Thursday, February 23, 2006
Skye Jethani on "Unbundling Christianity"
Skye Jethani, editor of the Leadership Journal blog has posted some great thoughts about how the emerging church helps us to "unbundle" different aspects of Christian traditions as package deals. Here is what he says:

The modern church is characterized by bundling. Modernity’s insistance on categories and boundaries has meant certain theological traditions have been bundled with certain worship styles, forms, and modes of ministry. For example, in the mid 20th century a progressive view of social justice was typically bundled together with liberal theology and traditional worship or liturgy style. In the 1980s and 90s a serious commitment to reaching non-Christians was often bundled together with conservative theology, contemporary worship forms, and program driven ministries.

The prevalence of bundling in the modern church is obvious by the clearly defined categories by which churches identified themselves. In 1987 if someone identified their church as “seeker-driven” we all knew what that meant theologically, aesthetically, and culturally. Just as everyone knew what “traditional,” “mainline,” and “Pentecostal” meant. Today these categories are far more ambiguous.

In my experience, the most significant contribution of the emergent movement is the unbundling of the Western church. The assumption that certain theological traditions, forms of worship, and modes of ministry must be packaged together is no longer valid to those with an emergent disposition. These church leaders are looking over the vast landscape of the Church, whose horizon reaches 2000 years back and whose expanse is wider than any single tradition, and they are questioning the validity of modern American evangelicalism as a bundled entity.

Instead, the emergent movement is creating a new ministry paradigm where unbundled elements of the church can be reconfigured into previously unseen forms of Christian community and mission. For example, some emergent communities are combining conservative Protestant theology with Roman Catholic and high church forms of worship—two things previously kept in separate bundles. Likewise, we are seeing a progressive social and political agenda no longer strictly bundled with liberal theology. The fact that Rick Warren and Bill Hybles are addressing poverty and AIDS in Africa reveals that unbundling is even occurring in the flagship of modern Christianity — the megachurch...

...If we take this practice of unbundling/reconfiguring as the defining characteristic of the emerging church then perhaps the movement is misnamed. The dictionary defines “emerge” as “to come out of.” It’s a word that emphasizes what the emerging church is moving away from—it's a word rooted, as critics have noted, in deconstructing the modern church. A more constructive word, I believe, is “merge.” It is defined as “to join together different elements, mix, or combine.” Perhaps a better name for what we are experiencing is the “merging church” as previously estranged elements of Christianity are unbundled from modernity and reunited into endless permutations of mission and community.

I like Skye's suggestion of the term "merging church". Others have suggested a similar term that points to the same thing: the converging church. Anyhow, this is just a selection of what Skye wrote. You should read the rest of the article here


posted by Mike Clawson at 11:19 PM | Permalink |


At 9/21/2006 08:50:00 AM, Blogger Mac

Hi Mike,
I'm new to your site but I'm loving what I am seeing.

I came via a search for Skye's writings as I was enjoying his recent article "iChurch".

He's a very good thinker, yet with heart.

We are in a formative time and I have written on these themes often, particularly on what comes after PostModernism since I feel it is essentially (not all) a reaction the the bankruptcy of Modernity. I was writing on this back in the 90s and I can point you to articles if you like.

I was recently in Seattle for a wedding of a former student who plans on finishing his degree at Mars Hill. His concern was about depth of scholarship and not just being "hip". I reminded him of the work that Dan Allendar and Tremper Longman do together as a sort of example.

This goes to the heart of Skye's article...that we have choices now open.

Anyway..I look forward to reading your site the next few days.

Mine is

Grace and peace


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