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The Evolution of a Conversation:

All conversations evolve, that’s a given. I mean, everything evolves so it stands to reason that a conversation should also evolve. But I think the question is, “what do we evolve too?” If we look at the “natural” evolution of the Christian faith do we see a model of what the evolution of a conversation is, or should be? Let me explain how I see it.

Christianity started as a conversation in Bethlehem, moved to a movement in Jerusalem, developed into a philosophy in Greece, became an institution in Rome, organized as a tradition in America, and truly needs to return to the conversation and not to the movement stage.

Let’s Talk:
When Christianity was a conversation, Jesus was the key spokesperson for that conversation. Others, while having a voice, were not the guiding force of the faith. Others spoke, and even added to the conversation, but all eyes where on Jesus. Then, after Jesus left, the conversation stopped and the movement started. You see, while Jesus was alive, the movement could never happen – once Jesus left, then a movement could be formed. I fear that if we become a movement, we will no longer seek to see Christ as the center of what we talk about – we will turn to the voices of others to guide us.

When the conversation turned to a movement, the voice of Christ was filtered thought the voices of others. We no longer look at Jesus as the core teacher, and we started to look to people [like Paul] for our faith walk. We took the words of Christ and filtered them via Paul, as opposed to taking the words of Paul and filtering them through the words of Jesus. But movements do that, they replace the founder of the conversation with others who they see as “just as important” and we are on the verge of such action, and that frightens me greatly. Because one of the next steps is to become a “philosophy” and then an “institution” and I am not at all willing to head in that direction.

The Nature of the Beast:
No matter the intentions of the people involved, moving out of the conversation means we will move to becoming an institution. When I look back at the institutional church in my life I see flash back of hurt, pain, greed, selfishness, oppression and judgment. That is a norm for an institution. It must have “guidelines” and if one does not fit, one is not welcomed. If we look at “why” the emerging needs to be a “movement” we see that it’s because of the need to keep things more “centered” and “easier” to get out the word. But is that a reality? What I see is a gathering that sees itself as “The Emerging Church” and others who see themselves as “the emerging church” and how does a movement bring those together? Becoming a “movement” will not bring unity, and moving to an institution will never cause unity. So, how does it happen? I think it happens because it must happen, and I believe that the way it happens is we stay a conversation.

Keeping the conversation as a conversation is the only way it can happen. I think it is done, not with big national events that are smoke and mirror designed to sell books and “programs” aimed at an emerging people. Rather small gatherings of people in areas where the emerging is taking hold – and then spreading to the world around. Small, regional events, not designed to sell book, hype an author, or make money – but rather gathering where people can connect, make friends and learn from each other. When we have rings of interconnected, organic, and self developing small groups we connect with each other a core levels. we have an opportunity to truly be what we are claiming the church needs to be, relvant, organic, connective, group center and expressive.

Possible? Impossible?
I am certain that some would say, this is impossible – and for them it is. Yet, many will say that it is very possible – but how does one do this without people to “put it together?” I think it is simple, and that is usually the best when we think in terms of “organic.”

Vintage 21 in North Carolina is hosting a lunch and is asking people from about a two hour drive to come and talk – no program, no speakers, no “sales pitch” – just voices, sharing vision. 247Connection [the church I am the Lead Pastor at] is also willing to do the same. Now, all we need is another willing to do the same and the process begins.

The Turn Out
While I am certain that this will not make people any money, and the book publishers will not have big gatherings to hawk their wears at – but I could care less. I am not in this to make money, or sell books – I am in this to share Christ with others, and the way that is done in via an honest, open and organic network of conversations – no “guideline” no “definitions” of what it means to belong, or who is and is not emerging – just a gathering of people wanting to share Christ in a relevant way with others.

I truly have been praying over this idea that we “centralize” the emerging church, and I am very uncomfortable with what seems to be the way it is going. I am one voice, loud sometimes, but still one voice. I can only speak for myself and no other – I strongly desire to remain a conversation, and I am fearful of the idea that we become a movement. One thing those who desire a movement need to know, many of us who are in the emerging do not do well with movements and we have been kicked out, ignored or shoved aside in movements. Me in a movement is like a geek in the middle of a jock convention, not going to work :) – we have a very clear and real dislike for the idea of a movement [because it always leads to an institution] and it will not fit for many of us. It seems that we are selling out our vision and call to meet the needs of the book sellers, the organizers, and those who are striving to bring us “back” to the evangelical movement.

2 comments:

Steven White said...

Great article! I can see how a movement is the wrong direction. I can see in myself an arrogance building in me when I think of how others don't fit the Emergent bill. Yet, your article reminds me of where my heart should be. I should be a person carrying the conversations of Jesus to others and allow all voices (emerging or not) to speak and listen.

Thank you for reminding me of why I chose to be in conversation with emergent and left the organized Church.

I hope Tony, Doug, Brian, Lenord and others read your blog and see our hearts.

Peace,

Steven

John said...

john, truly enjoyed reading what you have to say here it is the same thing that has been bothering me. i see to many parellels between the emerging thing and the fundemnetalist movement in the 2oth century they went from conversation to institution very quickly and had similar struggles with the establish church as they broke away. i am actually planning on going to the off the map event in dc next weekend and i want to ask this question, why are we so set on being the show when the show is what we were trying to get away from. for it comes down to are you loving others in ways that take time and sacrifice and are you listening to them and their words of pain and despair. thanks for this post it changed my day