Camping at a Position...

I recently had an "emerging/emergent" conversation with a new ministry friend from back east.

As we began talking, he mentioned being still very exploratory with this emerging, postmodern conversation. He said, "I'm not completely decided on what I think about all of it - I haven't found a position to camp out at, yet."

My caution there (probably unnecessary - he's on track) was this:

If you want to come to a point where you respect, tolerate and understand the motives and forces behind the emerging postmodern church movement, I think you can find a position that is comfortable, respectful and static...

But if you feel the Holy Spirit moving you to truly be a part of an emergent Christian faith, you may have to abandon the expectation of finding a position to camp at. I think this is where he is feeling led.

What I've learned in the last six years is that faith within a paradigm of flexibility, openness and sometimes vagueness (gray) is a necessity during a period like this. "This" being a transitional period. Whether we are transitioning to Postmodernism, or postmodernism itself is the transitional period - either way the world we live in is in flux.

The problem with a lot of movements in the American church is that they have correctly identified a problematic piece of their ecclesiology, but once "corrected" (or at least addressed with good intentions) the movement stops. Or loses steam. So the Jesus People of the 70s (my parents) are now the middle age fundamentalists of today. The Pentecostals of the 1920s to the 1950s are the staunch, comfortable old people demanding hymns and forbidding the drinking of wine today.

If you're familiar with Driscoll at Mars Hill, Seattle, you'll see another good example of masked fundamentalism "giving a little" for the sake of popular culture: "Tattoos, beer and swearing are ok as long as you keep women off the pulpit and gays out of the pews." (in less direct language - remember, masked fundamentalism)

That is not to say one MUST be in favor of ordaining women (though I am) or MUST be open and affirming to homosexual Christians. Particularly with the gay question, there are many more churches traditionally minded about homosexuality (even within Emergent) than churches that are anti-woman.

Flexibility in an emerging global climate is vital. Acquiescence of belief is not required, but fearless love, kindness and tolerance are crucial to allowing room for each other (all of us) to grow, stretch and be molded by the Holy Spirit.

Personally, I'm not willing to throw out scripture because it isn't convenient to my worldview or personal feelings. McLaren and Campolo touch on this tension in Adventures in Missing the Point (a highly recommended read).

I'm EQUALLY unwilling to blindly wrap my arms around and embrace scripture simply because it's scripture. I respect it and may not directly defy it... but I don't have to like it! And I'll continue to wrestle.

I wrestle ongoing, because I'm also unwilling to withhold my grace or brotherhood from Christians who do believe such-and-such is ok... or not ok. I have Christian friends both actively gay, and some "ex-gay" friends who refuse to accept it in their lives - all are on journeys wholeheartedly seeking the face of God, through Christ Jesus.

I believe the Holy Spirit is big enough (and ACTIVE ENOUGH) to speak to the heart and convict in spirit and in truth. Can we be used by the spirit? Sure - but how often do we jump the gun?

By remaining flexible, fluid and somewhat gray, a church or an individual Christian can respond and act in love and faith, rather than fear or anger. I can speak my heart while leaving judgment to God. Or I can even choose NOT to speak to an issue with which I am still wrestling for understanding. This is what McLaren has chosen to do on the gay issue. Not only is he unsatisfied with easy or polar answers about the question, but he feels either answer unnecessarily wounds people. That's not a paradigm God created (the potential wounding) - that's a socio-political mechanism factions within the church (example: the Religious Right) have established.

The point is, as we explore what our faith is evolving into, we can let go of worry about isolating specific bullet points to stand on. That's "sinking sand." Get in Len Sweet's boat and ride the tsunami - that was part of the importance of his SoulTsunami imagery. We have to be fluid because things are evolving WAY too fast to stand still. Christ is our boat, (or the church, however you want to use the metaphor) and that boat is sturdy enough to take us through whatever storm we're in.

read more about my thoughts on Christianity in the real world at

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