December 12, 2003

Residual vs. Emergent: A New Jerusalem Council?

TallSkinnyKiwi's thoughts on residual church and emergent church got me thinking today, particularly the part where he mentions the church in the early chapters of Acts. He wrote, "Emerging Church...is partially inherited from Residual Church and Residual Church is challenged and impacted by Emerging Church." In Acts 2, for example, the Jerusalem church is emerging from the simple fellowship of the disciples of Christ (and to a lesser extent, the Jewish synagogue and Greek citizens' assemblies) and that emergence has a landscape-altering affect on the Church-that-was.

In Acts 15, we get to witness the next rebirth of the Church taking place, only this time, there's a role reversal: the Jerusalem church is now Residual, and the global "Church of All Nations" is...well, what it is remains to be seen, at least from the perspective of the residual leadership. It's unforeseen, it's shockingly different, and it presents challenges they've never faced before. But the fact that it's emerging forces them to deal with it.

Is the parallel with our current situation as obvious to you as it is to me? I deeply respect and admire Chuck Colson, but his recent article in Christianity Today makes both an accusation and a prescription (compare with Acts 15:1, 5), albeit indirectly:
George Barna recently completed a tour of American churches and came back with a dismaying report that most church and lay leaders—90 percent, according to one survey—have no understanding of worldview. How are we going to contend with competing philosophies if we're not even rooted in our own truth system?

Ironically, just as there seem to be encouraging signs in the culture, there are also signs that the church is dumbing down, moving from a Word-driven message to an image- and emotion-driven message...It would be the supreme irony—and a terrible tragedy—if we found ourselves slipping into postmodernity just when the broader culture has figured out it's a dead end.
And Mr. Colson isn't the only one out there with this dreadful perspective on what the Church is becoming.

Perhaps it's time for our Fathers and Mothers in the Residual Church to gather together and consider this Church-That-Is-Becoming. They have the right to deliberate on the path we're taking, and we could certainly benefit from their combined experience and wisdom. I'm a small voice in this discussion, but I propose that the best forum in which to deal with these issues is the National Pastors Convention, being held this year in San Diego (March 9-13) and Nashville (May 18-22). A summary of my reasoning:
1. NPC has a history of cooperation with emergent and Youth Specialties, two of the most respected (and, I think, representative) voices of the Emergent movement.

2. NPC is as close to a truly representative grouping of Evangelical church leaders as we're likely to achieve in the short term, given the current face of Christianity.
This idea is frought with challenges, I know. But perhaps it can play a small role in helping to birth an incarnation of Christ that is as relevant and as challenging to our world as Christ himself was to his.

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