At one point in the day, there was a Q&A session, at which one comment was made that was so full of questions that the panel couldn’t pick up on them all; including a point I want to come back on here:
“Emerging church just seems so ‘hip.’ Where is the cross in all this?”
First, on being ‘hip’: there are certain interests shared by many engaged in the emerging church conversation that are considered by some others to be ‘hip,’ and therefore an attempt to be ‘hip.’ For example, I wear howies jeans; drink fairly-traded coffee (and, indeed, tend to eat and drink a lot of fairly-traded and/or organic produce), and enjoy European beer. All of these things can be accused of being ‘hip,’ but in fact I wear howies jeans because I am concerned that the chemicals used in the production of almost all jeans is bad for the planet and bad for the people who produce and wear jeans (including me), and I also don’t want to support companies that manufacture clothes in sweat-shops. And I drink coffee and beer because I am European (we’ve been drinking coffee since the 1600s, and beer much longer than that; so I’m hardly jumping on a band-wagon there); and buy fairly-traded and organic produce out of a desire for justice for people and stewardship for the earth. If this makes me, for some brief moment, ‘hip’ then so be it; but the suggestion that I am doing it to be ‘hip’ is nonsense. And anyway, don’t people who are ‘hip’ – and even people who are self-consciously trying to be ‘hip’ – need opportunities to experience God’s Kingdom at work in their lives, and perhaps help interpreting those experiences? Or have they received their reward in full?
Second, on where is the cross in this?: I’m aware of three crosses.
There is the cross of Christ, and it is right there in the worship of the emerging churches, which tends to centre on participating in the Eucharist; and in the self-understanding of the emerging church as a Eucharistic people, taken hold of by God in Jesus, blessed, broken, and given away.
Then there is the cross that I am called to take up daily as I follow Christ, my cross, my dying to self. I experience this death on a daily basis, and my testimony is that it is excruciatingly painful. But without the cross, there can be no resurrection; in my experience as much as in Jesus.’ Yes, there is an element of walking away from things we don’t like – soft-rock worship and three-point sermons, perhaps. But many of us sense that God has called us to walk away from, and die to, many things we love and value, and have found identity in. Many of us have cried tears of loss and sorrow, before we have cried tears of joy. I’ve shared some of my own journey, in posts such as this one; but I know that many others engaging with emerging church have similar stories. If you want to know where the cross is in the emerging church, step out on the journey.
And finally, there is the invitation to others to take up their cross and follow, to imitate me as I (seek to) imitate Christ. It isn’t ‘hip,’ but there you go.
UPDATE, 20/07/06: Steve Collins has posted an excellent response to the 'hip' element of the question, which gets to the reasons why so many people involved in the 'emerging church' can be seen as 'hip' (with thanks to Jonny Baker for the link).
blah…emerging church tour , emerging church , the cross