Like many of you, I grew up in a church home with a pastor-Father and worship-leading-mother bred to be the youth group superhero. Since moving away to Taylor, my home church has more or less fallen apart, causing me to question a few things about the American evangelical church institution. I’m not going to go into details, but I think I could give a substantial case as to why the “church has failed me.” I think I’m a pretty good case for Friday’s Chapel speaker, Ted Kluck’s, stereotypical rebellious twenty-something who could jump on the trendy new emergent bandwagon because I’m sick of the “evils” that American evangelical Christianity represents today.
But the thing is, I still love the church. My home churches have been full of too many amazing people and I’ve seen way too much good come out of my church experiences to disregard the church as a completely faulty system.
Coming into Taylor, I was exposed to many new authors such as Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Donald Miller* that all hinted at something more than what my fairly normal church was preaching. A number of Kluck’s reasons for not being Emergent felt more like a personal vendetta against Starbucks than any sort of theological reason. Likewise, his reasons for loving the Church sounded more like reasons why he didn’t like the Emergent church than reasons why he loved the Church.
In response to Kluck, I would love to pick him apart for what I found to be silly arguments (what’s wrong with using the arts in worship?!) but I think I’m going more for the unity thing than divisive thing. So I’m going to give a few reasons why I’m open to the Emergent (or at least the emerging) church.
First and foremost (and maybe the one they get the most criticism for), they actually care about social justice issues. The second half of the Old Testament (hello prophets) and Jesus’ teachings are brimming with commandments to seeking justice, etc. They take that seriously. From what I have seen in Evangelical churches, there is very limited emphasis on actually serving the poor, helping the widow, etc. Kluck argued that the Emergent church is espousing a works-based gospel (and maybe they do lean too far this way) but as Taylor’s MLK Jr’s speaker explained so well, there’s a beautiful, mysterious connection between the vertical redemption that God does in us personally and the horizontal redemption of the earth he is creating through us. I don’t want to miss a part of the gospel by pledging allegiance to one side or another.
Next are a few more minor reasons why I’m open to the Emergent church. They employ the arts to a higher degree. I know the Emergent church isn’t the only Christian movement to engage the arts but they do set aside more room for expressing worship in a variety of ways that are somewhat neglected elsewhere. Another point is that the Emergent church characterizes itself as being a “discussion” of theological ideas. Although this definitely can lead to some sketchy theology, I recognize the need to re-evaluate what we believe and how we interpret the gospel.
One criticism Kluck gave that I’m having a hard time ignoring is saying how the Emergent church ignores the Bible and rather focuses on other mediums to provide a spiritual atmosphere. I’m a Rob Bell fan. One reason why is because he has helped me understand scriptures better than pretty much any other preacher. He ties Old Testament laws with New Testament principals and although he’s “fun to listen to,” there’s no way I would continue listening to him if he were short on content. Sorry, had to put that in there.
*I know all of these guys wouldn’t claim to be Emergent but Kluck seemed to group every remotely emerging figure out there into the same category so for simplicity’s sake, I will too.