So much being written on the "emerging church," "new wineskins," "simple church," "house church."
I just want to weigh in with this statement:
For something truly "of God" to emerge within His community, it must come out of a deeply transformational happening within the people of His community.
Before I say more about this, let me share my own story.
I came into a desire for something new out of my own crash and burn. Fourteen years of traditional church ministry left me more than depleted: I was empty, used up, unable to go on, hurt, filled with pain, angry, and fully immobilized emotionally and spiritually. It was a dark place, indeed!
The ensuing months of of introspection, growing awareness, and coping with my dark hole was a season of hell on earth.
I began to unravel the previous years of "doing church" that, far from being life-giving, had starved the very life out of me. I had to come face-to-face with the reality that it wasn't God nor was it His people that had put me in that hole. It was the way I had done church (the normal, expected, accepted way that one does church and ministry). It was the way I participated in a type of church where a few think they must carry the responsibility for the spiritual life of many. It was the way I was made to feel self-important, as a pastor, almost indispensable, and the weight I put on myself as a result. It was the way I worked so hard to "put church on" as though it was an event rather than an experience of God's people with God in the midst. It was the way that others seemed locked into patterns of spiritual dependency and infancy because of the way we did church together, and the way I took on the impossible role to "grow them up." It was the way in which I gave up myself in order to be what I thought I had to be and do what I thought I had to do... in the name of God. It was the way in which I buried the hurt and pain (thinking, in a martyr kind of way, that it was my cross to bear), instead of listening to my soul that was crying out to me: "This isn't working! Pay attention!" Thus the pain, hurt, and anger built, and built, and finally blew.
Yet none of these awarenesses nor experiences will lead to a transformed church. Seeing the pain and dysfunction of the way we have done church may shake us out of our old and worn patterns. We may say, "I'll never do church that way again." Or we may nurse our hurts, wounds, and anger for years and use that as a basis for doing church differently. Or we may analyze, dissect, and re-invent church until we are blue in the face. But none of this will produce anything truly "emergent."
For something truly "of God" to emerge within His community, it must come out of a deeply transformational happening within the people of His community. All that I went through may have prepared me to leave some patterns that were not working, but entering into the truly new is something else altogether. Something new has to emerge within me before I can be part of an emerging, life-giving community.
I don't know what all this is. But some of what God wants to do in me includes:
1. A deeper humility-- nothing will come out of me, what I can do, or what I can think up. It's all about Him-- His plans and His power.
2. Becoming willing to live in the context of being broken-- I must always be a work in process-- it's who I am-- to try to be more than that is to set myself above others.
3. Letting go of control-- my way of feeling safe and secure.
4. Finding safety and security in His arms alone-- so I can let go of control.
5. Embracing mystery and learning a deeper trust-- so I can walk forward not knowing where this emerging thing is taking me.
6. Making room for my creativity and uniqueness-- realizing that the Holy Spirit desires to work through who I really am-- not what others want me to be.
7. Pursuing ongoing healing of hurts and anger-- so that I can make room in my heart for all of this that God wants to do in me.
Whew... sounds like a lot. Thank God I started with number one as number one because only God can even begin working any of this in me or in any of us.
So, this is my lengthy, seminal statement on the emerging church and simple church expressions. I'm excited about what God is doing, and wary lest I, once again, take hold of the little that I know and attempt to build, on my own, that which won't be of God.