advertised 3-D Christmas services. Adults and children alike each got a pair of paper-frame glasses with red and blue plastic lenses.

via Grapevine megachurch premieres 3-D Christmas services | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Tarrant County News.

DMN News photo by Mona Reeder.  And I have it on good authority that she was not allowed to request the names of the people in the shot; in fact, she was not allowed to move from the one spot on the floor that they told her to stand.

Highlights from the Emerging Christianity Event in Fort Worth

On the same weekend that the “Outlaw Preachers” were gathering in Memphis, I was part of a very different conference in Fort Worth, Texas.  Held on the campus of Brite Divinity School (at Texas Christian University), we didn’t have nearly as many tweets at Emerging Christianity, but we did have a big room full of folks who are very interested in the Emergence of Christianity in the 21st century.  In fact, the president of the divinity school introduced the event by saying that there’s no question he’s asked more often than, “What’s the deal with the emerging church?”, a comment that jibes with Brian McLaren’s post that the talk of the ECM’s demise may be a bit premature.

The conference was organized by my friends at Life in the Trinity Ministry in Dallas.  Here are my highlights of the various talks:

Brian McLaren opened on Friday night with thoughts from his latest book, talking in particular about the various gospels that are presented to us at this point in history.  Given the six different gospels from which we have to choose, Brian said, how about we choose the one that will establish love and peace as fundamental to our faith?

I then gave some dispatches from the landscape of the emergent movement.

And Richard Rohr closed the evening with a talk in which he reflected on what he’d heard from Brian and me; particularly interesting was his take on the emergence of the Catholic church in past historical periods.

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