Dan Kimball at Vintage Faith has an excellent post this week, which in some ways dove-tails with my recent post on the emergent church and balance.  He says:

But my growing theory of most churches is that when churches become so inwardly focused, we can produce the fruit of knowledgable but usually negative and critical people always pointing out the wrongs in everything. Or when we become so outwardly focused, we can become shallow theologically and produce Christians who barely know the Bible. Or when we become so felt-needs and methodology focused , we can produce consumer Christians who end up depending on which church best meets their needs which produces a bigger and better cycle for the church leaders to deal with. All of these things can produce a people who aren’t seeing themselves as missional Christians being the church throughout the week – but people who have faulty (in my opinion) definitions of church and then they “go to church” for meeting the faulty expectations we have set up for them to define “church” by.

In my recent post on Traditional vs. Emergent churches, I called for balance between the “Faith in Jesus” and “Faith of Jesus”.  Dan seems to echo this in his comments about inward-focused (which seems to be similar to ‘traditional’, in my terminology) and outward-focused (which seems to be similar to ‘emergent’, in my terminology).  He adds this third element, which I had not figured in at all, around ‘felt-needs’ (what I would see as the extreme ‘Purpose Driven’ model).

four quad modelAs I’ve pondered this and slept on it, I am starting to see somewhat of a four-quadrant model that balances directional focus (inward vs. outward) and needs (Eternal (”spiritual needs”) vs. Temporal (”felt needs”)).  It is kind of like the diagram to the right.

What seems to be occurring with these different models is that, as Kimball has noted, when left to their own devices, they tend to pull away from the center, toward the extremes.  In doing so, they open themselves to criticism from other “models”.

As Bob Hyatt noted the other day in his Next-Wave editorial, the pendulum is currently swinging toward the ‘Emergent’ quadrant, which (as would be expected) has lead to a great deal of consternation from the ‘Fundamentalist/Traditional’ one (since it has an opposite emphasis on needs and focus).  While I am comfortable with the general direction of that movement (toward the center), I don’t know that I would maintain that level of ‘comfort’ once the middle is crossed.  As I (and others) have noted, generally speaking, the Emergent conversation is primarily being driven by less mature leadership than the more established movements, ironically supported by a great deal of scholarship about the culture in which the scriptures were written (in some cases, because parts of this scholarship challenge some traditional (but non-essential) views).

What can be done?

I see at least two currents working in favor of balance:

The Restoration Movement started in the early 1800’s as a move toward the center from the Fundamentalist quadrant, away from denominationalism and ’systematic theologies’ (similar to what is being seen in the ‘emergent’ church movement).  It, too, had less established/mature leadership at the local level, which led to a number of difficulties (a number of which have long been sorted out, others of which are only now being settled).  However, as it has matured, I have seen (both from within and without) an agility to continue to correct course toward the center.  As a model, this gives me hope that, even though there may be a number of problems in the emerging of the emergent churches, they may work out in similar fashion.

I also see willingness of leaders in the fundamentalist/traditionalist movements, like Dr. John Piper, to try to understand how to contextualize the gospel for the current culture without compromising on the content of the gospel.  In inviting Mark Driscoll to the Desiring God conference two weeks ago, and including Mark in the discussion on contextualization, Dr. Piper seems to have opened a door for better discussion and understanding (at least in the view of many participant reports and tentative support in some normally hostile quarters of the Christian blogosphere).  I am hoping more bloggers in the fundamentalist/traditional camp will reach out to parts of the ECM, not for agreement on everything, but to help them discern what is contextual vs. what is truly compromising.  In doing so, I see the possibility of both groups moving toward the center.

It takes very little energy to be hyper-critical (or hypocritical) and cast stones when someone breaks tradition.  It takes a higher level of responsibility and maturity to be willing to step out of one’s comfort zone to work with the tradition-breakers to make sure that what is truly essential is maintained.  It is easy to criticize a brother you don’t know, and it is hard to get to know a brother you might not fully agree with (and as a friend of mine likes to say ‘if we both agree on everything, one of us is redundant’).  I think Jesus calls us to be the latter and not the former, to be Nicodemus and not Caiaphas.  Or, at the very least, I think he would have us in the seat of Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher:

When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [emphasis mine] (Acts 5:33-39)

I’ve not thought enough about the fully ‘Purpose Driven’ churches to understand what would bring them toward the center, toward more of an eternal perspective and a less self-centered focus…  I’ll hold that one for later…




Comments

This entry was posted on Friday, October 13th, 2006 at 5:15 am and is filed under Emergent Church, Religion/Philosophy. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Comments so far

  1. the quiet one on October 14, 2006 11:52 pm

    Chris,
    I’m curious about the “open air” quadrant of your graph (outward focus/eternal needs). If you explained it, sorry, I missed it. I’m picturing tent revivals.

  2. Chris L. on October 15, 2006 12:40 am

    The “open air” quadrant would be Big Tent Revivals, Bullhorn Guys, etc. – where there’s focus on evangelism and eternity, but less emphasis on Christian community for continued support or earthly ministry to the poor, hungry, orphaned, widowed or imprisoned. I’ve got a friend who referred to this as “Fire Insurance Sales”…

    Once again, there’s a need to evangelism and revival, but it’s got to be balanced with discipleship and service…

  3. Chris L. on October 15, 2006 10:20 am

    Tim,

    As I mulled this over as I went to sleep last night and then again this morning, it has dawned on me that the quadrant I’ve listed as ‘open air’ would also fit some of my conversations with Henry Frueh, and his calls of “Revival!”.

    Using the above diagram, this would be a call for the church body to move up and to the right. As such, it is similar to the emergent call to move to the right (for the church to stop being so inwardly-focused). It is different from that emergent call in that it would suggest we need to move up (focus more on the eternal, based on an impending judgement, based on Jesus’ teaching of imminence), and the emergent call would have us move downward (focus more on bring about the kingdom as Jesus taught we should live day-to-day). I, however, think it is something in-between that recognizes the imminence of individual death and balances that with the need for the temporal aspect of the kingdom of heaven in the community of God’s people and the world they minister to.

  4. the quiet one on October 15, 2006 11:50 pm

    Thanks Chris. That’s pretty much what I was thinking. I’ve had experience with, and at times in my life been a part of, churches that would fit into each quadrant of your graph. Each of them was lacking something that, at the time, I couldn’t quite put my finger on. One that would fit nicely into the far lower left corner I would have called the “country club” model (We take care of our own – if you want to be one of us, you’d better look and act like us). It is truly a joy to be a part of a church body now that is actively seeking that balance that you speak of.

    BTW, I had a New Testament professor at Biola, Dr. Wilkins, that used your phrase often. I can still hear him say, “Balance, balance, balance.” I think he’d like your post.

  5. CRN.Info and Analysis on February 8, 2007 8:51 am

    [...] 4) I see the EC movement – which is not tied to any one denomination, but has risen from multiple denominations, in many cases carrying on some of the theological baggage – both good and bad – from their parent denomination – as a response to a perceived loss of balance in the Fundamental/Traditional model and the Purpose Driven/Megachurch model.  I have written about this a few times, with the primary summation here, with the diagram to the right.  For me, the ideal place for the church to sit is smack-dab in the center, which – for a huge number of purists from each movement – would be uncomfortable and possibly confrontational. [...]

  6. Fishing The Abyss on March 20, 2007 9:58 am

    [...] The Emergent/Emerging Church is a postmodern movement within multiple denominations (and non-denominations) to make the living out of the gospel message accessible to a post-modern culture.  Parts of the movement which are more liberal (those that typically use the ‘Emergent’ label), tend to take too low a view of God’s Word, and try to substitute orthopraxy for orthodoxy (much like the mainline denominations from which they sprung).  Conservative churches in this movement (which often use the ‘Emerging’ and/or ‘Missional’ labels), tend to take a high view of God’s Word and emphasize a healthy balance of -praxy and -doxy – though they (fortunately) do not tend to be 5-point Calvinist (with a few notable exceptions).  While I value the Missional focus of the ECM, and I see it as a force for balance in the church, I would never label myself as ‘Emerging’ (or ‘Emergent’). [...]

Name (required)

Email (required)

Website

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Share your wisdom