Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Emerging Story

I was involved recently in a discussion of the emerging church and the roll it may serve in our Nazarene/Wesleyan theology. The discussion was sparked by folks who are fearful of it and do not understand it – anytime we do not understand something we are prone to fear it. Unfortunately, this may cause damage and I wanted to share the Nazarene/Wesleyan perspective on emergence and its embrace within our own denomination.

There are parallels of Wesleyan theology and the emerging church in discipleship, missional focus, incarnational approach, alternative communities, preaching and teaching, worship and a generous orthodoxy. If you do not understand what these mean…ask! Please do not assume.

Not only is there room in the Church of the Nazarene and in Wesleyan theology for the emerging church, but it is needed. “Perhaps one of the greatest things the emerging church has to offer us Wesleyans is a call back to being Wesleyan,” Hal Knight. Again, if you do not understand what it means to be a Wesleyan – ask!

The Nazarene Church leadership has embraced the emergent church movement, even at the highest levels. Jesse Middendorf, General Superintendent, and Jon Middendorf, Associate Pastor at Oklahoma City First Nazarene had a “Generational Dialogue” recently at a conference about the movement. Some of their comments are below.

Jesse and Jon talked about the tension between the Church of the Nazarene and the emerging church as they see it and about the natural partnerships between the emerging church and the Church of the Nazarene that center around justice, small groups and friendships and theology. Both acknowledged the tension, but agreed that it is a healthy tension because the points of pressure revolve around re-discovering our Wesleyan roots and re-claiming what we say that we believe.

Jesse said, “One of the things I have struggled with in my ministry, one of the traditions of denominations is to say, you believe so we engage you. I want to say we engage you so you can believe.” Jon concurred that we must make friendship the end goal, not a means to an end.

The question then naturally arose, “Do you think there is room (in the Church of the Nazarene) to embrace the emerging church?” Jesse responded, “Not only room, but it would be a tragedy for us to pull out of it. I don’t think we can ever afford to not be a part of this dialogue. It is helping us.” Jon agreed and pointed out that we need to work on our language so that people see those who are emerging as “hopeless romantics”, who desire to be a part of God’s story and the Nazarene story.

The tension is real and will always be there, but they see it as a healthy tension. Jon went on to describe the relationship this way, “Maybe lions and lambs don’t lay down together until there is a lot of tension. When they first see each other until they lay down together there is a lot of angst, there must be a priority to lay down together that goes beyond what might even be instinct to go away from each other. In order to bring that picture to fruition, we’re going to have to choose to stay together in the midst of unbelievable tension. That’s what we started as a denomination that was a ‘big tent denomination’. That despite the tension we could remain together.”

Our entrance into the conversation may well be a belated, but it is definitely a beautiful and necessary voice. It is true that this is not a fundamental voice. If that is what you are looking for, perhaps look elsewhere. I am excited for what is to come and how I can personally be involved in embracing the message of emergence within my church. It is time and I believe we are the people.

Either we will emerge or we will die. I opt for the former.

For more information on the Emergent Church – check out


TheologyMom said...

Amen and amen....

Anonymous said...

I'm at a point in my life that I'm simply surprised that we have to have discussions like these. However, I am glad that we are willing to embark together within community upon such exciting adventures.

Ben said...

I am a licensed minister in the church of the nazarene and a full-time college student at Olivet Nazarene University. I love this post, I think it is very important for people in our denomination/tradition to read. We need to understand the conversations that are going on, and how they intersect with our story.

By the way, how did you get that SUPER cool bookshelf?

I invite you to check out my blog sometime.

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I work at a Christian School district only 4 miles from my home. The people there are full of grace and love and I am glad to be a part of this ministry. I have a neice and nephew whom I love dearly. They are 12 and almost 15 respectively. I have two amazing sisters and two amazing brothers-in-law. Of course, I would not be here if it were not for my mother agreeing to marry my dad. Good going mom! My parents are my life and I would literally be NOTHING without their unconditional love, support and care. You rock mom and dad. Then there's Will & Lora...their giggles are like sunshine and their parents crack me up too.

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