Emerging/Emergent Trait 3: Living as Community - Sept 16
Description: The emphases here include a missional focus. "The church is primarily a people, not a place to meet." "The church lives as a committed community in this world, which desperately needs redemption." "Nationalism, individualism, consumerism are a few of the ideologies that must be reappropriated or completely abandoned in light of the coming reign of God." The requirement of the kingdom is a profound change of allegiance. "The shopping mall mentality of the seeker church caters to the spiritual search of the American consumer." Worship is more than worshipping beside another. Community participation in worship is emphasized. Community requires a radical restructuring. "Emerging churches utilize the kingdom as a tool to deconstruct all aspects of life, including virtually all church practices." Church is a network of relationships, not where weekly worship services are conducted. So it is a family, not an institution; a people rather tan a place; a community rather than a meeting. "Meetings have a place but they are not church." One sees the church in the things that are done beyond the worship service. Some have even done away with a central gathering. Some are house groups and are decentralized. It works with mutual accountability (Small group prayer, soul friend, or a spiritual director). "Time alone will tell whether such high aspirations can be maintained over the course of years." Meetings should serve the development of communities of service and witness. The activity is open to Christians and non-Christians, avoiding creating "us" and "them" distinctions. Small is better than big to create the community. The claim is to move from a solid church to a liquid church. Evaluation: The goals here work in a solid direction. Community is a key value for the church and there are elements of consumerism in the church that risk not building people up to make distinctions from cultural values that get in the way of growth. What is not so clear is how this works in practice. In what sense is there coherent community across a particular body beyond the small group? Other churches struggle with this as well and attack it going in the other direction through small group emphases that do add layers of participation. What the E/E value appears to do is to strip away the "large" layer and make church the intimate group. The question becomes, will E/E struggle with a wider identity and connection to the church at large outside of their intimate group? Will it nurture any sense of a larger whole. Some of this is being done through networked communication. Churches of other structures also structure with this problem as well, so E/E is not alone here. The one remark I connect to is the idea that the jury is out on whether or not these aspirations can be truly met long term through the emphasis on a liquid church. Maybe to have a full meal we need solid and liquid elements? In addition, sometimes there is an "us" and "them.' Even Jesus spoke of the world in contrast to his disciples. Most of the New Testament does as well. The church is a "called out" community in that it came from somewhere else to become what it is. So being sensitive to not overdoing "us" and "them" does not mean one should eliminate the distinction all together.