A few Forge conferences ago I listened to Mark Sayers provide an excellent overview of how the emerging church has emerged – so far…
It showed the various shifts in thinking that have happened so rapidly already and it helped me see the thought processes we have all been growing thru.
Here’s my summarised adaption of what he said (as best I remember) feel free to correct me in the comments if you are reading Mark!
Stage 1 – What Shall We Sing? – Mark didn’t actually say this but I reckon the whole hymns / choruses, worship wars saga was the start of something. It was a recognition that there may just be a different way to do things. But ouch… The pain of such a futile debate! And yet I have a feeling it may not have been as futile as I once thought. It at least began the process of thought. Can we do things even a little differently? Is there a ‘right’ way?…
Stage 2 – Contemporary Worship – Some churches bit the bullet, took the hit and went and bought a drum kit and a keyboard. We began to sing songs that sounded a bit more like what you would hear on the radio. We began to allow some variety into the worship service – but it developed into a fairly predictable routine – 4 fast songs, (which we called praise) 4 slow (which we called worship) and then a sermon. There was no fundamental change in the DNA of the beast.
Stage 3 – Gen X Worship – As above but with dim lights and candles. I don’t think I’m overstating it? Perhaps the only other real change was funkier and/or louder music. There was at least talk of the fact that an emerging generation were seeking some different things. We read books like “Inside the Mind of a New Generation (or something like that) and saw that community was a priority, process was more important than product and so on… you know the drill.
Stage 4 – Alt Worship – The alt worship crowd recognised that we do not all learn, worship, experience in the same ways. They saw that there were five senses and it was ok to smell, touch, taste things in church. Some very creative expressions of worship emerged but my experience was that it was mostly about creating a better more engaging experience for the already Christian. Something was mutating but by and large it was the same animal.
Perhaps the most signifcant commonality to all of the above is that they generally use an attractional ‘come to us’ approach. Mission occurs as more people join the gathering and the more attractive the gathering the more likely people will come.
Stage 5 – Incarnational Faith Communities – Also known as the Emerging Missional Church. I sense this is where many of us are at today. The key difference between this arrangement and its predecessors is that IFCs seek to understand the culture first, then do mission and then create worshiping communities. It is a go to them approach rather than a come to us. It is a fundamental reconfiguration of the DNA.
Now… having been part of all of the above – and at each stage feeling like I had ‘arrived’ or ‘found the secret’ I am now wily enough to know that we are not there yet – I think! As much as I resonate strongly with the IFC conceptualisation of the church I’d like to see where we are in 10 years time. (I also realise that my 5 stages are quite linear and things are never that simple!)
In 10 years times will we look back and smile at our quaint ideas that we were going to die for, or will we still be here.
Are we there yet?…