map please

i remember back a few years ago living, for a short time, in vermont. one day while i was out for a drive i stopped to ask for directions. i was looking to go from huntington to burlington. i pulled up to a few elderly gentlemen sitting at the front of the general store (it was norman rockwell for sure). i said, "how do i get to burlington from here?"

and then one of them said, "well, from hear you need to go back to the old oak, the one hit by lightenin' in '55 right before old man wilson died. when you see that old oak - remember the lightenin', not the one that was burnt by the warren twin boys in '63 cause that will bring you out by the wilson farm and that's going the wrong way. once you get to the old oak (lightenin') go just past it about 500 feet then turn right. there is a large stone on the corner so it will be easy to know. you want to go past the reilly farm, and past the mill's milking barn and then turn left. drive far, and keep to the right, soon you will hit the abbot's place and you will need to turn right there. from their, i am not sure but maybe one of the others will know."

just then, three others joined in to correct the old man and give me "better" directions. as i was getting more and more confused one of the kids in the general store came out with a map. on the map was a circle that said "you are here" and a circle around burlington with a note that said "this is where you want to go" - i thank the old guys and went inside. i thanked the young lady behind the counter and asked her how she knew. she told me she over heard the men talking and knew that they got five other people lost in the past three months. she said, "it's easier to give you a map then it is to try to figure out directions from guys who can't remember what they had for breakfast this morning."

where are we heading as an emerging church? where are wee seeking "directions?" will we simply be a modern church with better music, better coffee, younger people and candles? will we be a community that truly looks deep into the doctrine we proclaim or will we proclaim them without giving them a second thought? will we "stroke" the company line and strive to force feed doctrines that scripture can not support? will we stand on traditions and claim they are doctrine? will we use the modern line that "it's God's plan" when we come upon things we can not explain?

it seems to me, in my travels and in my conversations, that many "emerging" communities are not emerging from anything - they are entrenched in modern theology, modern structure, modern vision and modern purpose and this could be because they are being planted by denominations. as emerging people we need to look modernism in the eye, not shake from it, and answer the questions head on - we are not to "repackage" bad theology in cool words to "sell" it to an emerging people - let us be honest, open and direct in our desires to truly look deep into the heart of God. when we do this, we will seek our way and learn to read the map God gives us to help us on our walk - but if all we get are directions, we will get no place but lost.


1 comment:

J said...

i couldn't agree more. when we were taking our first steps into the formation of our community, i traveled some and dialogued with a large number of people who were emerging before "emergent" existed. all but one of the communities with which we connected came off just like church as we had known it. i've found many others since then who seem to be moving toward something new, but i am afraid that there are a lot of trendy things being lumped under a brand that doesn't (shouldn't) apply.
the same thing is probably said of our community, i just don't see it because i'm on the inside of it. hmmmmm.