Wednesday, August 6, 2008

a church emerging?

brian mclaren has become the guru of the emergent church. His books & conferences speeches are looked upon as a (perhaps the) guiding light to one important responses of the church to the post-christian culture. mclaren is also controversial. his theological pronouncements have given some deep heart-burn. 

recently, he addressed the lambeth conference of episcopal/anglicans. in the episcopal cafe blog, a summary of mclaren's thoughts are shared. i have reproduced them below:

McLaren told participants that "on our one planet now we have three worlds co-existing:" a pre-modern world, a modern world and an emerging world. He said evangelism may feel "effortless" when pre-modern people are entering the modern world because "the Christian church so effectively became connected with modern culture."

Meanwhile, churches in the modern world are either "static or declining," he said, noting that most church growth comes from people shifting denominations and "evangelism is hard to come by."

"Our structures for evangelism and for the formation of disciples are becoming tourist attractions," he said.

At the overlap between the modern world and the emerging world, "you might say the evangelism is almost non-existent because the Christian faith is, to be very frank, almost non-existent," McLaren said.

He told the story of a tortoise in an African zoo that resisted even acknowledging the presence of an orphan baby hippo that zookeepers had found wandering on a beach and placed in the placid tortoise's enclosure. Over time the young hippo's persistence in searching for companionship changed the tortoise's attitude from rejection to adoption. The institutional church could be compared to the tortoise, he said, and the emerging global culture to the orphaned hippo.

McLaren said the emerging culture "has been orphaned by religion -- religion has stopped answering its questions, it stopped making sense, it was very willing to withdraw into its shell and have the world fall apart." He said the culture has also been orphaned by science "that promised solution but ended up giving only more deadly weapons. And it turns out that many of yesterday's solutions caused today's terrifying problems." Members of this world have also been orphaned by technology, economic systems and consumerism and by "governments that continually promised them the world and continually deliver pitifully mediocre results."

McLaren told the participants that he spoke to them "on behalf of the people who never show up in your church…the multitude of people who have been created in the image of God, but who have never known the redeeming of the spirit of God through the good news of Jesus Christ."

He urged the bishops and others to avoid being caught up in what he called "internal institutional maintenance" because of what he called the church's "outward mission of forming disciples among all people" is the only way to save the world. That mission, he said, is also "our only hope of saving the church from division, diversion, implosion, irrelevance, and triviality."