Thursday, September 21, 2006

Emerging from What? And into What?

I have just read an article in the Christian Century on the emergent church movement as exemplified in Jacob's Well, a congregation inhabiting the building of a Presbyterian Church that folded in Kansas City, MO. (Here is a link to CC; oddly, they are behind online, showing the most recent issue as September 5).

Here are the things that really struck me about Jacob's Well:

~ The sermons take on a questioning tone. They are conversational, and responsive.

~ The pastor is careful not to get too embedded in Church-speak, aware that newcomers aren't necessarily going to know the rich layering of terms like "grace alone" or "atonement."

~ They are not abandoning the traditional symbols or practices of Christianity (a la the conservative/ evangelical megachurch movement). Rather, they are embracing them-- meditation, fasting, centering prayer, Sabbath Keeping, hospitality, etc.

~ The music is mostly original, and mostly-- hold on to your beanies-- grunge rock. Now this is a big turn off to me, I think, but I'm not sure, because listen to what the pastor says about grunge: "Grunge is what happens when the children of divorce get guitars."

~ The church embraces a local artist community, opening its space for exhibits.

~ The pastor says that they have turned traditional Christianity's "believe-bahave-belong" on its head; at Jacob's Well it's "behave-belong-believe." What this means is that behavior-- via those practices of faith mentioned above-- leads to belief, which leads to belonging.

I think these folks are onto something. It's scary, probably to a lot of folks, for that last reason. You (read: professional bloviator, church) are not instructing the person on what to believe. You are offering a space in which belief can grow through the intentional comminuty that practices faith together. That belief might look quite different than it is spelled out on the sermon page. (Which is the truth of the way it is anyway, whether we admit it or not).

I think these folks are onto something.

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