Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hope, Fear, the Emergent Church and The Runaway Pastor

The sea of life is so disturbed with change and conflict that, like sailors in a gale, Christians are scuttling all things unessential. What does that mean? Consider the things (rules, worship style assumptions, etc.) once thought vital for faith in your tradition. Any of them been tossed overboard in the past decade or so? Or have you jumped in yourself?

My novel: The Runaway Pastor is a story of a pastor desperately seeking to know which vows are worthy of keeping: Marital? Ordination? What are the least common denominators of our faith?

Call me an alarmist, but navigating the days ahead may require much, if not most of the things we cherish being exposed as non-essentials.

Now, I still plug into daily times with scripture, and love to read theology and understand tradition. But, I'm grateful that my thinking is also influenced by various emergent Christian thinkers. I am a follower of The Emergent Village, a kind of online gathering place for the emergent church conversation. (Others are plentiful, and I enjoy an occasional visit to and other associated links.) In a day when the ocean of faith is littered with things ships once thought essential cargo, I want to see what others are holding onto. I want to know what they are scuttling, and why? And, I'm encouraged that Jesus is the central loyalty in the emergent conversation.

Everyone knows these are changing times. Could this be one of the chief sources of burnout for Christian leaders? The rub can be felt from varying angles: My thinking is changing. How would my congregation respond if they knew? Or, People in my congregation are becoming more theologically liberal (or conservative) in the way they think. How can I keep all of the parties appeased? Honestly now, are pastors to be appeasers, or...?

Henri Nouwen, a prolific writer (now deceased), wrote a phrase that has had a profound influence on me: "Leaving the house of fear." The year I first read it, my advent series became the common response of Joseph, Mary and the shepherds to God's good news: FEAR!--And the accompanying common response from Heaven's messengers: "Do not be afraid." Why? Because this is good news. They were told to focus not on fear, but hope.

I have great hope for the future, and I have no idea what it will look like. I do know that Jesus, as I experience Him and reflect Him in and through His people, will remain on board...even if much I've held to must be scuttled.

Scuttling can be invigorating.

1 comment:

Zee said...

*sigh* emergent teaching certainly is cool and refreshing, but what i found is that one still has to be careful with it. it's too easy to go waaaaaay overboard (no pun about Jesus / Peter walking on the water intended)...

one of my teachers in my so-called Christian university (it *is* called an international christian university) was into the teaching, but i guess he was way into it. and when at a Bible class you hear that there's no Devil and life is supposed to only be about love, peace, and joy? UH... excuse me, i disagree. anyway. i can go on for hours about that.

as i said, we gotta keep our eyes and hearts open for the Truth, but still remain careful so no junk gets a chance to enter. for there is a lot of junk in this world.