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Comments

Adriene

I too hope that 'ememrgent' is more than a cool way to do church for genXers - but it feels that way sometimes. In trying to reach a specific generation or 'culture', its all about 'how' church is done - style issues more than substance.

It should be about the theology -I totally agree with that. But I don't think that talking about 'questions relating to the nautre of God' are going to be any less volatile and divisive!!!

I'd love a multi-generational, emerging church. Multi-generational church is tough enough - even if its a very traditional/classical/liturgical "style" - once you throw in 'contemoprary' music and art and dance and other stuff - theres a style split, which shouldnt lead to a generational split, but music is so important, and so much connected with age. I guess I am not super -optomistic about it - although I do have some ideas I'd like to try.

I can feel comfortable TALKING with 60's and 20's - but I am also in my 40's, and have been excluded from the leadership of my home 'emerging' church - because I am too old (although I'm also a strong female,) but my 50 husband feels very not included in the community. We visited a small emerging church and not one person even spoke to him. It feels very much like a 'young people' thing to him - they don't want 'old people' there - or are very suspicious.
But we continue to dream and pray, and I am glad to read your hopeful words Will.

Grace and Peace,
Adriene

PS - here's hoping the comments on THIS post will actually be on topic. I am getting SO frustrated with this 'conversation' getting hijacked all the time!!!

Sivin

according to some chinese proverb I remember .. Life for a man really begins to blossom at 40! :-)

timsamoff

Beautiful, Will. Thanks.

Pat

Adriene

You bring up a great point. Emergent is just another generational church for young people. Soon it will grow old and there will be post-emergent churches. I too have been to emergent churches and have noticed the same thing you have. How stupid can a church be to exclude from leadership those who are the oldest? IT seems to me that we should look to our elders the most for wisdom. These young kids think they know everything and emergent gives them a soapbox that supports them in this false belief. It seems to me that the most successfull "multi-generational" churches thus far lie in the catholic and eastern orthodox traditions. I am continually astounded by the centrality of unity in their theology. And it really does seem to work.

Within the protestant arena a multigenerational church seems to be a pipedream due to the very nature of the structure. Within protestantism it is rather easy to break away (to protest) and start a new church. Because of this attitude we now have upwards of 20,000 different protestant denominations. This goes in the absolute opposite direction of church unity. Once protestantism and emergent realizes this only then, so it seems, can christians work towards multigenerationalism and unity as is found in the catholic and eastern orthodox traditions.

Steve K.

Adriene,

Thanks for those words of caution. I think in many cases emerging churches are still focused on a generational/demographic approach -- the homogenous unit principle still at work -- and we need to reevaluate that. The church I am a part of is emerging out of being a Gen X church plant of a Willow Creek-style megachurch. Will's vision of an intergenerational church -- fully reflective of the diversity in the Body of Christ -- is a beautiful one. We need to strive to see it realized in every aspect, including generationally. I confess to being "skeptical" when I see "older" people (I turn 30 on Sunday) on Sunday morning, immediately assuming they probably don't "get it." I need to repent of that. Thanks for speaking up and sharing your experience and perspective.

Shalom,
Steve K.

P.S. Amen to the comment about "hijacking" going here in the comments, as well.

John

Emergent is a just a evangelical youth group...

Pat

Adriene

You bring up a great point. Emergent is just another generational church for young people. Soon it will grow old and there will be post-emergent churches. I too have been to emergent churches and have noticed the same thing you have. How stupid can a church be to exclude from leadership those who are the oldest? IT seems to me that we should look to our elders the most for wisdom. These young kids think they know everything and emergent gives them a soapbox that supports them in this false belief. It seems to me that the most successfull "multi-generational" churches thus far lie in the catholic and eastern orthodox traditions. I am continually astounded by the centrality of unity in their theology. And it really does seem to work.

Within the protestant arena a multigenerational church seems to be a pipedream due to the very nature of the structure. Within protestantism it is rather easy to break away (to protest) and start a new church. Because of this attitude we now have upwards of 20,000 different protestant denominations. This goes in the absolute opposite direction of church unity. Once protestantism and emergent realizes this only then, so it seems, can christians work towards multigenerationalism and unity as is found in the catholic and eastern orthodox traditions.


Pat

oops! Sorry, it looks like I posted one too many times. Please forgive me.

Pat

Doug

I am new at this, but here goes. Our fellowship belongs to the SBC and still seems to run with the emergent feelings and ideas. I am way over the hump age wise. Our fellowship is strong in all ages.

I would attribute much of this positive stuff to the idea the this fellowship is all things to all people as Paul put it, BUT the WORD is the authority. If it doesn't comply with the WORD, it isn't happening.

So, what do we do with things the WORD doesn't cover. Music, length of sermons, pray, dancing in the aisles and that stuff. We pray. We opening discuss with the WORD as the facilitator. Community becomes the factor that God has laid out in Eph 4 and other spots, and that is UNITY. UNITY of the believer. Not lockstep discipleship from some program, but unity of purpose, The Kingdom of God, here and now.

Music, something for everyone. It is interesting that in those times with the choice of songs is presented to the fellowship the young folks want the old hymns and the old folks want the guitar and choruses. Maybe we're just weird.

I don't know how this follows the emergent ideas, but it follows God's ideas.

Thank you for this opportunity.

His,

Doug

tk

There are many obstacles to the intergenerational thing but I think figuring it out has got to be one of the church's top priorities. I captured several of my thoughts around this stuff here.
I would love to hear some practical/tactical thoughts on how to make intergenerational faith a reality.

Kay

A church that crosses the generations is our dream, too. I don't know if it is realistic to think that it could happen in my lifetime, but maybe my children could enjoy such a thing. When we started our church, many in our leadership visited a lot of emergent churches. They generally came back with the comment: It was great, but how do we do this for grownups. No one meant that derogatorily, but it seemed that at nearly all of these churches, our 30-40-something leaders were pretty much the oldest people there and the churches weren't really structured to address issues like how to engage a 13-year old, or how to keep a 4-year old from dumping the paint pots. All of these things were peripheral, though, and I'm sure the churches we visited will address them at some point.

The biggest hindrance we've encountered has been music. In the 60s the explosion of the recording industry led to generational identification with a musical style. Suddenly, it wasn't cool to like either your parents' music or your kids' music. At our church we try to incorporate a lot of musical styles, but invariably we get comments like: "Finally, some decent music" or "I hope we don't have to do that again any time soon," both referring to same music! I don't know how to combat this, but would love to hear the thoughts of others.

Simon

Kay,

Again i think you point to the central issue here: emergent churches are youthgroups that are slowly growing up and the pastors are all former youth pastors with MDiv's. What inevitably happens is that they are generational. But again, that is the story of Protestantism (for the most part, not all) isn't it?

I really do not think it is possible to create a intergenerational church with Evangelical Protestantism like Emergent is trying to do. But if they can, great...best of luck. God Bless

Simon

Rob Auld

Could we keep multi-generational emerging church by developing new faith communities in exisiting modern churches? Our chance of influencing other generations would be much greater.

Rob

Debbie

Rob - I agree with what you have written here. finally i am hearing a realistic and concrete solution from the emergent camp. However, if i understand you correctly, with this solution (which i like) there would be no need for emergent. In fact, emergent should disban and encourage everyone to work within their existing denominations instead of creating a new "emergent" denomination.

Paul

Quesiton for Will, the author of this post:

What do you mean by the word "Church" when pondering your greatest hope for the "Church" in the next 50 years?

Paul

Rob Auld

Debbie,

I think emergent is very necessary. Without this conversation it would be doubtful I'd be a Christian. I appreciate the works of McLaren, Tony Jones, Ivy Beckwith, etc. etc.

This conversation/movement (whatever) could serve to strengthen new faith communities in existing churches and help develop and launch new ones. I hope Emergent wouldn't be opposed to that.

My suggestion of new faith communities helps with some problems (intergenerational, multicultural at least in my church) but creates a whole set of new ones. It won't be right for everyone in every context.

will

Paul,

Good question. In that situation, my use of the word "Church" is the Body of Christ, those who are, in the parlance of Emergent, committed to following God in the Way of Jesus.

robbymac

I'm all for the intergenerational approach; it will always be my first choice.

However, there may be times when a generational church gets started, people become followers of Jesus through it, and eventually, as some have pointed out, there may come a time when there needs to be a post-emerging church for the next, next generation.

I see no problem with that. My dream would be that the "older" congregation wouldn't repeat the mistakes of the past, and instead find ways of creatively and selflessly blessing the post-emerging church, when and if we ever get to that point.

Debbie, I hear your desire for the institutional church to be reformed from within, and I'm with you generally. But I've also seen many examples of pastors being fired, congregation members driven out, etc. for daring to question what Bob Girard called, in 1970, "The Glorious Evangelical Status Quo".

For these people, the choice to remain within the structures has been taken from them, and they are often wounded terribly by the experience. Providing pastoral care for those who are in a season of detoxing from church is a very real need, in my observation.

jerry

Of course, the post-emergent church is inevitable and is on the way. It will be here soon and this emergent thing you guys have going here will be older than dirt and intelligable not only to the older folks now, but the younger folks very soon...best wishes
cheers

Jerry

Kay

Don't want to repeat myself, but does anyone else see music, or more specifically, our culture's insistance on generational identification with particular musical styles, as a particularly significant hindrance to intergenerational churches? Has anyone successfully negotiated these waters? If so, what did success look like?

Wes Roberts

Will...good being "at home" with you! :) At 63 I sincerely home I'm as "emerging" as those at 23. Of course, there are a few more hours of life experience...but, you teach me so much...and I long to remain a willing learner. And, in our conversations you absorb some things from sharing my heart with you. I so long for that to be happening with others across the generations. You and I know it can happen, because we want it to happen, and have the conversations to make it happen. I thank God! So glad to be on the journey with you. What a sacred privilege to be for you.

Larry

I can't help but wonder if the generational problem is not actually increased by the emergent church movement. You have a lot of things coming together that all center on consumerism. The emergent generation is, to a large degree, rejecting the faith of their fathers, or at least questioning it and the methods by which they arrived at their conclusions. The music is a symptom of that, it seems to me, but only a part of the issue. (Although, music is the ultimate consumerism in church. People will go and listen to abominable preaching because the music is good, and will skip good preaching because the music is "bad.") The willingness of many in the emergent conversation to question the theological conclusions of generation upon generation as if they are the first to wrestle with these issues creates a consumerism (I will "shop" for God where I feel like my opinion is valued) and a generational gap (the older generation was too modernistic so why would we worship with them) all at the same time. After all, why should the emergent generation attend church with the generation whose theology and thought process they despise because it doesn't value their own opinions enough.

While there is much of value in the emergent conversation, I am not sure it is the answer to this very real problem. It seems to me that we need more critical thought on this subject.

Karl

I agree with Larry. Emergent is more divisive than unifying. But, as it has been pointed out by a few here - the story of protestantism is exponential seperation to the point of thousands of little denominations. Like Little islands shouting across vast spaces of water at each other. But they arn't listening to each other....

steve hollinghurst

some comments from accross the pond.
on the intergenerational issue: the key question in deciding where to place those exploring the kind of church Emergent is exploring is 'is this an attempt to incarnate the christian faith within a generational culture or subcultures, or is it a response to a several century significant shift in culture, akin to that associated with the transition from the medieval world to the enlightnement/modern world following the Renaissance? or to put it another way is it a repsonse to the small cycles of change that mark out generational eras, or the large cycles of change that mark out epochs? if it is the former then the danger is always to become fixed in a particualr time and place, to create a church forever in a cultural time warp and fixed ona generation as they age. however if the latter is the issue, and i beleive it is (and what i see of the emergent conversation tells me this is what has kick statred that conversation)then being cool is irrelevant, it is being incarnate in a new era that matters, it is about theology and how that translates into life that matters not the music style.

for me the call to incarnation becomes like the biblical process of planting the seed of the faith in the new soil of a new culture and waitng for God to goive the growth knowing that what will spring up, indeed 'emerge'from that soil will not be what was sown but the new body God has given it. so issues of culture cease to be about being trendy but become about church springing up from effective incarnational cross cultural mission.

in some places, and this may be expected if we are going through a time of major cultural transition, there are generational divisions bewteen cultures, but, at least in the UK but is suspect in the US too?, whilst this means there has in the past been a major gap between teens and their parents (as the post on the 60's and not listening to your parants music ably cites) this is now dissapearing, parents of my generation (early forties too!)are increasingly finding that their kids share their tastes and vice versa and what's more they can hang out together at rock fesitvals and even go clubbing together and stuff. what i am starting to see is this affecting those churches seeking to engage with culture so that they are becoming increasingly intergeenratioanl and further more don't need a seperate kids worship stream to do it. so i am hopeful, provided we don't confuse a major cultural shift with a generational issue. this will allow us to embrace some bredth and mix the ancient with the postmodern.

this perspective might also save us from the folly of thinking emerging church must equal a certain age of leadership, re Adriene's post, however it also means those of us who are older allowing those younger to be part fo the exploration of what church is too.

Religion: no-one seems to have taken up Will's comment on religion...i hear echos of a man who's begun lving in an expereimental christian community, and it is good fruit to begin to emerge from such an expereince. perhaps the problem has been that religion has become the thing in itself and not those practices that bind us together and enable our spirituality to blossom?

art is i think illustrative here, it begins in creativity and exploration but without discipline it will never move out of the artists head, even free form art requires the discipline of the media used. when people want creativity without discipline, as if discipline kills creativity they are actually never going to allow the creaitve to be born. on the other hand when people think the discipline is the thing, that for instance art is the science of brushes and their qualites, then creativity is driven out by discipline.

our culture is telling us that this is what we have done with the christian faith, we have made it all about the discipline, learing religious practice, and driven out the spirit. however what i think Will is onto here is that the answer is not to eschew all religion as bad and simply allow the spiritual to flow through. it becomes like the artist who ignores their media or to use another analogy someone offering a drink of water but refusing to allow you to have a glass to pour it in. what matters is the water, the glass is not what it is about, but without the glass we cannot be refreshed by the water. the challenge is for us to not become seekers of the religious container but the spirit it enbales us to experience, and i think the critics of christianity have some justification in saying we have done this often. but then we must form gentle containers that allow many to drink of the spirit freely poured out. sorry if that all became a bit poetic!

John

At the church I attend, we have (in large part anyway) successfully navigated through some rough "style" waters. And perhaps this is being too obvious, but the main thing we have done is TALK A LOT about tolerance for others, compassion, understanding that even if this song (or entire set sometimes) didn't minister to ME, maybe it ministered to someone else. We talk a lot about the "WE" of worship instead of the "ME" of worship. Also, the HIM we are worshipping, of course. The worship leader does this, the Pastor does this, the Sunday school teachers do this.

Do people still grouse? Yeah, of course they do. And we take that grousing with the same grain (or salt shaker) of salt that we do when the "styles" in use aren't ours. We try to be compassionate about differences, and about complainers as well. (This is probably the hardest part.) And even when we fall short, we have TALKED ABOUT IT enough to know that is at least what we are striving for.

So get off the blog, and go BE the church!

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