A reader e-mailed me this week with "I think it is time you stopped talking about the emerging church. You haven’t lead a church in over two years. Your voice is irrelevant to the conversation since you are on the outside of it."
Well I don’t blog a lot on church mechanics anymore and I don’t think I did when I was a professional cleric but I think that opinion is a huge part of the problem. I hear Frank Viola (blog) getting ripped because he isn’t seminary educated but part of me thinks that his opinion and voice is important because he isn’t seminary educated and he has a viewpoint from outside of the system. It is one of the basic premises of Thomas Homer-Dixon’s book, The Ingenuity Gap and is the idea that too many experts tend to have too narrow of focus and view on any problem and there is a need for deep generalists to bring a wider perspective on an issue and perhaps facilitate discussion between different fields of discipline to bring about change.
Of course this misses the bigger rebuttal is that serving the poor and disenfranchised seems to be one of the basic themes of the Bible and I think I do a pretty good job of doing that. It’s definitely not cool (I came home spelling of dog, cat, and human urine today) but does that disqualify me from having a worthwhile voice in the church? I don’t know. If it was someone else I would say no but I feel a large distance between me and Christianity Inc. these days so maybe it is legit.
I went into the Christian MegaMart ™ the other night on a whim. I was looking for Jim Palmer’s book, Wide Open Spaces and a copy of Divine Nobodies (neither of which they had) and as I looked at what the Christian marketplace was, I realized that I don’t fit in the old evangelical world anymore. As I looked at the assorted titles in the section marketed "The Emerging Church", I am not even sure I fit in there. Maybe evangelicalism and the emerging church is a place best left to the professionals.
Where do I fit in that? I don’t know anymore. I don’t think it is just sitting in a pew listening to someone else tell me how to live but at the same time I don’t think I want to go back to the other side of the pulpit and tell other people how to live. I know we call that community but that isn’t community. We can quote Steven Johnson all we want but it isn’t emergent either, no matter how many tea lights get lit. Somewhere along the way, something got lost, misplaced, sold or changed. The vision of what was talked about a long time ago in places like Three Hills, Seattle, and online was changed, about the same time the marketers saw us as a market and the media saw this as a news worthy story. If there is anything I would love to do, it’s find that again. If it still exists, I’ll be over there.