Club Subversive

Club Subversive

March 29, 2007

As a means of interacting with each other in the seminary community as faculty and staff, I started a few weeks ago a brown-bag lunch time for conversation on issues surfacing in the church. We meet every two weeks and focus on varying topics of discussion.

We talked about the "emerging church" in our first time together. I learned that this term does not cover all renewal movements. The emerging church speaks to non-church, often pre-Christian peoples. For churches seeking renewal, terms like "contextual church" and "missional church" better capture what is happening in North America. Several resources were mentioned as helpful in this area. A book by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, Emerging Church, was recommended by Cory Seibel. Tim Conder's The Church in Transition gives insight. Some people have critiqued the emerging church, such as John MacArthur or D. A. Carson, but their remarks come without a lot of involvement or interaction with the movement. Of course, we need to test any new direction against scripture. But we also need to be honest about some things that are culturally bound and are not necessarily biblical in what we are already doing in our churches.

Reggie McNeal's latest book, The Present Future, calls for the church to think missionally and contextually. It is a rude awakening to church leaders, but has much to lend itself to a healthier future for the Kingdom of God.

Our conversation at Club Subversive focused this last week on the future of denominations. In a sense this topic links with the emerging church questions. We have entered a post-denominational world. If the 30,000 denominations/conferences are to persist in the future, we will need to see some changes. Christians are becoming tired of bureaucracy and institutional structures that seem to exist merely to support their own existence and structure. What will the future hold?

Some structures have come into existence and claim not to be denominations, such as Calvary Chapel association or Willow Creek Association. They provide "resources without bureaucracy" is the claim. It looks like and smells like . . . so is it? Some will die out or merge with other groups. I think the mergers will only prove successful when the mission and purpose of association together is refreshed.

Biblical precedence suggests that we need to associate together to affirm doctrine, to send people in mission, and to contribute to the needs of people (see Acts). If people believe that there are things we can accomplish better for the Kingdom of God because of association together, then denominations will have a future. Time will tell.