In my last post I listed a number of ways that some followers of Christ are trying to do church differently than their parents’ generation.
But the pendulum of change often swings from one extreme to another and reactions can result in over-correction.
For that reason, and because we’ve already acknowledged some of the problems that traditional evangelical churches struggle with, let’s take a look at some issues that can show up in emerging communities.
In reacting to the oversights or excesses of a parent church, emerging congregations can fall into opposite extremes:
- In an effort to not say more than the Bible says, there may be a tendency to say less.
- While affirming the wonder and mystery of God, some seem hesitant to emphasize what the Bible makes clear.
- In an attempt to live out Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan, some seem to be emphasizing social action at the expense of eternal issues.
- While talking about a life-long journey of faith some are not giving enough attention to the decision that begins the journey.
- In not wanting to push or exclude those struggling with doubts and personal issues, some seem hesitant to warn about the dangers of indecision.
- While calling attention to the need for present kingdom living and attitudes, some are not giving enough attention to the hope of the King and Kingdom to come.
- In an effort to personally experience the way God can speak to us through the Bible, it’s possible to forget that all of the New and Old Testaments are inspired of God for our spiritual growth.
- While trying to focus on the Gospel accounts of God’s presence in Jesus, some are not giving enough attention to the stories behind the letters of Paul and the rest of Scripture.
- While emerging groups often emphasize both/and perspectives, they sometimes take an either/or (black or white) approach in their criticism of the traditional church.
- While trying to avoid judgmental and condemning attitudes, some have stopped quoting what Jesus said about a coming judgment.
On the basis of such over-reactions, some of us have been inclined to write off emerging churches just as we feel they have dismissed us.
Seems to me that, when that happens, we could be repeating the mistake of the disciple who said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us. “But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side (Luke 9:49-50).”
Yes, the young can sound dangerously sure of themselves even when we think they are walking on slippery slopes or thin ice. But we also may need to look in the mirror and realize that some of us have been known to pull the trigger of criticism before getting our facts straight—or before checking our own pulse.
My guess is that if both sides were to listen carefully to one another, many if not most of us could be impressed with how much of what is really important we have in common– while learning something about ourselves in the process.