You Should Attend an Emergent Cohort Gathering

Like so many in the emerging church conversation, I read a few Brian McLaren books, read Tony’s Post-Modern Youth Ministry, heard that Doug Pagitt was really pushing the envelope with this re-imagining thing, etc. Like so many, I was getting disenfranchised with the traditional way of doing, thinking about, and being the Church.  Like so many, I know that I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of certain well-intentioned, sincere-hearted people because I was witnessing not only a mass exodus of young people leaving the church, but on a different level, the possible extinction of their Christian faith as well.  It was no longer about finding a relevant, younger, cooler worship church, but about discovering/imagining/creating perhaps a new and different way of doing things.  We needed something much, much different.  In Church on the Other Side, McLaren, writes in the opening, “When you have a new culture, you need a new church.  You have a new culture.”   Hmm, where could I go to continue these conversations?  Eventually I found my way into a cohort.

The cohort experience has been a much-needed and welcomed time for me.   It was through the Philly cohort that met in the home of Scott Jones that allowed me to appreciate the “now what?” discussions that much of my reading has sought.  Even better, I made some great friendships with people like Scott, Todd Hiestand and I even met John Franke which is significant because eventually I found my way enrolling at Biblical Seminary.

In 2006, I moved to the north Jersey (and the Philly cohort was never the same.  Who knew is was the keystone to the whole thing? – just kidding).  I started attending the one in NYC and have made some beautiful friendships there as well.  But between the meetings, the distance, and the business of life, I was not able to participate as frequent as I would have liked.  Fortunately inniative-taker extraordinaire Thomas Turner began the North Jersey cohort and it’s been a good thing for several of us.

It’s here that I would like you to pay attention again.  The emergent church thing has been described as a “friendship” or a “conversation” and it’s in the cohorts that you get to appreciate the reality of that.  It is not a recruitment time, nor is it a time of bashing fundamentalists, nor is it cheap training of emergent propaganda.   Rather it’s a time and place to enjoy conversation with generous minded people that may or may not be very different from you.  As a post-conservative, I have really appreciated this space.

If you live in the north jersey area, our next meeting is March 12th at 7.00 at the Allendale Bar and Grill.  Let me know if you need directions or a ride.  If you live outside this area, you can look for the one closest to you here.  And if there isn’t, consider starting one with a few friends. It’s a very, very good thing.

NYC Cohort Luncheon with Jay Bakker and Vince Anderson

A few days ago, I attended a luncheon meeting of the New York Emergent cohort (led by Peter Heltzel).  With the pace of life, we do not meet often enough but when we do it’s special.  We were fortunate enough to have Jay Bakker and Vince Anderson from Revolution NYC come and share with us about their work in Brooklyn, what they are focusing on, what they’ve found challenging, and they shared a bit about themselves too.  Jay did a lot of the talking but I’d like to begin with Vince. 

Vince felt called to drop out of seminary (something that God has probably called others to do but few are willing to obey), and ventured out to discover what God was leading him towards.  Eventually, he played piano and sang at a bar in Brooklyn.  His use of spiritual songs landed him the name “Reverend Vince”.  This is the best part, upon getting to know him, people figured out that this “reverend” title was more than a stage name and so they started asking him spiritual questions, sought counseling, and asked him to perform weddings, funerals and some brought him into their lives. He’s been doing that for 15 years. While I know there are some pastors who stay that long, we know it’s becoming increasingly less.  Today he serves as one of the pastors at The Revolution, he’s an activist, works at the Salvation Army and is involved in his community in a variety of ways.

Then there is Jay Bakker.  What I like about Jay is that he talks about his parents and is proud of them.  He told beautiful stories of his dad and his late mother.  As one who grew up in conservative circles, I knew about the tragic time that Baker family went through.  What I love about them, is that like me, they were flawed, but like me, they were/are redeemed by God’s grace.  If you want to talk about redemption, talk to Jay Bakker, he’s got a great story.  

I appreciated Jay’s openness with us.  There seemed to be a time when he could have written his own ticket, cashed in, played the game, and probably been on the cover of more magazines, had more books, and who knows what else.  But it seems that he is unwilling to compromise what some of that would have cost him and while he still may erupt on to the mainstream (whatever that means), it looks like it will because he went in a direction more true to himself.  I love these stories for the same reasons why I like a lot of independent music (and movies), they’re great stories of struggle, hope, and pardon me for repeating myself, but they are great stories of redemption.

They’re doing good work at The Revolution.  It’s not easy and I don’t think many people in their neighborhood know who Jay Bakker is, which is probably refreshing for him. It seems that they are not well-funded, they had a combination of blockbuster and a few poorly attended events, they are not bursting at the seams with people, but they are an active church.   They have many regulars and many visitors each week and while more people could potentially ruin the intimate season they are in now, they are studying Scripture, praying together, and seeking God’s Kingdom.  Sounds like a beautiful ministry to me.


Reflecting on Evan's Tweet: What do you find to be the best way to engage someone who speaks negatively about the emerging church …

Earlier today, Evan (author of “Why I’m Not Emergent”) tweeted “What do you find to be the best way to engage someone who speaks negatively about the emerging church and assumes you agree?”  The last part of it is funny to me because it has happened a bunch of times but I want to discuss the first part. 

Here’s what I found.  Some people think the emergent church is:

  •  the work of the devil.
  •  equated with relativism.
  •  “liberalism repackaged”.
  •  a fancy way of saying that you’re “open minded” and welcome you to their world.
  •  dangerous or misplaced but still they are interested and curious and somewhat cautious about it.

To those that subscribe to the first 3, it depends how I am feeling that day.  For me, I do not need to convert anyone to emergent-type thinking.  I don’t think there is much to gain.  When some say that they find it to be “unbiblical”, I’ll generally enter into conversation and ask: What have you heard, what have you read, why do you say this …  I may or may not continue depending on that answer.

But let’s assume that you are in a great conversation with a wonderful Christ-follower.  Their knowledge of emerging church is what they heard from someone who read DA Carson’s book three years ago, a critique or two from their Bible-believing pulpit, and the attacks on Brian McLaren and Tony Jones they Googled eight months ago.  But they really are interested because they loved the title of Doug Pagit’s book A Christianity Worth Believing. 

Generally, I begin by explaining that according to the EV website and the many lectures I’ve heard, that is usually described as a “friendship” or a “conversation”.  Friendships don’t have doctrinal statements and healthy ones don’t have agendas.  They can have passion, debate, even good German beer, but they also have love.  

If we’re still friends, I offer to  forward them Scot McKnight’s 5 Streams of the Emerging Church.  In the good old days before 2008, I had recommended Generous Orthodoxy but now I recommend New Christians and if they’re rich (aka Presbyterian), then I tell them to buy both.  (Still need to read A Christianity Worth Believing but like, everyone I love the title).  After that, the most helpful book I read was Leslie Newbigin’s Proper Confidence.  Thank you John Franke and yes, the second most helpful was the Character of Theology … after it was explained in class … by Jay, Evan, Jon, Wendy …  Don’t mnd me, it’s a blog, I’m just having fun here.)

In the actual conversation I try to make these distinctions:

Postmodernism cannot be simply equated to relativism (although it contains it).  Postmodernism is better understood as an age as opposed to merely a philosophy.  Further, it is a response to modernism that seeks to combine the best of the pre-modern world (also known as the ancient world) and the modern world (as much good came out of it but it became incomplete when it lost its imagination and appreciation of mystery).

Regarding the “liberalism repackaged” line, among the many reasons (which some of them do not help) here is another.  It’s been my experience that when a couple of “conservatives” discover that they are seated at a table with those they perceive to be “liberals”,  their almost immediate response is to get up and leave the table.  If their attempts at “real conversion” are unsuccessful, the eventual response is to abandon the conversation with the satisfaction of having known a seed of truth was planted in the jungle of “heresy” (which is a word that should be held with the same reverence as the F-bomb).  I find myself not being socially liberal enough for some, and not conservative enough for others, but I’ve been very welcomed in this friendship.

That said, it’s ok to disagree in peace and love.  One may have a hermeneutic they prefer or at a different part of the journey (or even on a completely different journey).  The emergent thing does not really need an apologetic but it’s difficult for me to appreciate the “unbiblical” line.  For me, I have a higher and I’d like to argue healthier view of the Bible.  Thus, I do not appreciate the charge of being “unbiblical”.

For those of you further into the conversation, feel free to add/edit the list.

For those new, interested, curious, welcome, pull up a digital chair.

For those critical, have a nice day, Jesus loves me too (and so do we).

Responding to the Out of Ur post, "RIP Emerging Church"

On the Out of Ur blog, there is a post entitled, “RIP Emergent that spells out its demise. Lol, what is that … seriously?  Is “reformed theology” dead?  Is the charismatic movement dead?  What about the prosperity gospel … uhh, not sure what the noun is there btw?  Well is that dead?  Isn’t that a little rude, to wish death on someone else’s great interest (even if it is only a ‘term’)?  RIP? LOL  – I’m sure the writer didn’t mean it literally.  

I am sure that the writer is a good man who loves the Lord.  My criticism of the post is that he uses the term “emergent” and the movement it represents interchangeably.  Quoting Kimball (who later posts in the comments), and Tall Skinny Kiwi, I felt he either twisted or perhaps he misunderstood the intention of those words.  Who cares about the word, or the term?  Like Jones, I’ve heard other leaders of the “emerging church” say that perhaps “emergent village” will evolve or transform into something else years ago.  So if whatever is supposed to be announced soon is an extension of it – praise God, most emergents I know hold such things with open hands.   Sorry to say use a cliché here, but the whole idea of “emergent” does not believe it has arrived,  but journeying.  It pretty much is the idea of the word itself, right?

 I am not annoyed really, but I wonder if the mic is really on.  Please understand, that as far as I am concerned, the emergent brand can come and go as it pleases.   I believe most of my friends feel this way and they can speak for themselves.  But those interested in the conversation will most likely continue to dialogue.  Among the issues and topics that are discussed in the books, blogs, and yes, the conferences (as if the “emergents invented them and btw, they are pretty affordable comparatively speaking), there is also a very deep and rich friendship that is growing and all are welcome – even you.  I think this is why when I read the title, I kinda smiled.  To me it’s like asking, “Uhhh, so when are you two breaking up?”. 

For a better reply, check out Scot McKnight’s comment (about six or seven comments down) and the post on his blog.

And Doug Pagitt’s youtube video  discussing emergent/emerging church.

Next Challenges in Theology & Praxis for the Missional Church

On October 10, 2008, Biblical Sem will be host: Next Challenges in Theology & Praxis for the Missional Church, which will serve as the Installation Ceremony – John R. Franke as the Lester and Kay Clemens Professor in Missional Theology.

Speakers will be Brian McLaren, Scot McKnight, Tim Keel.

Hey, i don’t care if they are installing energy efficient light bulbs, I’m thrilled my school is doing this.  Seriously, I’m also happy that a guy like John Franke is being celebrated.  A good man who loves God.  His only sin is that he likes the Vikings.  May God have mercy on us all.

Here’s what I know:

Noon – Registration
1:00 – 1:50 p.m. – Plenary session, Q & A with Scot McKnight
2:00 – 2:45 p.m. – Parallel sessions
2:45 – 3:15 p.m. – Snack break
3:15 – 4:00 p.m. – Parallel sessions
4:00 – 4:50 p.m. – Plenary session, Q & A with Tim Keel

5:00 – 6:30 p.m. – Reception with refreshments 

6:30 – 9:00 p.m. – Formal installation ceremony

David Dunbar

Darrell Guder 
Brian McLaren “An Epistemology of Love”
John Franke