5 things we got wrong

5 Things we Got Wrong in the Emerging Missional Church, by Mark Sayers

1. FAILED TO DEFINE WHAT WE MEAN BY ATTRACTIONAL

2. FAILED TO DEFINE WHAT WE MEAN BY INCARNATIONAL

3. BEING OVERLY DEFINED BY A REACTION TO MASS CULTURE

4. FAILING TO UNDERSTAND LOW FUEL TANK FAITH

5. WEDDING OURSELVES TO GEN X CULTURE

Jonny points to Mark Sayers post on 5 things we got wrong in the emerging missional church. Please note that Mark is “not referring to the newer American Emerging Church movement which I think is a very different creature to what we have here in Australia” but rather is talking about the Aussie movement from the early 90’s to the present. As someone who was involved in the early part of the Australian process, as well as an occasional meddler in the current Aussie EMC scene, I insist on adding another 2.

6. WE FAILED TO DEFINE WHAT WE MEAN BY EMERGING

We did a good job on “missional” and its now well accepted around the world. But even today, very few pro-emerging or anti-emerging leaders have picked up a book on emergent theory, emergent principles in business, emergence in biology, etc. Some of us tried to push Steven Johnson’s Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software but we didnt try hard enough. It would have helped people understand what was going on and that the term was about cutlure, not theology, as Mark says in his post.

7. WE NEGLECTED THE HISTORY THAT GAVE BIRTH TO THE MOVEMENT

We were infatuated with the changing present and the potential future. We got giddy. We neglected to point backwards to the fathers of the movement and the earlier structures that made the way easier for us: Early monastic houses in Melbourne in the 1970′, the missiology of Alan Tippet, the legacy of John Smith, the radical example of Scripture Unions beach missions, John Mallison’s small group emphasis, etc. This would have helped the older church movements to feel more connected.

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

6 Comments

  • I’m not exactly sure what the fourth point means, but I may just be ignorant. I agree with the other six points, though, despite the harsh language. There’s clearly a lot of room for improvement, which gives me a little hope, I think.

  • I thought Mark’s post was helpful and certainly agree with these two additions as well – although I reckon a number of the key leaders within the emerging missional church movement within Australia have actually read and taught on some good stuff on emergence; but I don’t think your average leader or person within the EMC world in Australia has read or thought about these issues. Certainly in my corner of the Australian EMC world these books on emergence (eg Wheatley, Shaping the Edge of Chaos, Presence etc) and this thinking has been a key shaping influence (I’m part of Solace in Melbourne).

  • I’m still not sure what “attractional” and “incarnational” mean when spoken by “emerging church” people.
    When people say “attractional” I think of centripetal as opposed to centrifugal mission but I suspect that that is not what the people who use the term have in mind.
    I belong to the Orthodox Church, and it is a commonplace among Western missiologists that Orthodox mission is centripetal — ie attractional. We don’t go out and buttonhole people with aggressive in your face hard-sell proselytising (I would not regard it as “evangelising”). We rather say “come and see”, and that’s “attractional” in my book.

  • Dan Kimball has a similar post up this week, Andrew, about the changing understanding of ’emerging.’ I love what you’re saying here about being stronger about a complexity/evolutionary understanding of emergence, which I think both you and Kester Brewin have sought to emphasize. If you’ll indulge me, here’s what I replied to Dan:
    Great thoughts, Dan. I completely affirm your definition of ’emerging church’ as a missional metaphor. And yet! I’m happy that others have perceived a flowering of other understandings as well – namely, as an ecological/evolutionary metaphor, saying something about the nature of God-as-manifest in creation and humanity.
    I own the Larson & Osborne book, and I also own a 1978 tome from Orbis Books entitled The Emergent Gospel. It is a report from the Ecumenical Dialogue of Third World Theologians in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 1976.
    In it they say “We are convinced that what we have gone through these days is a unique experience of theologiizing from, as it were, the other side of the earth and of human history. Rarely, if ever, have theologians from our three continents and solely from among the oppressed peoples of the world met together to reevaluate their thought, their work, and their lives. We have spoken from the depths of our lived experience.”
    The book then goes on to unfold an emergent understanding of the gospel as expressed by an emergent God made manifest in Jesus Christ in emerging cultures. Another, more recent book exploring this other, expanded understanding of emergence is United Church of Canada pastor Bruce Sanguin’s The Emerging Church: A Model for Change & a Map of Renewal, and of course Phyllis Tickle’s about-to-be-released The Great Emergence.
    I hope we don’t have to part company, Dan, because we need each other. We need people like you holding our feet to the flame of liberation and personal transformation in Christ, echoing Desert Father Antony’s whimsical question, “Why not become fire?” And I think missional-minded brethren (and sistren) need the freedom to reimagine (a word that’s replaced ‘rethink’ in the last five years, eh?) theology, praxis, and mission in postcolonial/postmodern contexts.

  • After reading Mark’s article on the Pink Elephant in the room I can only fall to my knees in prayer. As significant as any cultural change may be the power of prayer will always call us back to a posture of dependence on God. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yes, some brilliant insights here and I think point two raises an important question. I agree that being incarnational is more than joining an interest group and bringing up the topic of spirituality. But what actually does it mean to incarnate in the post-Christian West where cultural memories of Christendom still linger? And how do you incarnate into a culture which is post-Christian yet still holds many Christian values and which holds ideas and opinions on how Christianity should operate itself? Have we got any further with this one yet?

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