Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

EC: Emergent Confessional

Thanks to Gavin (via Jim) for putting this on his blog. Even though I'm no church leader or paid minister, I can say much of this is true in my inner-core.

What follows is an admission of unhealthy patterns I have developed as I have 'surfed the edge of chaos' toward a 'missional, continually converted, connecting, equipping, aqua church' that 'stands on the threshold of the future between gospel and culture,' practices a 'virtual, ancient-future faith' and 're-imagines spiritual formation,' embraces 'leadership on the other side,' and exerts 'irresistible influence' while becoming 'an unstoppable force' in the world. I have realized there is 'a future for truth' and entered 'the dance of change' and connected with others to 'generate hope' as 'a peculiar people.' I have become 'blue like jazz' while learning to 'let my life speak.' However, I am 'less ready than I realized' and not as 'generous' or 'orthodox' as I sometimes let on. I am better at deconstructing the present than 'shaping the things to come.' In fact, I have reached 'the tipping point' of true confession regarding the dark side of my emergent sensibilities.

1. I have used 'new' language to cover up 'old' behavior.
My sinful tendencies and patterns are not all that different from twenty years ago when I was into 'doing theology' and implementing church growth strategies. It's nice to think that I have a prophetic imagination in a de-centered culture, but really I'm consistently angry and pissed off about unmet expectations. It sounds great when I deconstruct the systems and strategies of a mechanistic worldview, but I am often nurturing a critical, judgmental attitude. I can speak of organic environments and missional patterns in a way that feeds my ego and supposedly keeps me at the cutting edge. I can describe the 'double-loop liminality' of those attached to the world of Christendom, but I, too, struggle with bouts of fear and anxiety. Perhaps I have gained some awareness of cultural transitions and emergent dynamics in recent years, but I still have to continually release the grip on my own baggage: anger, judgment, fear, and pride. If I don't, I bring pain to those with whom I serve and limit the possibilities of shared life and ministry.

2. I have allowed a big gap between my intentions and my behavior.
I can converse ad nauseum about the comprehensive nature of the gospel: the gospel is a way of life, the gospel bears witness to God's reign, the gospel embraces the practices of Jesus (and his early followers), the gospel challenges prevailing social and political systems, the gospel calls for the sharing of life and ministry with the poor, the gospel confronts self-protection and autonomy, etc., etc. I have consistently had good intentions about faithfully modeling and proclaiming this gospel. But, to be crass, how I spend my money, how I use my time, where I live, and who I hang out with say more about what I really believe than well-crafted words. There have been too many times where I have called people to the life I intended to live, not to the life I was actually living. It is only in recent years that I have made some of the lifestyle changes that bring a greater capacity for wholeness, generosity, love, and simplicity. Rather than passively benefiting from systems of injustice while declaring a radically inclusive gospel, I have taken small steps to live in a way that challenges these systems.

3. I have missed significant 'life signs' in traditional (i.e. 'modern') ministry systems and models.
I have spent so much energy reacting to and challenging hierarchical leadership, Sunday morning vendor events, programmatic ministry, centralized decision-making, personality-driven youth ministry, segmented ministry areas, project-oriented mission, etc., etc. that I am sometimes surprised that people are actually being transformed in this framework. I have dismissed most denominations as being totally irrelevant, yet my recent work as a congregational coach has opened my eyes to the informed theologies, historical practices, and culturally-engaged attitudes that are being creatively carried into the new world. There are some struggling denominational urban congregations that are far ahead of some 'growing' suburban, emergent churches when it comes to sustained, yet adaptive cultural engagement.

4. I have been drawn to innovative concepts, creative language, and imaginative interpretation and undervalued the immediate, particular, daily opportunities to simply love God and others.
I have gone through periods of time when I've been captured and consumed by 'big picture' issues and visionary possibilities. I have played out imaginative scenarios for missional engagement in a postmodern, post Christendom, post-Einstein, post-whatever world, but more often than I like to admit, I have not been fully present with my family, available to my neighbors, or responsive to the needs of my friends. Only recently have I begun to experience the deep joy of being firmly rooted in a particular place and time with a particular group of people. I have become more alert to a major myth of modernity: the 'clean slate.' When it comes to relationships, we don't have multiple 'do-overs.'

5. I have overestimated my role as a 'change agent.'
A subtle grandiosity can enter the hearts and minds of those who think they understand the cultural landscape and feel called to being a 'prophetic presence.' In their desire to have 'an impact' in a given context and be 'a catalyst' of transformation, they can fall into the trap of trying to convince others so that they 'get it.' I have fallen into this trap. I have used relational, organic, emergent language to bring about pre-determined outcomes and then wondered why there was so much resistance. I have been selectively 'authentic' so that the changes I wanted would become reality. As one who has become incredibly sensitive to the leveraging strategies of others, I still catch myself trying to 'make something happen.' This remains a 'dark side' area that continually needs the light of truth-telling friends.