Thursday, November 02, 2006


the most recent edition of next-wave features an excellent review of Jesus of Suburbia by dustin bagby and an intriguing article entitled dear emergents by indiana wesleyan professor keith drury. in the latter article professor drury commends the emergent church for its missional orientation, abiding idealism and mystical theology. however, he also offers two words of caution as well.

since the second caution effectively summarizes one of my own deepest concerns about emergent i'm posting it in hopes that you will read and respond.

Keep the church. You are going to be tempted to abandon the church and go off into solitary spirituality. Your crushed idealism may cause you to give up on the assembled people of God and our culture’s individualism will entice you toward your iPod rather than worship on Sunday mornings. There will be voices recruiting you to leave the church—reversing the notion of “called out ones” to being called out of the church to an individualized privatized spirituality. I pray you will not listen to these temptations. Be wary of any who claim to “love Jesus but despise the church.” Refuse to walk away from the assembly of believers into a privatized self-centered spirituality. If you are practicing privatized faith on your own apart from the assembly you are not being a Christian at all—you merely practicing spiritual masturbation. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian any more than a solitary marriage. Christians come in clusters. I hope you emergents will reinvent all kinds of new ways for the church to be the church, but none of them should include a church-less Christianity. For a church-less Christianity is essentially a Christ-less Christianity and thus not Christian at all. To be prepared for this temptation read Bonhoeffer.


Before Girl said...

Sorry, Jeff, but honestly, this is the sort of thinking that makes me run from Christianity, rather than find out more about it.

g13 said...

no need to apologize Krista. i realize that this quote is simply fodder for ecclesiological discussion and might be meaningless and/or offensive to those who have not chosen to follow Christ. i trust that you know it is my intention never to exclude. peace.

Before Girl said...

Yes I know. Just my two cents.

Paul Sutherland said...

I assume that Drury writes of "the church" as the body of believers and not the building. That makes me wonder how one can love Jesus but despise the church. Perhaps the reference to the church in that case would be better defined as Christianity?

I like what "before girl" wrote. And I encourage her to run from Christianity as fast as her feet will carry her. I would encourage her to run from it and run towards figuring out who Jesus is to her.

I love C.S. Lewis' question: is Jesus a Lunatic, a Liar or Lord?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I feel compelled to responde to that guy's warning since it almost defines my current life to a tee.

First, for the first time anywhere on the internet, I'm admitting this: I believe my current "churchlessness" is only a season, not an end-all. I don't know how much longer this season will last.

Second: I guess we can go round and round at defining "church". Since my current "church" gathering is the majority of my immediate neighbors, I consider them my church. And occasionally, we do sacrement type stuff with Obi-Wan (and also with the Sanfords if Bud Light BBQ tortillas and count as a communion).

I can kind of agree to the mention of how christians should hang out in groups or clusters etc. But our current life (and the whole emergent deal as I know it) is about breaking out of the unhealthy seclusion of the christian compound and getting jiggy with everyone else.

Sometimes I need to come up for air and hang with other believers for encouragement if nothing else.

Just some quick off the cuff thoughts. I don't think I can agree with this guy completely. I'm guessing he's a church pastor or minister or someone who stands to lose if people leave the organized church...?

Maybe more later. Maybe I should read that link too.

g13 said...

thank you for all the intriguing responses.

agent b - the author is a professor at indiana wesleyan university. as far as i can tell, he is not the "senior pastor" of a church or anything, so i don't think he is using the argument to bolster a self-serving agenda. rather, i think that he is simply reminding followers of Jesus that community is an essential element of our faith.

as nathan hatch argued so persuasively in the democratization of american christianity, the american church has often exalted the individual over and above the community (one negative result of this is the 4,000 + christian denominations that were founded in our country). i believe the place of the individual is important and i am no proponent of authoritarian communities that squelch individual perspectives, but i suspect that a consumer-focused christianity that exalts individual story and spirituality over and above the historical testimony and practice of the church is rather problematic.

i'm sure i could have said that better, but there you go.

okay, one more note. in regards to ecclesiology i think one can be a-institutional without being anti-ecclesiological. i am not an apologist for the institution, but i have a deep and abiding concern for and commitment to Christian community.

i will now shut up.

Mike said...

i would agree with g-funk.

it is about community and one CAN be anti institutional christianity and still participate in the local body.

so i just said what you just said.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/ G13 et al.

I'm all for gatherings and friends and support, etc.

I just don't care for the community itself being the focus. When the community is the end all it becomes real self-serving and naval gazing and we end up with many neglects (local poverty, etc).

I really liked that guy's column, though.

Mike said...

i am not sure the problem is the community but the praxis of that community.

if the community believes in the mission, in the calling to be a kingdom of priests then navel gazing is the last thing that will result.

but you are right B often the community becomes a ghetto, but i would argue that the folks in those communities are (just as those who reject community - and i hope you know i am not thinking of you agent b) practicing a shadow of the faith based on a truncated gospel.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing that Keith uses the term church in a manner that no longer jives with my present paradigm. How does one abandon the church? If he is referring to Jesus people no longer desiring to be involved in one of those organizational systems that refer to themselves as “local churches” – than what Keith views as concerning – I view as a glorious movement of liberation.

I so long for a restoration of an appropriate usage of the term church! This word is so deeply buried under the dung of religious obligation that I have little confidence that it can be redeemed.

I have found that in my own abandonment of the oxymoronic religious systems commonly referred to as “local churches” – that I have discovered greater interaction with the community that all Jesus folk have in common – the Body of the Anointed Lord Jesus. I am so thankful to be a member of the reconciled family! No desire to abandon the family in this heart – and greater love for those our Dad is still endeavoring to win into the family.