I am very grateful for what many of my “emerging”
friends have helped me to see about the particular cultural trappings of my own
Christianity. They’ve helped me to recognize how I have included many
preferences, traditions, even my American identity in my explanations of the
Gospel. I am grateful because anyone who can help me see my own
blindspots is doing me a huge favor.
However, I can’t help but notice that it seems like many of these “emergents”
are just as culturally trapped as the people they are criticizing. They lampoon the
robe-wearing choirs and suit-sporting, big voice preachers of the past. But
when I walk into their churches, I see 4 guys on stage ALL sporting punk hair and
black monogrammed t-shirts, whose faces look like they fell face-first into a tackle
box (shout out to Ed Stetzer), and talking in a whiney, metrosexual voice. Each one is “different” like all the other ones. Seems like a new uniform.
Most concerning is that this “new, cutting edge, diverse”
crowd criticizes the traditional
church for being stuck in one culture, but when you look at them, what you see is usually a collage of young, angry, middle-class white people. Seems they are also from the same clas…
kind of like something I noticed in Boston a
couple of weeks ago… I was there on the day the new I-phone was being
released. People were lined up literally around the block, some having
camped out for a few days, to be the first to get the sexy new I-phone.
Many in the line were trying to sell their “old Iphone,” released
less than 2 years ago. Some of these same people self-righteously
drive SUVs and only buy fair trade products. They seem blind to the
that they are every bit the consumer as their SUV driving parents.
I’m not trying to be too harsh my younger generation (of
whom I am still one!!!!!), but just to say that realizing our own shortcomings ought
to make us more gracious with others. Sometimes I feel like my generation is the
most self-righteous generation in recent history.
Anyway, that is a rambling, lengthy introduction to this
quote in David Wells’ Courage to Be Protestant. I’d love to know
It is true that many in
today’s world are comfortable with impersonal structures. They do
not mind being anonymous, an unknown in a large crowd. And they take in
stride the slogans and little inspirational thoughts that fill the air all the
time. After all, that is life in our big, modernized cities.
However, these large structures only deepen the sense of not belonging we carry
with us much of the time. Why, then, would we want to experience this in
church, too? And why would we content ourselves with having yet one more
product plugged to us in church when we are bombarded by products and
telemarketers all week? This is a point of acute vulnerability for the
That is what the emergents have
sensed. Rather than large, empty church structures filled with the
rhythms of the marketing world, emergents have gone to small, connected groups,
to networking, to being deinstitutionalized if that is what it takes, to
relationships. This, as I have suggested, resonates with a loss that is
very deep and painful in the (post) modern psyche. People want to connect
and to be connected.
However, while the emergents are
intent on making connections, they do not want to make those connections across
generations. They are niche-driven. The niche is Gen X.
Emergent churches are typically made up from the same social slice. They
are as look-alike as the marketing churches are for those of another