Key Topics in the Emerging Church (3 of 3)
Dr. Mark Bailey: Welcome to DTS Dialogue: Issues of God in Culture. I'm your host, Mark Bailey. I have the privilege of serving as president of Dallas Theological Seminary.
Today we want to interact on "key topics in the emerging church." We've already dialogued on the general topic of the emerging church in an earlier podcast, and we want to take the opportunity today to dig in a little bit deeper.
One of the passions that I've picked up is the passion to be missional. I hear that term, and it's used by many people.
What do we mean by "missional living" and "missional ministry"? The doctrine, the incarnation is often referenced as justification for being missional. What do you men here and what do you think that being missional means?
Dr. Glenn Kreider: I really like the language of "incarnational" better than "missional" because it's more Christological, Christocentric. I think at its core, what I would affirm it means to be missional, and incarnational, is that we are the incarnation of Christ in the world. We are the body of Christ. That we're the only Jesus people can see; if you want to see what Jesus looks like, you look at us. That we ought to be about what He was about, we ought to be leading people to follow Him and to discipleship and mentoring.
And that the incarnation is not simply the means by which God sent the Redeemer into the world, but it's the way, it's the means by which He redeemed the world and establishes a model for ministry. That if the Creator of the universe humbled Himself, as Paul says in Phillippians 2 -- which, by the way, that great Christological hymn, I observe, comes, is not written in order for Paul to... Paul's not developing a high Christology in Phillippians 2. He uses Christ as an example. So if the Creator of the universe humbled Himself, and came and gave Himself even to the point of death, that's how we ought to treat one another.
And whether that's involvement in taking care of the poor -- the least of these -- whether that's involved in working for justice, whether that's involved in politics, it's a matter of how can we, like Jesus, be redemptive and be agents of grace in the world that God has created. And I think, I like that "incarnational" -- and obviously I didn't invent that, I think Joe Aldridge talked about that long before I did, it's not a new thing. The missional focus is not a new thing, it's kind of become a buzzword now, and I have kind of an immediate reaction against the use of jargon and buzzwords, but I do think that's what it means to be missional: to be incarnational, to be redemptive in the world, like Jesus was.
Mark Bailey: Not just claiming to be Christian, but living Christian.
Mark Bailey: I had the privilege of having a group of pastors -- and Andy, you were in on that meeting -- with a group of our alums who are ministering in the area in larger churches. We've been meeting with pastors of different kinds of churches, and different sizes of churches, and just dialoguing with them, finding out what we can learn as a seminary from them and their context of ministry. Letting them know what God's doing on our campus. We recently had five or six pastors on campus for lunch, and as they shared a little bit of the DNA of their ministry, a common theme that really came through was that they, by acts of compassion within the context of their ministry community, they have broken, if I could say, the blockade of bringing Christ to schools and to leadership structures like city councils.
And they have -- by being Christian in their conduct, in loving relationships, meeting needs, being sensitive -- they have really opened doors that have given them the opportunity to share Christ at the appropriate times. And so that each conversation wasn't evangelistic by its nature, but each conversation prepared for an evangelistic opportunity to explain why we do what we do.
There was a common theme, African-American, as well as other kinds of churches, and it was great to see that common thread. That something is happening, where even with those who share great theology, there is missional living to a point that is opening the doors, a phrase that I picked up from a pastor of the Katrina-effected churches in the Gulf Coast. That he said by sharing the small grace with the community, in matters of clean-up and in matters of ministry, they have been given a privilege of sharing the big message of grace. And I think that's a healthy passion.
Barna's comments of what the church looks like -- those who claim to be born again, and either who don't know the scriptures or don't live like a Christian -- I see a real reason for reaction. I see a real reason, a legitimate criticism that's coming. And whether we like the way the response is taken, I think the passion for why it's necessary, we ought to be listening to and thinking about.
Glenn: And the church's contribution to the world is grace. It's not content, it's not what we do, but that we have the opportunity to be Christ in the world, to be redemptive and to be gracious. Whether it's small grace or big grace. Grace is grace, and grace is good.
Dr. Andy Seidel: When you think of the pastors in Second Corinthians 5, where God is entreating through us, being reconciled, you know, that's just kind of an amazing thing, and it puts it in a whole different perspective. That God is reaching through His people into the world, and that He would entrust us. Because He didn't have to do that.
Glenn: And He probably could have done a better job.
Andy: You think so?
Glenn: Without us.
Andy: Oh, I think so.
Mark Bailey: And He boils it to one word, He says, "The word of reconciliation."
Mark Bailey: That's great. A couple questions to wrap this up. What resources would you all recommend first for people who want to read more widely, who want an exposure to the spectrum of those who have -- and there are -- who have good theology, but have a passion for being missional, and even identifying themselves with emerging culture? Whether they would call themselves an emerging church, an emergent church. There is a big spectrum, and I think we would do well to recognize that. But why don't some of you just popcorn some of the resources that you would recommend for reading, to get that acquaintance?
Andy: I have to say that part of my real interest in this is in the whole area of leadership. And in a number of these emerging church books and materials, they're talking about needing a new kind of leadership. That, especially given the discontinuous change and all of those things, we need a leadership that is different from just the programmatic in the past. There's a new book out by Allan Roxburgh and Romanuk I think is the second name called the Missional Leader. I think it's very interesting, kind of putting that particular missional perspective on leadership and how one makes the transition in churches towards a missional approach.
Glenn: There are a handful of books I think everyone needs to read who's interested. We talked about listening to the beliefs of emerging churches the earlier five views book by Leonard Sweet, Horton, McLaren called The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives and Eddie Gibb's and Ryan Bolger's Emerging Churches, we talked about that before, too. Those are really helpful books, not simply because I say that they are, or because other theologians or publishers say that they are, but people who are involved in the conversation say that they are.
I think there's a second set of books and articles and blogs that ought to be read, and that is much more specifically if you want to understand, as I said earlier, Doug Pagitt, read him, if you don't understand McLaren, read him, and read for understanding and for conversation and dialogue.
And a book that I'm not recommending, but I do think is important to mention because of the way it's been praised by people within the conversation is the book by Peter Rollins, How Not to Speak of God, that several prominent leaders in Emergent Village have said, "This is the most important single book to read." I find it very problematic, but if you want to understand what that stream of the conversation, what the emergent -- with a t -- folks are about, Rollins' book is I think an important book to read.
Mark? Any others?
Dr. Mark Heinemann: Well, I mentioned the Kimball book, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. I think this is a great example of someone who is holding on to Scripture, holding on to the Nicene Creed as the fundamental foundation of faith and trying to head-on face these accusations or these false images that people out there have. This guy has a pastor's heart; he's at least reading Kimballs' stuff. How can you not like this guy? He's got to be a nice guy; I'd like to meet this guy.
Andy:He is a very nice guy.
Mark Heinemann: He loves sinners. And so there are some things to learn and there are some other things I...
Mark Bailey: For those who were at the Dallas Seminary, Dan served on the staff with Chip Ingram at Santa Cruz Bible Church before he launched the Vintage Church, just by way of biography and history there.
Mark Heinemann: I think another book I'd like to recommend is by David Wells, it's called Above All Earthly Powers: Christ in a Postmodern World. It's pretty obvious that David is going to stand for truth and a solid view of Scripture; I think he does a fantastic job of looking at that subject so I'd recommend that book.
Mark Bailey: That's great; those are helpful. For those who would want to read particular authors who are standing strong for Scripture, have good theology and who are still a part of this emerging conversation, any names that you want to put on the table that would be helpful to mention?
Andy: I think Scott McKnight would be one. He says he comes through this movement, that he's part of, but would still be evangelical. And Kimball.
Mark Bailey: Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll would be strong in terms of biblical and Christological authority. I understand that Andy Krautz has a book coming out soon...I would recommend Krautz as well.
Mark Bailey: There are other books that have been written in evaluation in varying degrees of concern and sternness and gentleness, and those are out there that I'm sure many are familiar with. But I think one of the criticisms, and I think people like Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, and others have mentioned of the movement themselves even if they chose to be in that movement or in that dialogue, in that conversation is that there are places in Scripture, like in the pastorals, where a defense of truth and an exposure of error is a part of pastoral ministry.
And I think to not hold strongly to Biblical truth, to protect the flock, and I think of passages like "preach the word" in Second Timothy Chapter Four, "Preach the Word, be ready in season and out of season. And there's a place for reproving and rebuking and exhorting, but with great patience and instruction, and there are times", it says, "that are coming, where they will not endure sound doctrine. People will want to have their ears tickled and they will want to accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires. They will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you be sober in all things and endure hardship and do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
There is a place where unapologetically but with gentleness we affirm the truth of scripture. We affirm the truth that has been revealed and we do stand against error. And there's a time to expose when, Glenn, as you've said, they go off track and entertain unbelief as opposed to belief as optional. And I think all of us would have concern with regard to that. Not to end on a negative note, but what are some of the cautions, as you have read, that you would give to those that would be looking at this movement. What are some helpful warning signs, "be careful," or caution signs, because it is a wide movement?
Mark Heinemann: Along the lines of what you've just said, Mark, that a new emphasis on the study of the Gospels and the study of the life of Christ which we can welcome does not result in a neglect of the Epistles and the other writings. It does concern me that as I read in this field that Paul is almost invisible. And he's committed some faux pas in some people eyes in that he's come out fairly strongly on some things and seems to have the attitude that he knows the truth. And as you were going through some of those passages, I thought about First Corinthians 7 where Paul says, "This is the rule I lay down in all the churches." In First Timothy , tons of times - chapter 4 "prescribe and teach these things", chapter 5: "maintain these principles," chapter 6: "preach and teach these things..."
Mark Bailey: It evidentially isn't arrogant to do that.
Mark Heinemann: [clears throat] Well, he's an apostle...
But he's...but Timothy's not an apostle.
Mark Bailey: That's right. That's right.
Mark Heinemann: And if these are to be passed on to faithful men, those faithful men aren't apostles, either. And so, somehow we also have to have a balance between having an open, dynamic theology that is willing to entertain questions that are uncomfortable and things that...that, maybe we thought we were sure about and maybe need to reconsider and having it so open that everything leaks out of our container and, and...we have to reinvent the wheel, then, with every generation.
I think about....uh.. the children, the youth, the members of a given assembly. They don't need every time to have some sort of an open ended theological discussion. They need to know that that's how theology is done and they need to have a "chastened intellect" as, as Dan Grentz would have said. But they also need the milk of the Word and the meat of the Word and that's in there somewhere. We've got some places where we can stand...and I would hate to see those be eroded away and there's just that danger. A caution.
Mark Bailey: As one who has made it a life passion to study the Gospels, as well as the Epistles, I think many people would be surprised if they simply took the Great Commission - final phrase - teaching them to "obey everything I commanded." And when you look at the nearly 200 commands of the life of Christ and what it involves in reference to money and reference to marriage. And in reference to immorality, reference to the future. As much as he said, even in the areas of eschatology, you know, there is a lot that he has communicated that you can't do a walk-by truth. You can't be a walk-around morality. When it comes just, even, to the message of Jesus.
But I...I fear, one of the cautions I would raise is that there is an enamorment with the meek and mild Jesus of Hollywood and at times some artwork to the expense of what Jesus said -whether it was to false teachers, whether it was to his disciples, there is a significant condemnation, obviously, of hypocrisy which looks inward toward the religious. But there's also no mealy-mouth mixing of whether or not it's truth or err in regard even to culture. And so, if they would take seriously Jesus, I think it would lead them to Paul. And Paul obviously points back, you know, to Jesus.
Glenn: I think the strengths.... that are being raised are...are the weaknesses as well. And that, that an emphasis on being incarnational and missional an emphasis on understanding the culture sometimes lacks the criticism of the culture. That it is that doesn't mean necessarily mean that it's good. I think there's...I read sometimes what looks like an attempt to find commonality, and to find things to choose and use, but not an evaluation of and critique of things...Let's come back to the need a theology of culture - that an attempt to bring together the head and the heart - an experiential Christianity - sometimes is implicitly a denial of the importance of right doctrine, of the intellect, and the raising of good questions in an attempt to avoid inappropriate dogmatism, and to be humble is sometimes not a sound humility - I like the way Andy put that.
And the emphasis on narrative and story sometimes is at the expense of...there are systematic categories that are handed down to us from the Apostles' Creed through Nicea, and the appreciation of the Christian tradition.
But at some times, it's a pick-and-choose, cut-and-paste of the practices of the tradition, although at the same time I do want to say I appreciate in the conversation - in the churches that are intentionally emerging, those that are very intentional about returning to the orthodox confession of distinctive Christian doctrine through the creeds, I think that's incredibly helpful and we ought to affirm that. And I think sometimes an attempt to be christological and christocentric is not adequately trinitarian nor adequately ecclesiological.
We cannot separate Jesus from the church, and we cannot have Jesus apart from the Father and the Son, and we cannot have the parts of Jesus switch we like, or that make us comfortable. It's an all-or-nothing thing with Him, and sometimes He's easy to get along with, and sometimes he's not quite so much.
Mark Bailey: Great - that's a great point.
Andy: And I think that, just adding one more thing to what you've said is just to realize that this is, as they call it, an emerging movement. And in any emerging movement you push the envelope, and maybe then pull back from certain things, and so not everything that is said that's a part of the movement will be a part of the movement a year from now or two years from now, and so just to have that perspective that this is an emerging thing - it isn't fully developed and formed yet - and it's a reaction movement in a sense, and so it will change.
Mark Bailey: I think all of us have recognized some of the good challenges of the movement - to wed truth and practice, to be involved, not just against the culture, but involved with the culture in presenting a consistent lifestyle that backs a Christian message, and so while we're getting cautions, we obviously, I think, all around this table would appreciate the challenges that it brings to us as well.
Thank you men for being with us today. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for the privilege of interacting, and we ask that this conversation might be helpful as those who listen wrestle with the same kinds of issues. That they would read well, they would listen carefully, and that we would read with Biblical perspective, so that we might have wise behavior, and never lose the love for our world that your son demonstrated - the kind of love with which He loved us, and others. And may we reflect that compassion, and stand for truth and at the same time love people like You do. And we give you thanks in Jesus' name. Amen.
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