11.30.2005

Restless Spirits: Emerging in the Lehigh Valley

The Morning Call in Allentown (PA) has a good piece in yesterday's paper about three emerging communities in the Lehigh Valley. Writer Jessica Berthold does a good job quickly capturing the spirit of these three churches, and has a nice summary (though greatly simplified) of what makes emerging churches controversial:

Critics of emerging churches say they are too culturally captive and simplify the character of the gospel into oblivion. Champions say they reclaim the very core of Christianity by seeking to be like Christ at all times.

She also quotes Ryan Bolger of Fuller Seminary at length. He notes some characteristics that go outside our traditional mainline model -- ''Eighty to 90 percent of the focus goes to the community operating outside the Sunday church service" and "It's less about ''Are you coming to us?'' than ''How are we going to serve you?''' -- that I think are fertile grounds for imagining what missional Lutheran congregations here can look like.

As a worship planner, I also found this thought-provoking:

Flashier megachurch services promote the sacred/secular split, because the leaders put all their energy into a performance that happens once a week. Emerging churches, on the contrary, see the use of modern music, art and expression as a way of integrating the earthly and divine, Bolger adds.
I don't know any Lutherans around here who are trying to mimic evangelical megachurches. But it's interesting to think about whether the outcome of our focus on Sunday services, of whatever flavor, is to integrage spirituality into everyday life. Getting beyond the word performance (because as a Lutheran the idea of making worship a performance bugs me), I can see the point that the energy, time and salaries devoted to worship sends a signal that that is more important, if not more "holy," that what happens in daily life.

I think the better point is that worship needs to form people in a way that avoids the sacred/secular split. This means that, since that split is a norm in our cultural perception of Christianity, we have to actually speak agaist the dualism and, if worship is the prime contact of people with the church, offer them tools in the corporate gathering to integrate the sacred in their everyday, walking around life.

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