Thursday, December 16, 2004
Freddy Krueger and the Emergent Church
I am reading a lot about the emergent church (and the people leading the charge) these days and I like what I read. These people are radical, unafraid, and determined. Mainly what I see are evangelical from various backgrounds trying deeply to de-evangelicalize themselves in church form and advance the Kingdom of God. Not a bad plan. What I also see are people struggling with that task because it is not like changing your shirt. I tend to think many of them thought it would be that easy. Rather, it takes a change of heart.
I know this from personal experience. I have been trying to quit being a Pharisee for just over a decade and I can't quite pull it off.
My faith walk began in a conservative (rigid) evangelical church. Right and wrong were the sum of spiritual formation and when you got the "right" answers, then you were good to go.
When I was about 17, I was introduced to grace. I mean more than a word with a definition. I learned it as a reality for my life. It applied...Abundantly. It took several years to believe it, but I now believe it to the extent I believe I am capable - which leaves lots more room for growth on that front, but at the same time, I am lightyears away from where I was.
I was 24 or so when I began to really believe that not only can God move in mysterious supernatural ways, but that he does. That was really exciting.
I later learned that he does not just whip up a miracle at my command. That was a little less exciting.
In 1996, I found the perfect church, free from all of the baggage of my church past.
In 1997, that church spilt in a bitter and disgusting abuse of power and is no longer in existence. I had to learn forgiveness on the giving end this time. It was hard work, especially when the people who need forgiveness think you are the one who needs it. Yeeeeeeouch!
Over the course of these years, I found myself becoming less and less of a Pharisee with my judgments, addiction to being right, condescending attitude, and all of the great traits that bundle together to make a terrific Pharisee. I came to detest the Pharisees. I learned how to detect a Pharisee from a mile a way.
Then I looked in the mirror and realized that I was using the same old tricks. The only difference was my target. Instead of judging sinners, I was judging Pharisees.
I was disgusted and humiliated because I just knew I had killed that Pharisee in me. Nope. Just like Freddy Krueger, he looked dead, but then haunted me again.
Friends, I can't kill that stupid Freddy Krueger Pharisee in me. He keeps reinventing himself.
When I hear this exciting conversation about the emergent church turning into a movement of church planting new kinds of churches that younger people (and some older) would see as genuine and authentic, it stirs up something good inside me. However, it also stirs up some caution. I have been guilty of churcholatry in the past. I know I still have a staggering and stammering Freddy in me that just won't die. I wonder if there are Freddy's in this movement as well.
I hope these emergent people take it really fast and really slow at the same time. Fast to seek change for the better; slow to believe they have it. In fact, I hope they never find what they are looking for. I fear that when they do, Freddy will show up and wreak all kinds of havoc. When they arrive, they will risk losing all of the humility it took to get them there.
I have a feeling the 1st century church never had the idea that they "had it." The ones that did usually got a letter from Paul taking them to task for it.