empowered by the spirit for mission

5 Things to Learn from the Emerging Church

The Emerging Church is a significant development across the globe in the 21st Century. It is still going strong even though many emerging types may use different labels now. In fact a lot of its principles, once considered too hot to handle, are now being integrated in more digestible ways into other churches.

As an interested observer who has never been part of this movement I have heard a lot of criticisms. I might not embrace everything that this group stands for but here are a few things that I think we can learn from the Emerging Church.

1. Listen with humility

My first encounter with this movement probably began in the ‘90s when I came across a book by David Tomlinson ‘The Post-Evangelical’. This book points out how Christians have swallowed the modern way of thinking that there is one logically coherent world view that can be discovered through human reasoning. Post-modern philosophy challenges this forcing us to return to the ancient world view in which Christianity arose. I’m not sure that I liked all that this book said but I was struck by the idea that other people’s views might be just important as mine. This is what I mean by humility.

The Emerging Church has often referred to itself as a conversation rather than a movement. They tend to see their writing as part of a dialogue rather than the last word on a subject and have often showed a greater humility than those who have criticised them.

Of course we can take this too far and end up not believing there is any truth at all. But I think that humbly discussing what you believe and listening to what others have to say is a very important communication skill to learn.

2. Be creative in worship

Not long after reading The Post-Evangelical I began to hear about creativity in worship. I don’t mean the getting everybody up to dance or anything wild or embarrassing like that. No. I began to read about something called alternative worship.

Eventually I went along to a few alternative worship services myself. These services involved a more multi-sensory and contemplative way of worshipping than I was used to. They drew inspiration from ancient liturgies. They used new technology. People sat on beanbags with lights down low and candles. They played ambient background music while people interacted with artistically arranged installations.

God is creative and using creativity like this in worship and learning is a great way to engage people that over the years. I have used some of these ideas in my own devotions and occasionally in house groups. It’s great when we do things like this as a church.

3. Don’t wait to be asked

"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest." Proverbs 6:6-8

At the beginning of the 21st century Christians with these post-modern leanings and a heart to use creativity in worship began using the term Emerging Church.

The name Emerging Church comes from a principle in physics called emergence. Emergent theory says organisation doesn’t need to come from the top down but can develop spontaneously at grass roots level. You can see this working in the flat organisational structures of the Emerging Church that depend on individuals taking initiative in a more organic sort of way. Leaders see their job as facilitators rather than initiators. The Emerging Church is not about leaders developing big programs and then trying to persuade people to get on board. It is all about individuals hearing from God for themselves and taking the initiative.

Thanks to Neil Liddle for this amazing photo. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be like Solomon’s ant and get on with the job without having to be told? I trust we are getting there.

4. Network beyond your local church

The Emerging Church has been initiated largely be young people starting simple churches with their friends but that doesn’t mean that these groups are all on their own. It is connected by loose networks of relationships that span the globe.

Some of these networks have been marred by criticism and some have disbanded but others have persevered and are going strong. The term Emerging Church is sometimes not that well liked. It’s often confused with one particular controversial group from America called Emergent Village. Here in the UK one popular network is called Fresh Expressions who work within denominations such as the Church of England.

There are many places that a church can find support from it doesn’t necessarily have to be an Emerging Church network. I am very blessed to be part of a church that is linked to wider family of churches but many churches sadly feel they are on their own. Getting support you trust from outside of a local situation is another key that many can learn from the Emerging Church.

5. Seek to transform your culture

Today many in the Emerging Church movement are becoming more outward looking. One emphasis that I first heard many years ago was that of being incarnational. Incarnational means being Jesus to people today, particularly by the church community serving people in our neighbourhood. It is about extending God’s kingdom wherever you are whether in your work or at home.

They have for a long time talked about passages such as Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 72, but now emerging types are talking even more about being missional and transforming our culture. The Emerging Church has always sought to be relevant. In fact it can be seen as originating as a reaction against the church being seen as irrelevant. But now the emphasis is on being, not just relevant, but also transformational. Groups that would have used the name Emerging Church now prefer the label Missional Church or Missional Community and want to be a positive influence in their locality and beyond.

So whatever you think about the Emerging Church I trust that you can see there are plenty of positives here and I’m sure that this list is not exhaustive.

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August 31, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (3)

2 of the Best Videos on the Missional Church

I love these two little videos that simply and clearly explain how we can be the missional church.

The missional church is not the latest fad or a new denomination. It is simply how church should be. God has a mission to transform the world be bringing in his kingdom. It’s amazing how this video gets the message across in a memorable way in a few sort minutes.

This mission is not something that should be left to the experts or to those who feel a calling. It is not up to the church leaders to advertise the church and set up programmes that will attract people. Not that there is anything with wrong with church programmes or inviting people to church. But if that is all we do that we will fail to fulfil God’s mission. We are all sent into the world to be salt and light and to reach our friends with the kingdom. It is not a case of ‘either/or’ but ‘both/and’.

This next video on what it calls missional community gives a very practical tip on how to do it. I think we all relate to stories and turning this into one simple story works really well.

The message is simple yet again. Don’t get so caught up in your church as to lose your non-Christian friends. Yes, on occasions new Christians may find their friends taking them away from God. But generally, God wants us to keep those relationships so that people have someone they can talk to when they want to discuss spiritual issues.

Can you empathise and maybe even identify with Bob? What’s your story?

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August 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Porpoise Diving Life on CharisMissional

And so we conclude the series on the CharisMissional articles from the October 2007 edition of The Porpoise Diving Life. I hope you enjoyed them. Here is a recap:

Grace on CharisMissional encourages Christians who are not from a charismatic background to be open to the supernatural and those who are from a charismatic background to be more open to using the gifts in mission.

Grace on Inner Healing points out that God’s mission is to bring shalom. Inner healing doesn’t have to be hyped up or associated with the bizarre. God can use deliverance to bring real freedom and wholeness to individuals.

Brother Maynard on Evangelism outlines power evangelism and lifestyle evangelism. He recommends his own blend of the two that include relationship, conversation and prayer, which he dubs charismissional evangelism.

Chrysalis by Rob McAlpine makes the fascinating observation that some of those who have left churches can still bring God’s kingdom to others and may even be desperate to find new ways to move in the Spirit as they become active in their faith again.

These are just a few of the articles in that edition of Porpoise Diving Life. Please feel free to explore the other articles. On a post on his own blog Brother Maynard introduces the edition and links to all the articles here. Why not have a look at them and perhaps discuss them here in the comments or do some link posts to them in your own blog? It would be great to know what you think about them.


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August 24, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Chrysalis by Rob McAlpine

Photo by SidPix

In this next Porpoise Diving Life article Chrysalis, Rob McAlpine, who blogs under the name of Robbymac discusses his fascinating perspective on what it means to be CharisMissional for those who have left churches – particularly charismatic churches. You may recall a couple of week’s ago I blogged about Robbymac’s book ‘Post Charismatic?’

As he discussed in his book charismatic and Pentecostal churches are the fastest growing churches world-wide. Yet in the West there are a number of people leaving charismatic churches and needing time to get over the effects from some of the abuses and extremes before they become active in their faith again.

Robbymac suggests that during this time of ‘detoxing’ from church some people may actually discover a new emphasis on God’s kingdom in their everyday life. Instead of wanting to bring people to church they get motivated to reach out to their friends and share the kingdom with them.

He uses the metaphor of a chrysalis to explain this process. During the chrysalis stage a caterpillar appears to have died but actually it is transforming into a butterfly.

Robbymac has observe people who have left churches going out and serving the poor and marginalised – being Jesus to them – and also praying for people to be healed and set free. One of the Bible passages inspiring them is Luke 10. Robbymac has watched those who have got over their previous bad experiences of church come back to life, so to speak. He has noticed them distancing themselves from previous abuses and excesses of charismatic life. But he also notes that many are still desperate to find a way to go in the power of the Spirit in their new missional context. Read the article here.

I’ll conclude this series on Wednesday.

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August 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Brother Maynard on Evangelism

The next article that I want to look at is CharisMissional Evangelism by Brother Maynard.

Signs and wonders are one hallmark of charismatic evangelism. John Wimber popularised this idea in the 1980s in his book Power Evangelism. The basic idea was that supernatural gifts such as healing should accompany the proclamation of the gospel. This view is still held today in many churches. I can understand that some may fear that this may discredit the gospel if the healings promised do not materialise but I still feel that this can be a valid practice.

Brother Maynard points out that also during the 1980s in other circles there was a growing emphasis on Lifestyle Evangelism. ‘Sharing our faith’ has often meant just entering into a dialogue about Jesus. On the other hand Lifestyle Evangelism stresses the importance of demonstrating our faith in our lives. Of course for lifestyle evangelism to really be evangelism we must never forget to mention Jesus!

Power Evangelism and Lifestyle Evangelism both involve ‘proclamation’ and ‘demonstration’ but in different ways. Brother Maynard recommends we ‘proclaim’ the gospel by having natural conversations with people who want to discuss issues of faith and we demonstrate the gospel both by letting people see how our faith in applied to our everyday lives and by offering to pray for people’s needs in low key ways. Though he has some misgivings about the word ultimately this is what he would call CharisMissional Evangelism.

You can find Brother Maynard’s article here.

Stay tuned for another CharisMissional article from Porpoise Diving Life soon.

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August 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Grace on Inner Healing

In this next article from Porpoise Diving Life, blogger Emerging Grace (now Kingdom Grace) reminds us that pursuing a missional life means being ministers of reconciliation.

We are ambassadors of Jesus sent with a message of the kingdom that people can be reconciled to God. The message of the Kingdom should not be seen as just a get out of hell ticket for when you die. It should be seen as introducing people to the God’s kingdom. And as his reign and rule is expanded in their lives now Jesus brings inner healing, freedom and peace.

Grace sees God’s mission – the missio Dei – as including bringing shalom to people. Shalom doesn’t just mean peace it also means, and I would say is perhaps better translated as, wholeness. Grace in her experiences as a charismatic has seen some bizarre things in the area of deliverance. But despite the hype she also knows that God brings genuine freedom through this process. She would like to see inner healing and deliverance removed from the realm of the weird and wacky.

Grace ends by quoting Matthew 10:7-8

As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

This post just gives a tantalising peek at this topic. There is so much more to explore. How do we guard against the hype that she mentions? She explores inner healing but what about physical healing? How do we apply the verses about casting out demons today? What do you think?

You can find Grace’s article here.

I’ll look at what another contributer, Brother Maynard, says about healing and evangelism next.

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August 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (0)

Grace on CharisMissional

The name for this blog is not original. On the website of the Porpoise Diving Life you can find several articles from their October 2007 issue that discusses this idea of CharisMissional. In my next few post I want to link to some of these articles so that you can see what they say about being CharisMissional.

Emerging Grace now blogging under the name of Kingdom Grace, was the one who coined the word. I’m not sure what her real name is so I’ll just call her Grace. I want to kick off with her article ‘Why CharisMissional?’

Grace’s heart is that those who are not from a charismatic background should be open to the supernatural, and embrace the Holy Spirit in mission. It does not have to look like charismatic hype it can be just whatever grace we need in a given situation. Likewise those from a charismatic background need to rediscover God’s call to mission and express the gifts in ways that truly serve others rather than themselves.

Speaking as a charismatic I must shout a loud ‘Amen’ to this! Even with our experience of the Holy Spirit and the charismatic gifts it all too easy to ignore God’s voice calling us to those outside the church. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to be charismatics outside of our gatherings as well as in them. We must not use the anointing for our own glory. Praying for revival and going to conferences about changing the world is not enough. We need to mix with those outside the faith. We were not created just to be church-goers but to be co-labourers with God.

You can find Grace’s article here and her introduction to the series here. I’ll share some more post about the other articles soon.

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August 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comment (1)

Post-Charismatic? A Book Review

‘Post-Charismatic?’ by Rob McAlpine is a very positive book considering that it is aimed primarily at those who may be disillusioned with the charismatic movement. In fact it gives balanced overview of the movement as a whole. McAlpine gives a fair assessment of contentious issues such as faith, prosperity, healing, shepherding and personal prophecies. McAlpine is a Canadian from a Vineyard background. After working through many of these issues himself he is now happy to be part of a charismatic church while working full time with YWAM.

This book outlines the extremes and abuses found in some charismatic circles and does a pretty good job of explaining the way forward. The second half of the book is full of practical advice on how to use the gifts of the Spirit avoiding the pitfalls outlined in the first half. It giving enough historical background on Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement and the Latter Rain movement to keep the average intelligent reader interested but not bogged down. ‘Post-Charismatic?’ interprets the Bible well and applies scriptures sensibly. This book offers both encouragement to seek the Holy Spirit and wisdom in how to use the spiritual gifts.

Books on these issues from charismatic circles often push the charismatic agenda too far. While those from a more conservative background often attack the charismatic movement too ruthlessly. ‘Post-Charismatic?’ takes the middle route. It offers a gentle critique in a conciliatory tone that is honoring to the scriptures, the Holy Spirit and to those involved in the charismatic movement. Highly recommended. 10/10

Please read ‘Post-Charismatic?’ and let me know what you think.

August 12, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (3)

How To Get Stoned On Jesus: Meet John Crowder

If you want to learn about and experience ecstatic trances, signs and wonders and personal prophecy then you need to check out John Crowder. His organisation the Sons of Thunder Ministries run a number of events in the States and Europe so I’m sure you’ll be able to catch up with him some time.

He’s not just drunk in the Spirit – he’s stoned!

John Crowder is known for his supernatural ministry across the world. Together with his associates John Dunn and Dave Vaughan he holds conferences dubbed ‘rodeos’, ‘house parties’ and ‘slosh-fests’. They even take their meetings out to sea with ‘glory cruises’ around the Mediterranean. These are not just times to hear a preacher and perhaps get prayed for. These are times to clear away the chairs and dance before the Lord. These are times to get inebriated in the Spirit. And looking at some of the YouTube footage of the man himself laughing awkwardly and squinting as if his eyes have become dilated – they are not just times to get ‘drunk in the Spirit’ but also times to get ‘high on Jesus’.

John Crowder makes quite a point about this idea of ‘getting stoned on Jesus’, ‘smoking the “Jehovah-juana” and getting ‘wasted on Jesus’. He sees it as a deliberate way connecting with those influenced by drug culture. His philosophy is that kids will learn about drugs sooner or later so he doesn’t see what he is doing as promoting drugs. In fact he sees marijuana and heroine as the substitutes or counterfeits of the ‘real deal’. His aim is to get you high on the pleasures of God before you are ever tempted to get high on anything else. He wants you to be seeing visions before they ever think about taking hallucinogens.

On occasions you can see him “tokin’ the Holy Ghost” by apparently pretending to smoke a figurine of the baby Jesus. But Crowder explains that he is not pretending to take drugs he really is getting blasted on the Holy Spirit. Also he can be seen getting drunk on ‘Godka’ which apparently is just water but once again as he drinks it he drinks in the Holy Spirit and really does get ‘sloshed’.

Now people who operate in the prophetic are sometimes inspired to do bizarre symbolic gestures to become living parables. For example Ezekiel was called to cook meals over faeces. Isaiah stripped naked to make a point, Jeremiah wore a yoke and God told Hosea marry a prostitute. But if what he claims is true this is more than just an illustration. He is really experiencing God through these things and so are the worshipers at these events.

If we are expectant of God moving in a certain way then perhaps he just might do what we are expecting. Of course this could just be suggestion but often in a move of the Spirit people may be pre-empting the experience but still afterwards God does appear to have made a change in their lives. Could there by something in this? Perhaps so.

Bizarre miracles

I’m all in favour of creativity in worship gatherings but creative activities that illustrate a point are not the same as some of these bizarre ‘creative miracles’ that they report. To me these miracles appear just too bizarre to be true. Revivalist styles of Christianity have had their share of sideshow entertainers and confidence tricksters. So you’ll have to forgive me wondering about the miraculous appearances of gold fillings in people’s mouths, of gold dust covering bibles, gemstones materialising, oil pouring from someone’s hands and walls oozing mysterious liquids.

Drawing on a rich mystical tradition

Despite his tendencies to be so sloshed in the Spirit that he cannot speak sensibly in meetings his teaching and writings betray the fact that he does have a coherent grasp of the scriptures and church history. Some of John Crowder’s teaching videos and articles show and a maturity that at first glance you might miss. He has an understanding of church history and sees the supernatural elements in previous contemplative traditions.

Serving the poor

I must also point out Sons of Thunder are doing some very worthwhile work setting up and running an orphanage in India. They appear to be motivated to get out there and address issues of social justice and serve the poor. Jesus said, ‘by their fruit shall you know them’ and surely this is another point in their favour.

What do you make of it all?

I have to admit John Crowder and his friends sometimes make me squirm. I have wondered at times if they are serious. Are they innocently but playfully exploring serving God ‘in the Spirit’ or are they in fact fraudsters? While some of what they do might look to some like a well rehearsed act I think it’s more impromptu even if the impromptu behaviour has been learned over time. Sometimes they appear like comedians poking fun at revivalist meetings. In some ways I would be relieved if they were. But after careful examination I think they are serious.

So if you want to get stoned on Jesus you can just check out these guys. I’m sure you’d learn a lot. But, before you do, ponder these questions. Are these guys really possessed by God or by something else? Does God really work like this? Why would God work like this? Please let me know. I am really interested to know what you think.

Further reading:

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August 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (10)

Missional Living

As Christians, God has sent us into the world with a mission to transform the world into the world that God wants. Missional living is simply responding to that commission. It’s all about being a missionary in our everyday life. It means identifying with Jesus’ mission on earth and continuing that mission in culturally relevant ways. I’m so slow. After thirty years of being a Christian I feel that I’m only just beginning to live like this. It’s not just a special calling for a few. I want to encourage all Christians to live like this.

God’s mission to transform the world

Jesus was anointed with God’s Spirit at his baptism to empower him for God’s mission to transform the world. Our baptism in water and receiving the Holy Spirit prepare us to continue that same mission of transformation. For most of us this won’t involve crowds flocking to hear us preach and hundreds being miraculously healed by our touch. But it can involve our being hospitable to someone less well off than we are – if only we are prepared to take a few risks. It can involve people gaining spiritual insight through having a conversation with us – if only we are prepared to listen to them.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

There are two important aspects of how we can transform our world. We need to hold on to what we believe and we need to present it in ways that are meaningful. The challenge is to be immersed in our culture and to maintain our distinctiveness at the same time. Then we can effectively transform that culture. Just as Paul adapted his presentation of the gospel when talking to Gentiles rather than Jews, we need to keep adapting today.

Lifestyle choices make a difference

For us as a family, embracing missional living today has involved a number of lifestyle choices. Among other things these include living more simply and buying fair trade and environmentally friendly products. It has also meant helping with charity work that serves asylum seekers and being involved with a Drop In Centre and ministry to the homeless, and more recently setting up our own project. All of which I’ve fully enjoyed and in doing them I’ve grown in confidence. In giving we receive.

Some of Jesus parables show us that God’s Kingdom grows through the influence of the minority. Just as Jesus mentored a close-knit group of friends, so those of us who are beginning to catch this idea of being missional can encourage others on this journey – not with any manipulation but with an openness and honesty about our own doubts and reservations. So let us encourage one another not to be scared to interact with our culture and to let enough of it rub off on us to be relevant.

Two way spiritual conversations

Of course we transform our culture not just through our lifestyles but also through our conversations. For most of us it isn’t as easy having spiritual discussions with those outside the church who may be less sympathetic to our ideas. But when Jesus sent out his disciples he promised he would never leave them. The mystery of the trinity means that Jesus is present by his Spirit, enabling us to relate to God as our father. The image that Jesus wanted to convey when he taught his disciples to pray ‘Our Father…’ was one of a loving father who would never leave us. We can be secure in our attachment to God and that gives us confidence to be an influence to those around us.

Jesus sends us out today in the same way that he sent out the seventy disciples to preach and to heal in Luke 10. So when my little daughter is ill I lay hands on her and pray. And she is learning to do the same not just for me, but also for her friends at school. Some of us once even set up a prayer stall at a local community event and a number of people requested prayer. I don’t know why everyone isn’t healed. Some may argue that healing may just be the result of positive thinking. I’m sure God does use people’s expectations to help bring about healing. Nevertheless I still believe that it is God’s work and it is God whom I thank.

When I first became a Christian I was eager to tell everyone about my faith. Over the years my natural shyness reasserted itself. I find it important to find time for socialising. It’s not always easy with a busy family life to find time to go to pub with friends. But I am learning to be more sociable both with Christians and non-Christians alike.

I have always been one to listen carefully and to question when learning from other Christians. Now, as I listen in the same way to non-Christians, they too want to listen to me. Looking back now I think what passed for conversations in the past was just me arrogantly blurting out some Christian slogans. But now I sometimes find myself chatting to others exploring an issue together. I probably gain as much from them as they gain from me. And I am learning to trust God that he will lead us all into his truth.

I don’t think listening undermines what we stand for. It enhances it. It makes it meaningful to others. Genuine two-way spiritual conversations enable us to learn how others think at the same time as opening their eyes to what we have learnt of God. Hence the gospel is communicated and we become more effective as we go. So for me embracing missional living is as much about what I do as what I say and how I say it. My prayer is that people will see something of God’s glory through believers as we learn about missional living.

August 8, 2011 at 6:00 pm Comments (2)

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