Posted by Doug Pagitt
I think there is something really great happening in the world and in Christianity, and
I have been doing a lot of thinking about this Emergentesque stuff, I don’t know what to call it (because Emerging church and Emergent are both current incarnation of a greater happening) So I wish there were a positive term we could use for what is happening, so until we have one I will call it “PT”.
Any way, I have been doing much pondering about PT and have come the conclusion that for this to really take hold, as I think it should, and probably will, it is going to mean doing some of the hard work that frankly to this point many of us have resisted doing. Part of the resistance has been principled – we have concluded that it is too early to put too many things in place too firmly, but at other time the hesitation has not had such honorable motives. I think we, I, have been unwilling to work hard at being clear or to slow to put form around ideas and to make the expressions of PT accessible.
But for PT to have lasting impact and to not be simply “an insignificant astrik on the church growth movement”, as has been suggested, we need to do all the work.
I am but a novice historian on the Evangelical movement of the 20th century, so I am willing to be corrected and refined on this, but it seems to me that there are many things we could learn from the history of the Evangelicals from 1930 – 1980 and how this fringe view served the broader church (look I am as much a skeptic of the movement at anyone, but it certainly did many good things, and many more good things than harmful things) and allowed the Evangelical form of Christianity to be accessible to many people (critiques of that message noted, but it did make that version accessible).
I am trying to do a bit of study to learn more about what really happened in the early years, especially 1930-1960, but during that time many colleges, publishers, para-church organizations, magazines and the like were established (think about most of the Evangleical organizations you know, and I bet most were started in the last 70 years) and I think we could stand to learn a few things from their ways. I do not want all the outcomes of that movement that is for sure, but I think that there are certain things that must be done in order for people to continue to gather together and make collective life with God around these PT happenings.
I think part of what we need to do include:
• We need to create well-thought through expressions of PT life in all areas of the church. This will mean working with all areas of the church, much more than just worship gathering issues. Especially in the areas of structure. We need to be structured in ways that lead to the outcomes we hope for. We need theological and practitioner expressions.
• We need to work on training people. We need to find ways to share knowledge and experience with one another that moves beyond one on one conversations.
• We need expressions of PT life in all areas of the church. Think of evangelicalism from 1930 -180 without camps, schools, churches, radio, publishing, it simply wouldn’t have happened.
• We need multiple expressions. This is one of the reasons why any one organization cannot be the center of PT life. There needs to be multiple expressions. We need to be able to express our differences without separating.
• We need and “Enemy”. I know this counter to our generative spirit, but all expressions need to be able to share not only what they want to see happen, but what they hope happens less. Let me suggest a few enemies: global poverty, abuse of children and women, dominance of under class, physical habits that are detrimental to future generations, governmental systems that oppress the weak for the sake of the few, slave trafficking. It seems to me that we can say that we are for all the efforts that are extending God’s agenda in the world and be against all the things that compete with God’s agenda. This one will certainly require careful consideration, but it is a must, in my opinion.
• We need to have multiple versions of explaining God’s agenda for the world. One of the benefits of evangelicalism was that it made it possible to talk about God’s plan without having to have a 20 minute conversation (now I suspect this was more difficult in the early days) with the emphasis on personal connection with God and all. I think that whenever using the short version we need to be able to say that is what it is, much like a trailer for a movie, or a picture of our family, we know there is more to it, but it a compelling way to start.
• I am sure there are other things we will need to do, like think about a means of engaging with politics and global justice issues (a conversation does not go very far to stop global injustice) and I know it will take much to accomplish any one, let alone all, of these things.
But if this is what we feel God is calling us to then let’s get to it.