Well Greg, Loren and I got back from Maryland yesterday and we had a great trip. It was really fun for the three of us just to hang out. In the car Loren slept a lot and Greg and I fixed all the churches problems. We had quite an adventure on Tuesday with a trip to the University of Maryland (Greg bowed low at the sight of Testudo and paid his homage as any Dookie should), Greg and Loren’s first experience Duck Pin Bowling, a strange coffee house that when I was a kid was a bird store, and a Barber shop that left me with almost no hair (Just helping God’s efforts out I guess) and Greg Moore with purple hair. It was all quite amusing.
The actual time at the Kairos gathering was fun as well. There were about 40-50 Pastors, church planters, and lay people. We were a wide variety of church folk from Jay my favorite Episcopalian ever, to a bunch of non-denominational Emergent types, to a couple of church planting Methodists, some Fuller guys, and various hodgepodge of lay people. The topics included the nature of Evangelism, Atonement theory, the tension of postmodern and modern ministries in the same church, team leadership, and being made into the fullness of Christ, which I guess you would call Discipleship or Sanctification. So what did I gather or think about from this eclectic ecclesial gathering?
1) The Emerging Conversation is life giving – For most of the people there, their background was free church (Baptist or Non-Denominational), evangelical, and fundamentalist. For them, the emergent conversation breathed life into their faith. It has allowed them a connection to the rest of the church. It has helped them discover sacramental, communal, ecclesial living. It has helped them become more narrative in their approach to scripture and preaching. It has made them more experiential in their worship and more cooperative in their pastoring. I saw people there who without Emergent would probably no longer be in the church.
2) Brian McLaren is the right voice for recovering Fundamentalists – This was the 3rd or 4th time I have been with Brian McLaren and I am always very impressed by his thoughtfulness, graciousness, and faithfulness to the gospel. I can’t imagine there being a better voice for those who are trying to recapture the fullness of the gospel and reexamine the nature of who we are as the church.
3) The Emergent Conversation seems to be making Free Church Christians more Wesleyan – I laughed as I heard conversation after conversation where people talked about a discovery of sacramental living, the connection nature of the church, small groups, and the role of prevenient grace in the Kingdom of God. Wesleyans have been trying to live into these ideas for hundreds of years. If this is what it took for them to discover them, well how about that. I am not saying the Wesleyan denominations have always lived into these ideas well, because we all have our issues, but they certainly aren’t new.
4) Mainliners need a different conversation – Much of the angst that many of those I have encountered in the Emergent Conversation have is not the angst of the mainline church. Their struggles are very different than many mainline churches. So I am interested to see what an emergent conversation for The Methodist or Episcopal or Presbyterian church will look like. Many mainliners have joined in the Emergent Conversation, but mainly, in my view, because they are pleased to be in dialogue about these issues with Evangelicals. It has allowed them the opportunity to be united in issues that for them they thought through a while ago. But, that doesn’t mean that mainliner’s don’t need an emergent conversation of their own. Mainliner’s need a reexamination of ideas such as evangelism, sanctification and holiness, the ability to deal with heresy in the church, and I think even a recapturing of a love and sense of awe for the Word of God. I hope that there will be those who God calls out in these denominations to lead their conversations.
Those are my quick reflections from the gathering. In the next couple of days I will post more in-depth reflections on the doctrine of holiness, the nature of the gospel, and community evangelism.