Monday, April 24, 2006

Where Emergent Goes Bad (6) - Should Belonging Precede Believing?

Some have argued that EC is fundamentally an off-shoot of the seeker-sensitive movement so popular in the last decade.[1] This is no where more clear than in the EC desire to allow people “in” before they “believe.” In other words, this is taking the seeker model of “making church inviting to unbelievers” to a new level (its logical conclusion?). Now the goal is not conversion, but belonging. And that belonging, in some cases, becomes the Gospel. This is why events like S3K[2] make so much sense to EC and so little sense to people like me. McLaren is very big on this point and promotes the idea in nearly every chapter of A Generous Orthodoxy and the Secret Message of Jesus:

No wonder this third way seems paradoxical: to be truly inclusive, the kingdom must exclude exclusive people; to be truly reconciling, the kingdom must not reconcile with those who refuse reconciliation, to achieve its purpose of gathering people, it must not gather those who scatter. The kingdom of God has a purpose, and that purpose isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Martin Luther King Jr. learned what happens when you preach an inclusive message of reconciliation... On the one hand, if you start expanding the borders and working for a God-centered inclusive and reconciling network of relationships, you will quickly find that there are plenty of people willing to insult you, imprison you, torture you, and kill you. They prefer the rigid boundaries and impermeable walls of their narrow domains and constricted turf, not God’s purposefully inclusive kingdom that calls the least “the greatest” and welcomes the outcast.

On the other hand, if you try to include those people who oppose your inclusive purpose, then your kingdom is divided against itself, and it will be ruined. So what do you do? If you’re Jesus, you take whatever space you are given and let God’s kingdom be made visible and real there.[3]

[1] “I think its [sic] a mistake to see the emerging subculture as nothing more than the next generation's version of the ‘seeker sensitive’ church. It is that, but only in a certain sense. In some ways, the ‘emerging church’ is a reaction against and a departure from the shallow, mass-movement professional showmanship of the slick megachurches like Willow Creek and Saddleback. Emergent types tend to value authenticity over professionalism. Many of their churches—perhaps a majority of their churches—are home churches or otherwise small-group gatherings that are informal and unorganized almost to an extreme.” Phil Johnson’s thoughts on the matter from

[2] S3K refers to Synagogue 3000. For more information on this and the participation of Emergent/US in this event, see Appendix One: Does Emergent Embrace Practicing Jews as Fellow Believers in God? [TO BE POSTED SOON]

[3] Secret Message, 169.