May 28, 2004

The Ecclesiological Cycle 1.1

Last month I wrote on what I called the Ecclesiological Cycle, comparing the changes taking place in the Church today with the changes that have taken place in rock and roll since its "emergence" in the fifties. My thesis was that "when any new form is done 'emerging,' it immediately begins to 'institutionalize,'" in other words, to lose those very traits which set it apart from the forms against which it was reacting and take on lower, consumerist traits. Reader Rachel of Velveteen Rabbi adds the moral to the story:
Religions need to be living things, capable of changing to meet changing needs -- otherwise they risk calcifying the infinity of God into something safe & predictable. Hard to keep that natural tendency from happening, though...
Hard indeed. So hard, in fact, that some of the prophetic among us are beginning to wonder whether it's already begun. I linked earlier this week to Jen Lemen's thoughts on "What's Killing Emergent," and since then an excellent discussion of the issue has grown from the seed she planted. Yesterday DesertPastor at Paradoxology picked up the baton with two posts that were so deeply heartfelt my own heart ached in reading them:
Significantly more attention needs to be leveled against [individualism, materialism, and hedonism], rather than pursuing our preoccupation with postmodern philosophizing and overeager deconstruction. In short, we need to first change who we are, before we change what we're part of. We've got the cart before the horse -- and we're fooling ourselves if we think the world isn't noticing.
(from Apostolic Travail")

I've become increasingly concerned about the growing number of Emerging Church Voyeurs -- men and women who are fascinated with this emphasis, this paradigm, this movement -- but who persist in "watching" others instead of rolling up their sleeves and getting personally involved . . . If we cater to or even encourage the consumerization of all things "emerging church," then can we honestly blame people for becoming emerging church voyeurs?
(from "Emerging Church Voyeurs)
Lord, please send us more prophets like these, and give them courage to speak the words you give them, regardless of how we respond. Convict and empower us to be good stewards of our prophets, that they might always be among us.

Can the cycle of institutionalization be halted? Do our prophets speak because there is hope yet for this thing that is being birthed, or only so that we might be a cautionary tale for future emerging churches?

I can't decide.

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