Monday, June 18, 2007
Hip young consumers?
Julie was at the Jubilee conference this past weekend down in Chicago (Jubilee is the movement for Third World Debt Relief), and while she was there she met a neat activist couple from Portland. When she told them that she was a pastor of an emerging church they got a strange look on their faces. Apparently they had become disillusioned with their evangelical upbringing at some point and heard about the emerging church. The went in search of one to try out and found a rather well known emerging church in the Portland area. What they found disappointed them. According to what they told Julie, their impressions of this "emerging church" was a bunch of hip young consumers who seemed afraid of women in ministry. (Based on that last comment, can you guess which network of "emerging churches" this one was connected with?)

This is troubling to me if that is the impression that people in search of a new kind of faith are getting when they walk into an emerging church. Here was a couple in search of a faith community passionate about social justice and more about authenticity than image, and what they got was the opposite. I don't want to judge that particular church, maybe this couple caught them on a bad week, but it is a challenge to all of us in the EC to make sure that we are actually communicating our values. More than that, it's a reminder to pay attention to the non-verbal ways our communities communicate to people what we're all about. Of course the hip young people at this Portland church can't help being young, and perhaps "hip" is authentic to who they are, but where were the older people? Where were the non-hip people? Were they represented as well? Had this church made any efforts to diversify? of course, as a church planter and pastor I realize that you can't always control what type of people come to your church, but again, you can do things to let people know that individuals of all types are welcome - and clearly this couple didn't feel that sense of welcome.

And what was it about the church that communicated a consumeristic attitude? I don't know, but it is unfortunate that these people would have gotten that impression. Granted, most people who walk into church are probably not going to complain about that, since most people are pretty active consumers themselves, but shouldn't church be a place where we can start to detox from those attitudes? Shouldn't a church do whatever it can to emphasize that it values relationships, not possessions?

And their attitude towards women? I don't really even want to go there, but it does speak volumes that a new couple would pick up on that right from the get go. Most churches, even if they do restrict women's roles, don't make it so completely obvious that you would notice it upon an initial visit.

At any rate, Julie said she was able to let this couple know that there are different streams and different types of emerging churches, and that they had probably just encountered one that existed primarily in the "Relevant" stream - churches that do an especially good job of reaching out to hip, young people, but aren't always so interested in rethinking their underlying theologies. They said they were glad to know that other types of emerging churches were out there, and were especially intrigued by Julie's description of our church, Via Christus - especially when she told them that not everyone there was hip or young. :)


posted by Mike Clawson at 1:59 PM | Permalink |


At 6/18/2007 08:43:00 PM, Blogger John


I wondered if you could help me with some information. Does the emerging Church have any kind of statement of faith? Or core values? Is it a denomination? Is there a website? I'm interested in knowing more, but haven't been able to find much info on the net. Maybe you have some links or could share some info.




At 6/19/2007 11:11:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey John,

The emerging church is not a denomination or organization and thus does not have a statement of faith. It is primarily a conversation where many different questions and opinions are welcome - the common theme being Christians that are open to rethinking their approach to church, worship, mission, and theology. It takes place through books, conferences, websites, and local gatherings like up/rooted, our Chicago area "cohort" (i.e. discussion group).

There is an "organization" called Emergent Village that tries to be a catalyst and coordinator for some off these conversations. They do have a set of Values & Practices which include:
1. A Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus
2. A Commitment to the Church in All Its Forms
3. A Commitment to God's World
4. A Commitment to One Another

While Emergent Village is only one part of the broader "emerging church movement" (and not one that all emerging types would identify with), I think most emerging types would affirm these four commitments.

For more you could also check out my article "What Is the Emerging Church?"

Hope that helps,


At 6/21/2007 02:29:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

BTW John, you might also find this article about why Emergent Village doesn't have a Statement of Faith interesting.


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