What’s in a Name?

Today my husband and I made a trip out to Gresham to bid farewell to some relatives . . . and to get first dibs at their garage sale goods. On the way out there I kept plugging on through Emerging Churches. Jason asked how it was: “good.” “How is it compared to the other books you’ve read?” “Really good.” Helpful, eh? 🙂

Driving back, I was thinking about emerging stuff. I find the book “really good” in that it articulates ideas and trends and noticings that I’ve sensed for some time but haven’t been able to communicate: it describes attributes of a holistic life – a life completely lived in the sacred where every moment is an opportunity for worship, forgiveness, community, giving.

But I could hear many folks in my mind saying, “This is nothing new. It might be said differently; it might be packaged differently; but this stuff has been around for centuries.” People offer up examples of historic figures who blazed the way changing lives and living out God’s love. While I appreciate looking to the past to recognize and honor these figures, I wonder how much good it’s really doing: it’s fairly easy to rest on our laurels of “well, this amazing person is part of my worship tradition” without actually doing anything they stood for. This is somewhat of a club mentality: we have “so and so” in our corner, so we’re secure. Somehow I don’t think it all works out this way.

When folks hear “emerging church,” there seems to be a variety of reactions – mainly “Huh? What is it?” to “OH: I’ve heard about it, and it’s New Age/going away from Christianity/Gen-X thing/not theologically sound.” A lot of that comes from folks in the emerging movement and folks in the traditional movement not conversing. But also I wonder if it comes from terminology.

“Emerging: Newly formed or just coming into prominence.”

In the American consumeristic society, for something to be new means there has to be something that’s old: old is bad, useless, not needed (at least in the marketing world where ipods are only good for a couple of months before the next model comes out rendering the former antiquated and somewhat undesired). When folks in the traditional churches hear “emerging,” I sense as though the term is a sort of subtle slam: traditional is old and useless, i.e. the way you do church is old and useless. To say something like that can strike at the core of a person: look at history where wars have been fought for centuries over beliefs regarding religious differences.

To me, it seems like the term “emerging” gets folks’ hackles up. Plus, to say that these beliefs and ideas and revelations are something completely new seems pretty arrogant as though it took two thousand years and now our “enlightened” generation figured it out.

Is there a word or phrase that could embody how God is moving among us and how we are responding? Something that respects both the new and old practices, something that is more holistic, something that isn’t Christianese, something that makes sense?

  • Organic
  • Rooted
  • Core
  • Convergent (to borrow from a friend)
  • Incarnational
  • ?????

What does it look like to you? How do you see God moving, and what do you call is when you partner with God in what God’s already doing?

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