Tag: emerging church

NOC08 day 2

Wow, what a great kickoff to NOC08 yesterday. The small church discussion group I led had an overflow crowd and lots of great ideas.

Erwin McManus delivered a powerful and compelling message. McManus said that most of our effort is spent trying to make Sunday worship just a little less irrelevant to the lives of most people. What we should be doing, he said, is engage our world during the week.

Today I am attending some exciting transformational seminars. I’ll post more about today’s stuff on twitter with photos on Facebook. Friend me and keep up with the great resources here at NOC08.

Is Wikipedia the source for The Great Emergence?

 In my review of Phyllis Tickle’s new book, The Great Emergence, I questioned the accuracy of Tickle’s information about John Wimber and her conclusions that credit Wimber as a “proto-emergent” who influenced the current emerging church conversation.  After I posted that review, I searched “John Wimber” on Wikipedia.  I was astounded at the almost word-for-word similarity between the Wikipedia article on Wimber and Tickle’s book.  Here are some excerpts:

Wikipedia:  In 1974 he became the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth, which was founded by the Fuller Theological Seminary and the Fuller Evangelistic Association. He directed the department until 1978. 

The Great Emergence, p 157:  By 1974, he had become founding director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, a position he would hold for almost five years.

My comment:  Very similar sentences, but the book truncates this section and wrongly identifies Wimber as affiliated with Fuller Seminary.  In fact Fuller’s School of World Mission (now Intercultural Studies) was headed up by Dr. Donald McGavran who is credited as the father of the church growth movement.  Peter Wagner was a faculty member at Fuller.  Wimber was an adjunct for the “Signs and Wonders” course at Fuller Seminary, which was a highly controversial course offering.  

Wikipedia:  In this time a House Church began to form in his home. This group began to embrace some of the beliefs of the Charismatic movement. This resulted in a split with the Quaker church that this group belonged to.

TGE, p157: During the Fuller years, a house church began in Wimber’s home.  Affiliated originally with his Quaker meeting, the group in time became first charismatic, and then so charismatic as to cause rupture with the Quakersim from which it had sprung.  

My comment:  Again, very similar and all the same elements appear in Tickle’s sentences that are contained in the Wikipedia entry.  

Wikipedia:  Wimber pastored this new church, which would later become known as the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship, from 1977 to 1994. Eventually, it outgrew his home and began to meet elsewhere. After initially joining Calvary Chapel, the church had some differences with the Calvary Chapel leadership, relating mainly to the practice of spiritual gifts. As a result, they left Calvary Chapel to join a small group of churches started by Kenn Gulliksen, known as Vineyard Christian Fellowships.

TGE, p157:  The Wimber congregation, predictably enough and shortly thereafter, outgrew the Wimber house and briefly joined itself to a Calvary Chapel.  The differences between the two groups, especially over the gifts of the Spirit, became too great, however: and the Wimberites left to join what was, at that time, a very small group of churches known as the Vineyard Christian Fellowships.

My comments:  Again, same thoughts as the Wiki article in the same paragraph.  

There are other examples, but you get my point, which is:  

If this is “one of the most important books of the year,” according to Brian McLaren, is Wikipedia the best research source Tickle could find?  

Tickle could have fact-checked with Fuller Seminary, interviewed people who knew Wimber, or read “Power Evangelism” by John Wimber.  Tickle also incorrectly credits Wimber with the “bounded-set, centered-set” concept for understanding church structure.  In fact, Paul Hiebert, missiologist and anthropologist, originated this discussion in his book, Anthropological Reflections on Missiological Issues.  And, Hiebert’s concept was far more complex than Tickle represents.  Plus, Tickle identifies “centered set” as “center set,” a small but sloppy error.  (According to Hiebert, “centered-set” churches have Christ as the center around which persons gather.  Hiebert, p. 125).  

Am I being incredibly picky?  Perhaps, but this lack of precision when dealing with contemporary concepts is inexcusable in a book that purports to give us a “sweeping overview of church history.”  More importantly, it leads Tickle to the incorrect positioning of Wimber as a more significant figure in the emerging church than he is.  Wimber was a thorough-going church growth advocate, but he used “power evangelism” — modern-day signs and wonders — as the attractional element in the original Vineyard movement.  I heard Wimber himself say that the Vineyard movement might not last 50-years, so he did not conceive of Vineyard as a game-changer, but a contextual form of church reflecting his own personal spiritual journey to “do the stuff” — perform charismatic gifts of the Spirit such as healing the sick and raising the dead.  

I recognize that Tickle is giving the reader broad brush strokes of church history in her sweeping overview.  And, the book is certainly not an academic account of church history, or the great transformations in the life of the church.  But, even though it is brief and general in nature, Tickle could have been more precise, more accurate, and in Wimber’s case, more original.

Review: The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle’s newest book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why, arrived yesterday. At 172 pages, this small but elegant volume (aren’t all Tickle’s books elegant?) both informs and disappoints.  Tickle takes on the daunting task of reviewing the major turning points or ‘Great’ events in the life of the Christian church.  Her contention is that every 500 years or so the church goes through a ‘great’ transformation.

Counting back from the present, the Great Reformation took place about 500 years ago — 1517 to be exact. Prior to that, The Great Schism occurred when the Eastern and Western churches split over icons and statues. Five hundred years earlier, Gregory the Great blessed and encouraged the monastic orders which would preserve the Christian faith through the Dark Ages.  Of course, 500 years before that, we’re back in the first century and the time of the apostles.  Today, Tickle contends, the church in in the throes of The Great Emergence.

But, the Great Emergence is not just religious.  It is also cultural, technological, and sociological.  Of course, context shaped each of the other ‘great’ church transformations as well, and this time is no different.  Tickle takes the reader on an overflight of church history, world events, and charts the shifts in the center of authority in the life of the church.  In the Great Reformation, of course, the cry of authority was sola scriptura — only scripture.  Tickle traces the diminution of the authoritative place of scripture in culture and Christianity from its heady beginnings in the Reformation to its marginalization in the current postmodern era.  The book provides thoughtful tracing of influential elements as Tickle leads the reader on a quest for a center of authority.

But, while Tickle’s insights and examples provide clues to the transformative forces in our culture and society, the book disappoints when we arrive at the present.  Tickle sees all denominations, all churches, all movements in the quadrilateral of Christianity — conservative, liturgical, renewalist, and social justice — as converging toward the center.  Granted, there are those denominations and groups that cling to their identities in a kind of resistant pushback, but Tickle’s vision is that we are all being swept up into the next great moment of the church — The Great Emergence.  Every church, not just the cool emerging church types, are part of The Great Emergence.  I’m not sure that is happening, but I could have lived with Tickle’s opinion except for some examples she uses.

Tickle uses John Wimber and the Vineyard churches as an example of this new kind of emergence.  She correctly credits Quakers — Richard Foster, Parker Palmer, etc — with great influence on the spirituality of the Great Emergence.  I might add Elton Trueblood to that list, as mentor to Foster, but Tickle doesn’t.  But, in her citing of John Wimber, she goes off track.  She credits Wimber with being a “founder” of the Church Growth department at Fuller, and calls Peter Wagner his colleague.  I was present at Fuller during Wagner’s tenure, and I was enrolled in the DMin program in church growth.  I attended one of the Signs and Wonders classes, heard Wimber speak, and got a sense of his idea of ‘power evangelism.’  

Wimber was not a founder of the church growth movement.  He was an adjunct faculty member at Fuller.  Dr. Donald McGavran was the founder, Peter Wagner was his protege.  I met McGavran once, although he had retired when I was enrolled at Fuller.  Tickle misunderstands Wimber’s approach, and also overestimates the Quaker influence on Wimber.  Wimber left the traditional church in which he had become a Christian because he wanted to ‘do the stuff’ — heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, and so on.  I also attended the Vineyard church that Wimber headed, and it was no Quaker meeting.  So, at the end of the book, Tickle disappoints.  Simple fact-checking could have offered a corrective to her inclusion of Wimber.  

While Wimber did create a powerful new church community called Vineyard, he used signs and wonders as power evangelism to win people to Christ.  All of that was very much part of the church growth movement that believed in attractional evangelism.  Wimber’s brand just happened to be one of the more interesting versions of church growth techniques being used to gather people.  She also wrongly attributes the concept of bounded sets and centered sets to Wimber when actually it was Paul Hiebert, the missiologist, who used those concepts to illustrate new approaches to understanding the place of persons in the Kingdom of God.  

Would I recommend the book?  A qualified yes is in order here.  The book succeeds in all but the last chapter.  If you want a great overview of where Christianity has been, what the influences were that got it there, and where it might be headed, Tickle’s book provides a good, concise overview.  My disappointment was that it fails to see clearly the way forward, and misinterprets some of the church’s most recent experiements, such as Vineyard.  But, Tickle is an elegant writer, and the book is a valuable resource to those aware of its short-comings.

This attitude toward small churches doesn’t help

I started to let this go. First, because you can’t comment on everything you read in blogs; and, secondly, I could not believe I was actually reading it.  But, I can’t let this go.  Here’s why:  Small churches deserve better than Bill Easum’s recent response to Tony Jones at Emergent Village.  

Easum critiques the emerging church community because most of its churches are small.  Tony Jones asks Easum to explain why he is critical of small churches, and here’s part of his response:

“You have to put this in the context of my experiences with small churches and my understanding of evangelism. Small churches are usually small because of their small, petty attitude. That attitude can be negative, it can be elitist, it can be mean-spirited, or it can be just plain content with the status quo. But I have never found a small church that has been small for many years to be a healthy environment.”

Ouch and wow!  Okay, I’ll try to keep this rational and courteous, but for the life of me I can’t imagine why anyone, much less a leading church consultant, would make that statement.  Almost 90% of the churches in America are small churches.  Are all those churches “negative….elitist….mean-spirited..content with the status quo”?  The answer clearly is a resounding No!  

But, Easum quotes scripture, or at least refers to it, to make his point…

“My experience has been if the church is faithful to the Gospel it grows—period. I could say the same thing about a house church or small group. I base this on the Book of Acts—it is about the growth of Christianity and suggests to me that God wants the church to grow and spread. Read the story—it goes progressively from addition, to multitudes, to myriads of growth.”

Of course, if Easum had read Rodney Starke’s book, Cities of God, he would know that Christianity actually grew at about 3.4% per year for the first 300 years.  So, Easum overstates the growth of Christianity, and fails to note that many of the gatherings of Christians in the book of Acts were small gatherings.  

But, more disturbing is Easum’s contention that there is something wrong with small churches by virtue of their smallness.  In The Way We Will Be, John Zogby, of the global polling firm Zogby International, writes…

“The church of the future will be a bungalow on Maple Street, not a megastructure in a sea of parking spaces.  It’s intimacy of experience people long for, not production values.” -p 215.

Small churches thrive with the attributes that many people seek — intimacy, hands-on ministry, an opportunity to participate, and the ability to know other members.  It is the kingdom of God whose growth we seek, and for God’s kingdom to grow each community of faith plays a different and vital role.  I’ve seen more church pathology in churches who value growth at any cost than I have in the small churches I’ve encountered.  

Easum owes small churches, small church pastors, and members of small churches an apology.  Or at least the opportunity to hear our stories, walk in our shoes, and witness first-hand the effectiveness of ministry in America’s small churches.  What do you think?  Am I wrong, or do you have a different perspective?

Some thoughts to tide you over

The community center is coming along nicely, and we are about 75-days away from getting the keys.  Which means a lot of work ordering furnishings, contacting utility companies, planning the opening, and so on.  All seems to be piling in at once, plus the continuing change-orders, additions, and problem-solving that go with building a 16,000-square foot building.  But, it’s going well, just fast and furious.  Which explains my lack of posts this week.  So, until I get my sermon for Sunday up, here’s some good stuff I’ve been reading:

More later.

Friday free-for-all: images, ideas, inspiration and it’s all free!

Click thru these brooklyn-storefront-church.jpg100 photos of storefront churches in Brooklyn.  The church is alive and well and being reinvented by lots of people in contextual ways.  Very encouraging.  New expressions of church are happening in lots of places and cultures, and these are as authentic as you’ll find. 

Send Steve Taylor a postcard of your emerging church community.  In January, he’ll post up them up with comments to 4 questions he’s asking.  Steve wrote The Out of Bounds Church, which is worth the price of the book just for the last story in it. 

Three Advent videos that are free for downloading from Andy Michael.   

See Jonny Baker’s blog for a reimagination of the traditional 9 lessons and carols.  Jonny also writes about worship tricks, which is not at all like stupid pet tricks. 

Real Live Preacher is going to the Dominican Republic to install water purification systems.  You can help provide drinkable water for the YWAM headquarters there.  Plus, RLP has a great story there, too. 

Debbie has a heart-warming story about the Christmas that she and her family spent in Hong Kong. 

My sermon may not go up until Saturday, as ole Sandy Claus still has some stuff to do today!  Merry Christmas…

Is your church a walled garden?

A walled garden is a site or companygarden-wall.jpg that offers content only to its subscribers, who have to “come inside the wall” to get the content they want.  The old AOL was like that — you had to subscribe to get access to their content.  But information wants to be free, and those walled gardens that charged for access were quickly bypassed for the open internet. 

Churches face a similar transition.  The old church model was the walled garden.  People were invited to come inside [join] to get access to all the stuff inside — pastoral care, committee participation, right to vote, name on a membership list, or whatever the “inside” stuff was.  The ministry of the church was what happened inside the wall — Bible studies, small groups, worship, fellowship, decision-making, and so on.  Success was measured by how many people were inside the walls at any one time. 

But all that is changing.  Today churches that are walled gardens are being bypassed.  Open access, decentralized leadership, participation, collaboration, bridges, and networking are the new order of the day.  Walled gardens struggle for survival while new, more open forms of church are emerging.  Many of us are trying to at least open the garden gate, if not tear down the garden walls altogether.  What’s your church doing?

Live blogging NOC07!

I’m at NOC07 and we kicked off tonight with the Charlie Hall Band and Miles McPherson of The Rock Church here in San Diego.  About 2500 people are here, the exhibit hall is full of great resources, and I’m going to post each day some of the great stuff that goes on.

images.jpgMiles McPherson, former NFL player for the San Diego Chargers and now pastor of The Rock Church here in San Diego delivered the keynote address tonight.  Actually, that’s not true….Miles preached!  And what a great message based on the book of Daniel.  Here are some of the quotes I picked up:

  • Addressing preachers:  “We’re all in the ministry, but we’re all still little kids.”
  • Telling about how their church opened its doors to the San Diego wildfire evacuees:  “The reason you exist is to help people running from the fire.” 
  • Talking about the sparkle of diamonds:  “The bling in a diamond is how the light shines through the flaws.” 
  • Referring to God’s calling Moses because God heard the cries of His people:  “When God gives you an idea, it’s because someone is crying.”
  • Challenging the crowd to find God’s dream for their lives:  “What God wants for you is not on a DVD yet.” 
  • Cautioning pastors not to get bogged down in overthinking what God calls them to do:  “We want to know the facts, but God wants us to know the Father.”
  • Finally, challenging us to move out in ministry:  “God will know you by your bling!”

In addition to Miles, World Vision invited each attendee to come by their booth and assemble Caregiver kits.  These caregiver kits are shipped to Africa and other countries where AIDS is epidemic.  Local caregivers use the kits to provide basic medical care for those infected with HIV.  Tomorrow I am the facilitator for the Small Church affinity group, which is a really fancy way of saying that folks who are interested in small church stuff can show up at 7:30 AM and we’ll see if we can find some coffee together.  Friday I lead the workshop, Small Church, Big Impact:  Creating Missional Partnerships in Your Community.  More from NOC07 tomorrow…I’m jetlagged tonight! 

Reinventing worship in the small church

I read yet another article today on “How You Can Make Worship More….Something.”  I forget exactly what the author said, but it amounted to doing better music, preaching better sermons, screening better videos, and so on.  Which is really not reinventing worship at all. 

Frankly, there’s not much difference in —

  • Using a piano versus a praise band;
  • Featuring a choir versus a trio;
  • Sitting around tables versus in pews;
  • Preaching with or without video.

Okay, so more contemporary worship appeals to a younger crowd.  But you still have a spectator vs. performer setup — lots of people watching a few people do stuff they call worship. 

I remember going to a temple in Taiwan (stay with me for just a minute here), and being amazed at the riot of activity taking place around me.  Of course, tourists were everywhere, wandering around while worshippers were saying prayers, burning josh sticks, and talking to monks.  I think this was a Buddhist temple, but I’m not sure.  Anyway, my point is that a lot of stuff was going on at the same time.

Of course, we’re not Buddhists, but that got me thinking that the Temple in Jerusalem had a similar atmosphere — lots of stuff happening all at once.  We know in the Jerusalem Temple (I’m thinking 1st century now) people came to make offerings, do sacrifices, give money, listen to teachers, and on high holy days, participate in communal ritual.  And where did the first followers of Jesus worship?  In the Temple. 

It wasn’t until much later in the history of worship that we started seating people in pews, all facing the same direction so they could listen to the choir sing, “God is in his holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before him.” 

Why couldn’t we go back to a more participatory, multiple experience worship?  Some emerging churches are staging labyrinths, video meditations, prayer stations, and table fellowship — all going on at once.  Small churches can do this in very limited space.  Actually, churches without buildings can do this in borrowed or rented space. 

I realize that this would take a big leap of imagination, but reinventing worship might be the small church ticket to reaching a new generation or a different demographic.  Of course, most of us in small traditional churches would keep our tradition worship service.  This would be a new thing designed to appeal to a new set of worshippers. 

For a visual of what this might look like, go to a really cool site, small ritual.  You have to scroll sideways to see the space design and read the explanation.  I think it has real promise for the future of the small church.  What do you think?