Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Some Emerging Thoughts

I have decided to post some thoughts. First, from Nate Payne, who is a very good friend of mine – a brother who has labored alongside me and gone to war with me over the last five years. He and I serve together in the Youth Ministry here at Armitage. He is African American, and like many people here at our church, defies easy classification. He is a new kind of leader, not fitting the typical description of a Black man, a Baptist, or an Evangelical, but still identifies with all those labels at some level.

He wrote the first message below.

The second thought I posted is an old quote from Mark Driscoll. Some of you may know him as an early leader in the Emerging Church.

Both statements intersect with the changes that are happening in the church today. I feel that the worst parts of the Emerging movement are mainly neo-liberal, post-modern reactions to the worst parts of Evangelicalism. I also think that the best parts of the Emerging Church are new wine in new wineskins.

What do you think?

Nate:

Steve, Since I know you blog a lot, think a lot, and get into numerous discussions, I thought that I would send you some of my thoughts about how to describe our demographic. The subtext is that for the most part when the term "evangelical" is used, the image is a white, suburban, middle to upper-middle class professional, educated, isolated from social ills, socially conservative, politically conservative, doctrinally conservative, republican. I think that guys like us (who are white but not suburban or isolated, black but not politically liberal) get a bum rap.

Therefore, I am now introducing the term URBAN EVANGELICAL to the cultural lexicon. We are indeed socially conservative, but not socially isolated. We are politically conservative, but not politically self-interested. We live in a city filled with religious "buffet-style" picking and choosing, yet we actually maintain a strong stance on clear, scriptural TRUTHS that we will not waiver from. We are doctrinally conservative (i.e. high view of scriptural authority, deity of Christ, even Calvinistic!), yet we are not so entrenched with our viewpoints of EVERYTHING that we are not willing to work with fellow believers who hold a differing opinion on some less essential conclusions.

We stand against all sorts of sins: fornication, adultery, drug use, theft, abortion, and homosexuality to name just a few, yet we don't throw stones because these are people we live next to, work with, pray for, and minister to. We aren't isolated FROM them, we live AMONG them.

You see, URBAN EVANGELICALS actually live IN the real world, but are not OF the real world. The regular evangelical as has been described elsewhere simply does NOT live in the real world, but is OF the world. We are not white; we are White, Black, Latino, Asian, African, and whole lot more. We are not rich. We are not poor. We are not capitalists, and we are certainly not socialists. We believe in free enterprise, but most of us give large chunks of our earnings back to ministry. We are URBAN EVANGELICALS! I will let you take the rest from here Steve. Pass the word. Change is comin!! =)

Nate

Mark Driscoll:

There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types want to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone BLEED. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.

What do YOU think?

21 Comments:

Blogger James Diggs said...

"In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone BLEED.That is a guy I can worship."

Sounds like we are just making up the Jesus we want to follow just like Ricky Bobby who prefers 8lbs 7 onces baby Jesus.

Yea...I love the comments that say things like "My Jesus can beat up your Jesus". In the end I think we have forgotten just who is supposed to transform who.

Peace,

James

January 16, 2008 at 3:41 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Hey, James

I don't think that's Driscoll's point, though. And it's hard to contend that he's "making up the Jesus he wants" since the description he cites is from Scripture.

Nonetheless, I agree with your sentiment.

Jesus is supposed to transform us, and love is the heart of the issue, but we really need to grapple with the other side of Jesus that people are a little more squeamish about, and I think Driscoll makes that point well.

Thanks for stopping by!

January 16, 2008 at 4:09 PM  
Blogger James Diggs said...

well I am not sure that that the image of Jesus with "a sword in his hand" and that wants to make "someone bleed" is hardly a complete description of Jesus from scripture; especially understood in the context of what we understand about Jesus from the gospels .

As far as the side of Jesus that makes people squeamish I find it interesting that often the more religious of us are the most squeamish; especially when it comes to believing that Jesus might just want to transform their thinking in a way that would cause them to live upside down compared to the rest of the world. A call to a radical life that puts love and concern for the poor and marginalized over the rich and powerful and calls us to live a life of goodness and justice is much harder to swallow for many than just believing that Jesus picked up my tab because of my sin.

I find most who are screaming that the hard line of Jesus' message is being ignored seem to have the hardest time really swallowing the idea of radical transformation that Jesus brings when God makes us representatives of his kingdom here on earth.

I am skeptical of any gospel that just preaches the "get of jail free card" or the cross as a way to escape God's wrath as just a supernatural exchange of debt and fails to see that the cross is more about entering into the life of Christ and the Kingdom even more so than it is about escaping individualistic damnation.

Yes their is a judgment side to Jesus' message but what I find interesting from so many parables and narratives is that often those who though they were in and safe were those who found themselves on the outside and under such judgment. In one of Jesus parables he was very clear that many who do all kinds of things in Jesus name but fail to give the least of these something to drink when they are thirsty will find themselves not to have the inside track of escaping God's judgment they thought they had.

Now that is a message that makes the religious squeamish if they had the courage to to grapple with it.

Peace,

James

January 17, 2008 at 3:43 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I bet Driscoll would agree with much of what you're saying. I certainly do... traditional Evangelicalism is full of holes and God is shaking things up. But at the same time, I'm not willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The pillars that Evangelical Protestantism stands on have merit.

And I'm familiar with a lot of the stuff that is coming out of Emergent Village, et al, which I believe you are articulating. Clearly you have encountered the ideas articulated in works like Velvet Elvis and Blue Like Jazz, which in many ways reflect Scripture.

But I think you have to be realistic about the weaknesses of the Emergent stream of the movement. I don't know, perhaps that's the stream you identify with. But it's dangerous for any of us to only relate to the facets of Jesus that we're comfortable with. And I'm certainly not accusing you of that - I do not know you - but I do know that the tendency of all people is to gravitiate toward what they're comfortable with and filter out everything else. It's a lifelong pursuit to overcome that tendency.

Justice is important. I have ministered in the inner city of Chicago for over 16 years. I see the effects of injustice in profound ways. However, the Gospel is first about reconciling people to God.

To characterize what the Evangelical world is doing as proffering a "get out of hell free card" is not completely accurate. It's a convenient oversimpilification (though it clearly has a ring of truth to it).

Leaving precious people unreconciled with their creator is not justice, and it's not compassion.

Where I think you're right is in the fact that many Christians (or those who identify themselves as such) care only about people before they're born or after they die. That is obviously a travesty. But swinging the pendulum to the other side and not honoring the central thrust of the gospel - reconciliation - is not a plan either.

Sometimes I fear Emergence goes too far in that direction and ends up sounding more like the Green party than the Bible.

Perhaps I'm reading you wrong, but your tone seems defensive or even a little angry. I certainly do not mean to offend by the things I post. Rather, I hope we can dialogue and cause one another to think more deeply.

Peace to you, too.

January 17, 2008 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Oh... one more thing.

Jesus with the sword is not intended to be the complete picture. But that image is certainly part of the picture... a real facet of Jesus. If I want to get the whole view of Jesus, I need to look at the OT, the Gospels, the epistles, Acts, and Revelation. Even history.

Then I need to obey him... that's when I really get to see (Jn. 14:21)

January 17, 2008 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger JP Paulus said...

Regarding Mark's description "I cannot worship a guy I can beat up"

But isn't that the reason why we are saved -- because Jesus LET us (because it wsn't just the Jews or ROmans who did it, but ALL of us, right?) beat amd kill him.


We are to imitate Christ, but we have to make sure we it's in correct context. Jesus railed against people times regarding their sin, and barely touching on it in other circumstances (Pharisees vs. Samaritan woman).

It's hard for us, becuase there are aspcts of God & Jesus we can eeasily identify with & live out, but others that are hard...mainly because we don't see it successfully done (OK, maybe not the best word, but i hope you understand what you mean.

As for Nate's statements...this world is more and more confusing, as terms soon become irrelevent, or just plain confusing due to different interpretations of the word.

Aren't Park COmmunity Church & Willow Chicago "urban evangelicals"? Where i live, near 79th & King Drive, Mapquest says there are 80 different churches within a mile. i don't know if any would embrace "urban evangelical", though they may have many aspects of the definition. Certainly some do preach the Gospel & the Authority of the Word.

For me, it seems like people have so many different definitions of words, that it's hard for me to settle down on terms. i just read the other day of "humanistic Jews", who deny the religious aspects of Judaism, yet still consider themselves Jewish (with terms like Rabbi, etc.).

"Christian" nowadays has the same problem...for some it means the "true" term; for others, it's a label based on their heritage(though they have little in common with the actual beliefs).


Sorry for the confused response -- but's that's my initial reaction to the messages...

January 17, 2008 at 9:31 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I don't think Bill Hybels would identify himself as an "Urban Evangelical".

"Urban" certainly has its issues, but I think Nate's underlying premise is excellent.

And I can't really speak for Mark Driscoll, but I think you're confusing apples and oranges, JP.

Definitely he was "wounded for my transgressions", but I think the point Driscoll is making is that Jesus was not this nice, safe guy that many in history (not just the emerging types he cites) have tried to make Him out to be.

I like the line from Chronicles of Narnia: Aslan is not safe, but he's good.

January 17, 2008 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Doh!

Willow CHICAGO... I get you!

Sorry, JP.

Definitions and labels are tricky business...

January 17, 2008 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger James Diggs said...

You wrote,“I'm not willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The pillars that Evangelical Protestantism stands on have merit.”

I agree, I think it is a positive thing that the emergent conversation is taking place in the context of Evangelical Protestantism; ultimately though we need to continually seek Christ himself over our own traditions and their models of him. I think we need to keep growing.

You wrote.“But I think you have to be realistic about the weaknesses of the Emergent stream of the movement. I don't know, perhaps that's the stream you identify with. But it's dangerous for any of us to only relate to the facets of Jesus that we're comfortable with.”

No doubt that the post modern lens and the emergent church has its weaknesses, and so does a modern lens reflected in the evangelicalism of the last few hindered years. Neither of these need to be “thrown out with the bath water”. I also agree that we need to watch just gravitating toward what we are most comfortable with- my point is however that many in the emergent conversation are preaching a gospel that is very uncomfortable- hardly the “tickling of itching ears” it sometimes is accused of.

You wrote,“However, the Gospel is first about reconciling people to God.”

Yes, but we need to be careful that we don’t think this means that reconciliation to one other is any less part of the gospel and even any less part of being reconciled to God. Sin is defined in scripture in relational terms as things that break unity between both God and our fellow man and God himself came incarnate as a man, meeting us in our humanity, to reconcile all of these things.

You wrote, “To characterize what the Evangelical world is doing as proffering a "get out of hell free card" is not completely accurate. It's a convenient oversimpilification (though it clearly has a ring of truth to it).”

Fair enough; I think that ring of truth is often seen most though in the fruit of Evangelicalism. Like the book of James says we should see ones faith by ones works; and I question if Evangelicalism is sick because of the sickly fruit it produces. Something is wrong when the world doesn’t see an orphan or the hungry and say “quick go get a Christian!” Unfortunately, Evangelicals are often the last to stand up in defense of the needy and marginalized when we should be the first and line to help others- no strings attached.

You wrote, “Leaving precious people unreconciled with their creator is not justice, and it's not compassion.”

I think the issue is that I think Evangelicals generally don’t have a good sense of what reconciliation actually is in substance. If it is more than just a “get out of jail free card” then where is the substance of that reconciliation?

Jesus had substance, he was God that actually embraced the substance of humanity- it was reconciliation at all cost which meant that it did not run away when it meant he had to share in the suffering, cruelty and even the injustice and sin in the world.

The substance of being reconciled to our creator means that we meet him where he came and met us; we can not meet him anywhere else because we could not get to him, he had to come to us. The substance of being reconciled to our creator then is joining him as he works to reconcile all of humanity in the context of humanity (Jesus came to us as God incarnate). The church is also the continued incarnational presence of Christ- we are his body.

Again I think the substance of real reconciliation to our creator can not separate the Creator from the context of working in his creation; especially because it is God who is working so hard to reconcile the two.

If you are saying that the faith is about reconciliation to God to creation (and I do not disagree) then it is fair to expect to see the fruit, works, and substance of that faith.


You wrote, “Sometimes I fear Emergence goes too far in that direction and ends up sounding more like the Green party than the Bible.”

I am not up on the beliefs and values of the Green Party, but as hard as it has been separating Evangelicals from Republicans the last 20 years or so I strongly believe that as followers of Jesus our message is so transformational that it is hard to fit within any political party and must not be afraid to hold everyone accountable. I think if a Christian is too comfortable in any political party then something is probably wrong.

You wrote “Jesus with the sword is not intended to be the complete picture. But that image is certainly part of the picture... a real facet of Jesus. If I want to get the whole view of Jesus, I need to look at the OT, the Gospels, the epistles, Acts, and Revelation. Even history”

True enough- the last statement captures my point of looking at the whole of who Jesus is. I acknowledge that Jesus with sword in hand that brings judgment is a biblical and accurate image- I just think we have to be careful when we apply this toward others so easily and not consider that this image might first apply to us.

You wrote “Perhaps I'm reading you wrong, but your tone seems defensive or even a little angry. I certainly do not mean to offend by the things I post. Rather, I hope we can dialogue and cause one another to think more deeply.”

Yea, you are reading me wrong, I am not defensive or angry, but I am very passionate. You didn’t say anything offensive and I commented to your post as a way to dialogue and challenge one another to think more deeply.


By the way the statement about Aslan not being safe- but good is my favorite line from Narnia as well.

Peace,

James

January 17, 2008 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Well, James... it looks like we have a dialogue, then!

Good to talk...

January 17, 2008 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Christopher B. Brooks said...

OK...I can't sit on the sidelines and just watch this - I gotta jump in.

After blogging about this stuff myself for quite awhile (always with Steve in the mix), I have come to what I feel is a pretty profound conclusion regarding all of this stuff:

The Body of Christ has fallen victim to the worldly practice of making everything black and white, point and counterpoint. If the Traditional Fundamentalists say that "God hates fags," then the Emergent Ones (the anti-fundamentalists) turn Jesus into a soft spoken and huggable buddy. Then people like Driscoll respond with the ridiculous comments about "pride fighter" and "tatoos." All of these comments are polarized, point and counterpoint, legalism and libertinism, yin and yang.

What we really need is a balanced perspective; one without all of the polarization.

Word.

January 17, 2008 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Driscoll is definitely a polarizing figure, but it's good to hear what he has to say, too.

We can learn from him, Piper, McLaren, MacArthur, or Campolo, even if things they say are sometimes outrageous. Heck, we can learn from them even if they're plain wrong.

I agree about polarization, Chris. It's destructive. But I also think it takes punchy statements to get people really talking sometimes. It's a dance and a tension, I guess.

Good to see you over here for a change! Kevin says if I posted more often I'd get more banter happening...

If I could ever stop being so tired and busy... :0)

January 17, 2008 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Christians are famous historically for pendulum swings...

January 17, 2008 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Christopher B. Brooks said...

Yes, it is nice to post on YOUR blog for once :o) I don't mind pendulum swings. I am simply proposing that they dont need to be quite as broad as they currently are. Can we slow the pendulum down a bit?

January 17, 2008 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Man, I wish!

The flesh and the Devil are pesky, though! There is some good in all the debate, but a lot of harm has been done over the centuries as well, as you point out.

I also beleive God will continually correct His church.

That's comforting. Sort of...

January 17, 2008 at 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read through this post and enjoyed reading the comments. Good discussion. Although most of it is on Driscoll's comments. I like Driscoll and his thinking, but personally would often use a different tone or methodology to communicate some of the same points. He can come across as very rude.

That being said, I was more interested in the thoughts that Nate had. I know Nate, we go way back. Don't see each other much any more, but always enjoy our times together.
But I reasonate with a lot of what he said about the "urban evangelical". I don't know if this is the term to stick with, but what he is describing feels like me and a lot of urban Christians that I know. We are evangelicals in a lot of key doctrinal beliefs and even lifestyle practice. We still believe that God has called us to live holy.
BUT as Nate shared were care very deeply about our neighbors, the poor, injustice and as a result don't fit a lot of the political views or common stereotypes given to evangelicals.
Although we may be "emerging", but we are definately not "emergent".
I went to a conservative evangelical school and still would agree with most of the doctrine taught, but feel like my social realities as a follower of Jesus is foreign to most that I went to school with.
I am glad that people like McClaren, Rob Bell, and others are talking about caring about the poor, but I don't understand why there churches are not located anywhere near the poor.

So yes Nate, we do need a descriptive term that we can relate to. Maybe URBAN EVANGELICAL it should be. Peace.

KG

January 17, 2008 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

See, Kevin, there's a punchy point!

Some of the Emergent guys (thanks to Chris Brooks) began a conversation about that very thing - why they are not really a presence in the city. I don't know where that conversation ever went.

It is definitely an indictment against the movement. It will be interesting to see what direction that takes over the next few years... the intersection of urban and Emergent.

Haha... Thanks, Chris!

January 17, 2008 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Christopher B. Brooks said...

De nada, Steve et al. This has been a fun little chat. Please check out my post today...I would love to have you join the usually lively fray!

www.christopherbennett.blogspot.com

January 18, 2008 at 5:05 AM  
Anonymous Shane Vander Hart said...

Steve - I enjoyed Nate's description of an "urban evangelical". I think he's spot on.

Mark Driscoll's quote is classic Driscoll. He was doing a contrast of the EV position, so people do need to realize, and you were pointing this out as well, that his intent was not to paint an entire picture of Jesus.

For certainly He shows compassion, love and sacrifice. He shows humility and true justice. He shows forgiveness. He also drove out the money changers as well.

Anyway, great post!

January 24, 2008 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Mike Clawson said...

"Some of the Emergent guys (thanks to Chris Brooks) began a conversation about that very thing - why they are not really a presence in the city. I don't know where that conversation ever went."

Well, few things emerged from the conversation:

1) We discovered that it's not really accurate to claim that we're not a presence in the city. Just because Chris hadn't noticed us there, doesn't mean we weren't. Both nationally and locally here in Chicago, the urban experience has been a part of the emerging conversation since the beginning.

2) Here in Chicago we hosted an emergent conference and made sure to specifically invite several different urban and/or minority speakers. Over half of our mainstage speakers were from urban or black churches, and many of our workshop presenters were as well.

3) We were finally able to get a city branch of the Chicago Emergent cohort started this fall. Many attempts had been made to get this going over the past four years, but it never happened until now because no one from the city was ever willing to step up and help coordinate it. Which raises another question for me: if urban leaders feel like they aren't adequately represented in the emerging church (whether they actually are or not), why weren't any willing to step up and jump in when the offer was extended?

January 31, 2008 at 11:40 AM  
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June 3, 2010 at 5:15 AM  

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