A couple days back I purchased all my books for next quarter (or at least most of them) and one I am really excited about is “An Emergent Manifesto of Hope” coedited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. The book is a collection of essays from emerging church leaders, the essays tend to be theologically focused and help to get at some of the main themes and ideas that run behind these young churches. I purchased the book for a couple of reasons: Ryan Bolger, Barry Taylor, and Adam Walker Cleaveland all have an articles in the book. I am also curious as to what a number of these other leaders have to say about other topics covered in the book: leadership, inclusion, parenting, creativity, orthodoxy and orthopraxy, Karl Barth, activism, sexuality, economics, and even pentecost!
I was definately interested in reading Adam’s chapter mainly because he’s a friend and a young thinker whose work I want to support; I definately enjoyed reading more of his story in his chapter “Presbymergent:The Story of One Mainliner’s Queest To Be A Loyal Radical.” It was great to read how he understand the relationship between the PC (USA) and emerging church.
Following Jesus Into Culture: Emerging Church as a Social Movement
Here are some thoughts on Ryan Bolger’s chapter, “Following Jesus Into Culture: Emerging Church as a Social Movement.” I wanted to focus on some of this thoughts because I found his chapter to be really helpful for a number of reasons.
In the chapter Bolger explains a perspective of culture that’s heavily informed by Anabaptist thinkers like John Howard Yoder, James McClendon and Wilbert Shenk as well as Quaker thinker Walter Wink. Some great insights from this chapter include his point that Jesus was not so much countercultural as nonconformed while in the culture. This perspective leads to an explaination of how Jesus’ ministry submitted to the reign of God, all the while living within the structures of his world. “As a cultural insider, he embodied a message if life in those places where the culture advocated death.”
Bolger explains that every church has taken on the forms and structures of whatever culture it finds itself in, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead, because we know that cultures are fallen, the church needs to listen for and allow the kingdom of God to offer critique within these cultures. Finally, the church is also to listen for signs of the kingdom within culture because cultures were created by God they can also reflect the wisdom of God.
One other aspect of this chapter I liked was where Bolger explains key trends within the emerging church He describes it as, a communal movement, a movement of reconciliation, a movement o hospitality, a movement of freedom ( it seeks to be patriarchial and domination free), and finally it’s a movement of spirituality. All these aspects are tied back into Kingdom characteristics in order to give them a thicker meaning.
The other chapters I read were by Mark Scandrette, Barry Taylor, Karen Sloan, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt all of which were very thought provoking, easy to follow and creative in their outlook.
I was happy to see Tony Jones quoting Alasdair MacIntyre in the introduction and drawing implications for emerging church thought and MacIntyre’s philosophy.
A Few Reflections On Emergent Manifesto
There were two other insights I gained from this book that were really simple, yet somehow really profound for me. In fact, I found both insights to be useful for the convergent Friends conversation.
The first is about friendship and how the emergent network and emerging churches have for some time been based on being friends. These leaders love getting together, they use whatever resources they have to stay connected, they fly all over the place to meet face to face, and they have lots of dinner parties. This network has grown not becuase of brute force or because these people have lots of money but because they have done the hard, sometimes dirty work, of maintaining real friendships. They call it a converstation, a movement, but most importantly a friendship. And I would have to say that I resonate deeply with this call to befriend one another. I think the convergent Friends conversation is just this, in fact Robin Mohr has said more than once that these f/Friends are ones she really enjoys getting together with because we have so much fun hanging out!
The second insight is about being able to think creatively about tough issues. It was stated in the book that being labelled the emergent network gives some license to be different, to think outside the normal accepted ways, ask hard questions, say things that are difficult to hear, all because something different is expected from this group of leaders. Maybe it’s easier to dismiss them, maybe we have higher standards for their ideas, but whatever it may be the idea is a profound one. We can as Christian leaders and thinkers run into problems when we ask the hard questions and make difficult suggestions when we’re under the guise of the old categories and labels. An example we’re all familiar with is if we play a rock song in the traditional worship service, people are going to get upset, if we play 10 rock songs during the “contemporary worship service” no one cares, in fact they expect it. That being said, we’re all still together, we’re worshipping, we’re Christians thinking about the same things, but some of us are “allowed” to think differently if we’re asscoiated with a different category. And so the point is that convergent Friends and other groups of people that are looking to innovate may have an easier time doing it because we’ve set ourselves outside the mainstream thougth. And if you’re having problems when you present different ideas, maybe you need to form a little different category, from which you work.
Every chapter I’ve read has not only been thought-provoking but insightful into a number of major issues that the emerging church is dealing with. This book is going to be a standard when it comes to learning about and from this movement. If you’re interested in discovering more about what these leaders have to say, I recommend checking out this book.