I’m getting tired of the constant use of either-or to describe whether someone is emergent. The latest is this article, which gives seven layers (stages?) that a church can go through on the path to emerging. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny, some make me squirm uncomfortably, but the last one makes me mad.
I guess the pinnacle of emerging is the discovery that the Bible talks about injustice, poverty, and compassion. So apparently, the non-emergent churches out there are NOT aware of the biblical emphasis on social issues until they have reached the emergent plateau, and can call themselves an emerging church.
Setting aside the seeker churches (which, it seems to me, tend to view themselves as IN the mission field, and therefore keep their money and attention inside the church), this claim rattles me. Do we really have to be emerging in order to care about social issues? Are we really that blind to them until we have formed community groups, become concerned about conversations instead of conversions, have church in a bar, and grow goatees?
Of course not, and let me give you two examples, from opposite extremes. The first is my brother, Kevin. He left his professional career to devote his life to inner city kids. He and I have briefly discussed the emerging phenomenon, but it doesn’t touch the group he works with. You can imagine that their mission field is too busy avoiding crack dealers, trying not to get shot, and wondering who their daddy is to worry about whether the church is culturally relevant. Kevin’s gospel is two-fold: Jesus loves you, and stay in school. Kevin isn’t postmodern, emerging, or anything else along those lines. However, he is greatly in touch with social issues, and got there without an alternative community group. He did, however, once sport a goatee.
Which brings me to me (although I never went the goatee route). I also do not feel like I’m postmodern, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site. And I haven’t left my cushy white-collar job to live in the hood. However, my wife and I have given loads of money away to churches and organizations whose mission is to tackle these social issues head on: sometimes with the gospel, sometimes by meeting felt needs. It is so ingrained in me not to blow the trumpet and tell you the precise amount or percentage I’ve given away, that even at this point I hesitate to tell you. The point of doing so would be simply to say that I also did not attend a postmodern convention or start a service with an “x” in the name, before I felt convicted by God to start giving this money away.
So let’s not make the mistake of assuming that non-emergent churches don’t care about social issues, and that all emergent churches (and people) do. It just may be that our emergentness (which is a word I think I just made up) and our compassion have nothing to do with each other.