Signs of Emergence #2

June 4, 2008

Click here to see a sign of emergence from a life long church of Christer.


Book Review: The New Christians #1

June 4, 2008

This post is the first of 6 from Tony Jones new book called, “The New Christians.”

The first thing I want to say about this book is that it is easy to read. Important words are defined in inset boxes, it is written in digestable chunks, and it is generously sprinkled with relevant stories. Tony can write.

Chapter one presents the reader with the problem with the modern American church. Neither liberal nor conservative churches escape being exposed as flawed. My favorite word in the entire chapter is compost. I liked it so much I created a category on this blog called “Compost Pile,” which will serve as place for posts representing the specific church of Christ compost pile that is rotting in our ecclesial back yard.

Jones’ compost, as best as I understand it, represents the old, stale, entreched, decaying, dying church structures, systems, and organizations. It is the waste that churches decide to keep around because of decisions made long ago, the need to maintain a distinct identity, or the inertia of beaurocratic layers which just can’t be stopped. Each group’s compost is different in some way, but the common theme of spiritual death runs through them all.

Being introduced to the philosophical notion of foundationalism was insightful and worth getting into. He provides a mock conversation which I am sure has been had a million times which does a fine job of showing the problem Christians have with foundationalism.

Jones ends chapter 1 with a dispatch from the blogosphere and how emergent might be something more than an insular theological exercise for educated white people. The inclusion of Musings From a Postmodern Negro is not just a strategic move by Jones, it is a statement to White Christianity and a critique of emergent that there are many voices that must be heard which are not sitting at the same table. Just because Christianity has always been segregated in America does not mean that it has to be that way in the future.  

This book is relevant to members of churches of Christ because our heritage sits smack in the middle of the critique of the conservative wing of Christianity. There are New Chritians in churches of Christ who will find this book a breath of fresh air. Ministers, elders, deacons, professors, and bible teachers in churches of Christ should also be looking into “The New Christians.”

Go to The New Christians #2

Church of Christ Compost #1

June 4, 2008

Click here for Church of Christ compost #1.

Signs of Emergence #1: Itsy Bitsy Teeny Tiny emergence

June 4, 2008

Words have meaning. Labels are powerful. Names matter. The language we use is important. We should not take it lightly.

Language and origins of language are power laden. If we do not consider the leverage language gives one person or or how it can work to de-power another, we are prone to either abusing or being abused. When we do not consider how power flows through what we do, then we will miss what is actually going on.

Consider this conversation (post and comments) as an example. It is a conversation about the name “church of Christ.” This conversation has hints of emergence in it as well as old-line power dynamics – with the Bible as its tool.

The hint of emergence is that the “true” church does not have to be a collection of like-minded, religious people who have a building where they gather regularly with the name “church of Christ” on it. The blogger states the following:

Must that great church that Christ established bear the name “church of Christ?” No, I do not believe it must. Now in some circles, that last statement would have branded me a heretic.

What is so striking about the risk this blogger is taking with the name of the church is that such minutia is so controversial. And yet, we must consider the power game behind the name of the church. The right name, the most Biblical name, is understood as an indicator of the most correct. Being the most correct means being the most faithful. Being the most faithful means being closest to God. Being right means winning a guaranteed spot in Heaven. And the naming of the church is part of that nearness to God.

So, having the right name is essential. Without it, there is the risk of disobedience, the risk of sin.

Yes, this church of Christ blogger who does not  require the church he attends to have the name “church of Christ” on the sign (even though he prefers it) is taking a big risk. He is also showing, though it is itsy bitsy teeny tiny, a sign of emergence.

It also shows what compost emergents within churches of Christ must emerge through in order to emerge.  

RM in Emerging Church Story

June 3, 2008

Donald McGavran, a Restoration Movement guy, is mentioned in a historical piece about the emerging church here.

This is my story; this is my song

June 2, 2008

If there is one thing that points toward emergence in churches of Christ (among other groups of Christians) it is that there are an increasing number of storytellers – alterantive storytellers. The proliferation of story tellers within the churches of Christ is quite, well, telling. The days of the ministers, elders and perhaps the deacons as the owners of the known Restoration story are in their waning stages. Even though these voice still hold the most authority over the Restoration story, they no longer own it all.

Minority voices such as female voices, charasmatic voices, democrat voices, ecumenical voices, critical voices are now all telling a story within the Restoration Movement. There are small clusters of people in churches of Christ swapping stories and building stories outside the privileged means of commuication – primarily the sermon. The sermon is losing its sole propietorship on storytelling. The mens’ business meeting and elders meetings are being de-centered in their prominence for decision making that occurs in the churches of Christ.

Emergence in churches of Christ can be measured by the stories being told and the status of the storytellers permitted to speak. If only a few men at the top of the hierarchy make all the decisions, determine what is true, and control Biblical interpretation, then there is likely little room for the often fragile voices to speak, to emerge. Rather, if there is room for the formerly muted voices to take risks and speak, and make mistakes, and make progress – emergent voices can fill the story capacity of the church.

Spreading out the “author|ity” in churches such that more people can author stories and author songs is a sign of emergence. Such things are happening, sometimes under the radar, in 1000’s of churches of Christ in America.

Any signs of emergence in your church of Christ?

Diversifying, Not Disintegrating

June 1, 2008

The wind that once filled the sails of many, if not most, members of the church of Christ has died down. The wind which was strong and steady was the wind of certainty that an honest reading of scripture would produce a unified Christianity which would render denominations pointless, or at least defenseless in debate. Quick access to truth (or should I say Truth?) was assumed. Truth was considered an obvious object which required only observation. Once observed, truth was self-evident.

This kind of optimism has waned for many in churches of Christ and completely died for others. Many have set up their lived experience of spirituality against the simple notions of truth espoused by the Restoration Movement and been left wanting, or worse, buried in guilt because something must be wrong with them and their experience.

Although some of these disillusioned members have either moved on to other churches who do non-denominational “bettter” than churches of Christ or have just had their faith evaporate, there are many more (I hunch) that have remained within the bounds of the Restoration Movement fellowship. Many are in various stages of a theological shedding process while maintaining the social networks via their churches.

In short, the optimistic (perhaps naive) impetus of the Restoration Movement, that of simple and quick access to an easily understood truth, may be what got the movement going in the early 1800’s, but it can be said with growing confidence that this same notion is not what is keeping it going today. Churches of Christ are diversifying.

Diversity on matters of worship and “women’s roles” are well documented. Diversity on epistemology (ways of knowing what is true) is less well documented. It can no longer be said that the typical church of Christ person knows truth because they read it in the Bible. Although the Bible is probably considered the primary cource of truth for the typical member, it is now not alone and the exclsuive source of truth. Many people who have no desire whatsoever to leave churches of Christ have learned about how to know something is true by the Experiencing God bible study and toehr sources which suggest truth is not contained only in scripture. Some have a special prayer language through which they believe God reveals truth. Some find Jesus through service in poor urban areas – it is their truth. Some have found truth in nature while others have seen it in the wonders of science. Going further, there are many people in churches of Christ who believe that there is a lot less truth out there, but that the Truth that is there is bigger and even more important than ever.

Spiritualities (and I do mean it plural) have emerged within churches of Christ which transcend the simple, yet confining, pattern which evolved out of the early pioneer’s efforts.

The range of spiritualities of members of churches of Christ has diversified. Churches, though many leaders and members might not be aware of it, rely more heavily on social networks and relationships as a means by which not to lose members than they do on members’ theological agreement. Theological and spiritual diversity represented in churches of Christ, were it fully known, would shock most members. Some would be pleasantly shocked while others would be devastated.

What is so ironic (and beautiful) is that even though the Restoration Movement has a long history of the necessity of theological agreement as the operating system of unity (which has a dismal record for causing untiy), the strength it has for maintaining its existence rests in the relationships that have been developed wihtin that context of a failed plan for unity. God is able to take flawed theology and redeem it.

Churches of Christ are not disintegrating in this increasingly postmodern era, they are diversifying.


Feedback of all kinds is welcomed here. Please be respectful of everyone who writes and comments on this blog. Disagreement is welcome. Disrespect is not.


May 30, 2008

Welcome to the Emergent church of Christ blog.

This blog is created for the purpose of conversation related to exploration, experimentation, renewal, and restoration in churches of Christ of the American Restoration Movement. It is hoped that a broad range of voices will be in conversation here. All voices are welcome.

In future posts, it is hoped that there will be many points of view, many authors, and many converastions about how churches of Christ fit into the story of God in the 21st century and beyond. Some pieces will be historical, some pieces will be current, while still others will be future focused. There will be practical pieces, highlights in ministry, theological posts, and many other topics and categories covered.

Again, welcome to the emergent church of Christ blog. Set it to your blog reader and consider contributing comments or even a post to the blog.