Will The Real Emerging Church Stand Up?- 2006
Will the Real Emerging Church Please Stand Up?
by CCW aka "Sparky
Editor's Note: The following is the perspective and opinion of the author, CCW "Sparky" Sparks. Sparky does not claim to speak for any "movement" or organization. Sparky's insights however, are interesting and are intended to produce constructive contemplation, disparaging no one, and no institution. Thank you.
A recent article in Salon magazine (unfortunately available only to subscribers) featured the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington and its pastor, Mark Driscoll. The article is generating a fair bit of buzz among bloggers, many of whom have repeated the misconception drawn from this and numerous other articles (another recent example is Men Are from Mars Hill at Christianity Today online), that Mars Hill is an "emerging" church—an error based on the church's contemporary style of worship rather than on the substance of its message and mission.
In fact, Mars Hill is far from an "emerging" church; it's a Fundamentalist church.
An "Emerging" or "Emergent" church is distinguished not by its style of worship but by its courage to reclaim and embrace a gracious, loving, forgiving God in place of the stern, judgmental, often seemingly hostile God of Fundamentalism. The "Emergent" name reflects the fact that many of the "movement's" members have experienced Fundamentalism as oppressive, confining, and heavily focused on the negative and threatening aspects of the God–human relationship in general, and have left (emerged from) it as a result.
Like all Christians, Emergents believe that we all have sinned and are saved by grace through faith in the Christ who died on the cross for our salvation, but the Emergent understanding of God and Christ, and the living out of that understanding, differ radically from the Fundamentalist view. The Emerging church is made up of individuals and congregations working to move beyond Fundamentalism into a "bigger" Christianity emphasizing God's gracious love for us in Christ, and the freedom granted to us by that love and grace to love God fearlessly and without reservation and, in turn, to love our neighbor as ourselves without reservation.
(Yes, that's a lot of times to say "grace" and "love" in two short paragraphs, but it can't be said often enough: Grace and love, not anger and condemnation, are the very definition of God's gift of Christ to us.)
That freedom includes:
 "soul liberty"—the freedom to search the Scriptures and our own hearts and grow into an authentic relationship with God based on how God reveals God's self to each of us, rather than on imposed interpretations, dogmas, or other formulas.
 "soul competency"—the wisdom and discernment God gives to each and every one of us to guide that growth process, without interference from hierarchies or other human "authority."
 the freedom (indeed, the obligation, for with every freedom comes responsibility) to face our doubts and ask the hard questions, because only by asking those questions prayerfully and listening for God's answers in our day-to-day lives can we continue to grow in understanding, faith, and grace.
 the freedom (indeed, the obligation) to express all our God-given abilities, free of restriction or stereotype, for in Christ "there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female." The church is a priesthood of all believers, not only of the pastor or other "official" clergy, or of the male half of the church only. No role in the church or the world should be closed to anyone whom God may choose to call.
As for that pesky Timothy: Paul's words here contradict the vast majority of his other writings as well as all his recorded actions. Paul openly acknowledged and worked with a number of women as leaders and full partners in ministry.
More to the point, Paul's words here contradict Jesus himself, who befriended and respected women, spoke freely with them in defiance of custom, depended on them for material and moral support, spoke words of comfort to them even in the midst of his own agony, and made them the first witnesses to his resurrection. To reject Christ's own example in favor of a few of the most restrictive words from one of his followers—even such a one as Paul—is, to put it bluntly, a sin.
 the freedom to experience the deep, wide, ever-expanding range of wonders, possibilities, growth, and other joys of the "life abundant" and to live that life courageously and with abandon.
God in Christ calls us to risk everything, to step out boldly on faith—yes, even at times into the unknown—and embody God's love and grace in the world, trusting that God will empower us to do so. No matter what our critics may say (and these are direct quotes from Pastor Driscoll), there's nothing "obscure," "neutered," or "wishy-washy" about that!
An excellent example of Emergent/Emerging Christianity (and by far my favorite) is Bill Dahl's wise and witty The Porpoise Diving Life,
which includes numerous Emergent links. Be sure to check out Bill's personal website, which includes even more links to Emergent sites and to peace-and-justice groups. A more general introduction to the Emergent movement, with links to Emergent groups, may be found at Emergent Village.