I've felt for some time that the traditional mainstream church has the potential to be the place where real transformation in Western Christianity can take place. For this to happen, all sorts of changes need to take place. One is the end of the battle royal between the left and right, between progressives and fundamentalists, and for the middle of the church to move out of a survival mindset into a open, more missional one. There are lots of people writing on this and are pushing the envelope of Protestant thought and culture in ways unforeseen just a decade ago. I find it healthy, and leading to a stronger church in the future. However, we are going have to go through a season of turmoil as the traditional middle comes to see that it can accept new perspectives and changes in how the church functions without diminishing its historic foundations.
One of those who are writing with great intelligence is David Fitch, a pastor/ theologian from Chicago, author of The Great Giveway. In a post today, Fitch publishes an interview with two twenty-something guys who are from the Emergent church world that is worth reflecting on. Fitch, whose church is attempting to challenge every notion of how a church is to be led and organization makes the following comment about these guys.
... an interview with two twenty-something emerging church type guys. They were leading a house group at Jack's church. They were also teaching a class and talking about church in ways that was all new to the rest of the more traditional Baptist church. Their words really illustrate the deep cultural shift taking place among the sons and daughters of evangelicals. ... Yet it continually shocks me how many churches are unaware of the depth of this shift taking place. ... If you are looking for some clarity on these issues, I offer this somewhat lengthy interview ... And if you have time, can you answer this: How would your local church receive these two guys, Matt and Jose, and what they have to say?
These ideas are not necessarily new. What is new is the commitment to let these ideas transform the church as an institution. For this reason, I believe these ideas that I've heard for over thirty years, will finally take root in new forms of the church. Here's a portion of the interview.
MATT: …In the evangelical world…we throw terms like repentance around and how we just try to sell the gospel to people… going door to door, using the four spiritual laws, which are half-truths anyway. They are ridiculous. They’ve only been around about 10 or 15 years anyway…selling the gospel becomes like selling fire insurance. You just have to believe, intellectually that Jesus is God, and that he died for your sins, and then you are saved and can just sit around for the rest of your life. And I think this is all just so ridiculous because God wants us to move, and go, and do something. It has nothing to do with simple belief. Your beliefs may start something, but actions come out of your beliefs and that’s the point. The evangelical system says, “believe the right things, adhere to the correct intellectual things and you are going to be saved.” And “saved” to evangelicals is the idea that you are going to heaven later— then life becomes a kind of a waiting room. But they don’t realize that God wants to save you from traumas of the past. God wants to save you from what’s going on inside you right now, psychologically, physically, emotionally, spiritually, it’s every part of you that God wants to renew you. And evangelicals forget about this. They make an empty system where all you have to do is have a little bit of faith—whatever that means—and then you will be saved. And it’s just like becoming a mere shell of a Christian and totally miss the point.
JACK: Do you see decisions to follow Christ as connected to the background of the seeker?
MATT: Right, it’s about the filters we all have. It’s the parents we grew up with, the culture, the time, the atmosphere, just everything about us. And these filters move into our theology too. Moderns think, “We’ve got it! ! It’s been over 2000 years and we finally have a good grasp on the Bible and what it means, and we have archeology and all this other evidence and facts and we’ve now finally got it!” Unfortunately, they don’t realize that maybe their idea of God and how to understand him and their theology, is like just one way. They don’t understand that it’s not the only way but just one way of thinking which came from somebody before, right. Their idea isn’t the best one, it was just a new one when it came out for the first time—when they had to fight against the modernist interpretation of scripture. And now, we’re doing it in the postmodern age. And people today are saying, “No, you’re just wrong, and you’re heretics” and stuff. But the modern viewpoint and how they interpret scripture isn’t the only way or the best or the most evolved. The world is changing. I mean, God doesn’t change, but He is changing us, right.
And here's there take on the intersection of their emergent/postmodern perspective with a more tradition church .
JACK: Do you see a need to try to bridge the gap between the young postmoderns and the older traditional members of the church?
MATT: Yes. It would be really bad if we had this group of people who were postmodern and emergent and this group modern and traditional. This would be divisive. This is why people often leave churches. Some people feel unwanted and just leave. We have to have an understanding at some point. And we don’t want another denomination. The emergent church is not a denomination. It’s a new way of understanding church within every denomination. This is huge. It is something about the faddish aspect of the emergent movement that it becomes a denomination.
This perspective is worth hearing and discussing. In response to Fitch's question, I think these two guys would definitely find a place in our church.