Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Christological Ecclesiology not to be (dis)integrated

There have been numerous para-church organizations existing throughout the past decades which establish communities around a personal relationship with Jesus while isolating individuals from intentionally living as church communities. There is even a new book by Dan Kimball entitled "They Like Jesus but not the Church." While I haven't read this book and I am interested in hearing from those who have, one of my fears is that the emerging church is being confused as a movement toward a much more sophisticated version of a para-church system. If you've read this book please help me out and please tell me that Kimball is not promoting Jesus without the Church. I can understand the fact that people don't like church for various reasons some of which may include the idea that they don't like the institutional element of it, they don't like the idea of commitment beyond what they want to do, or perhaps they just don't like 'church' as they have experienced it. Regardless, the two go hand in hand, even as God's Spirit will work beyond them in cultivating God's work in the world.

I really believe that the best case scenario of emerging churches is not a glorified para-church organization, but a real, deep, authentic and incredibly incarnationally dressed expression of Christ living in and through Church for the world. I think that a lesser embodiment of church has been achieved through such methods and as such has created a wedge between the two, Church and Christ, perpetuating a mentality that Jesus can be known fully outside of a faith community. I'm not entirely convinced that that is true.

In his book Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making Your Church a Faith Forming Community Robert Webber shares that "faith is formed in the church and through its worship." He also says that we need to be creating congregations that grow disciples a venture which is not to be reduced by mere individualism. How then can congregations, as a body, do this? Webber quotes one of the goals of the International Consultation on Discipleship that met in 1999 and included 450 church leaders from 54 countries and 90 varying denominations saying "we will not water down the cost of discipleship in order to increase the number of converts. We acknowledge that part of making disicples is teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded."

This is what Webber addresses as he proposes that churches rediscover the ancient catechumenate process. For sure, this as process, takes time and will not deliver the kind of numbers as quickly as some are interested in generating. At the same time, it does re-integrate the process of evangelism and discipleship, faith formation, back into the congregational/church context instead of parsing it out from church by merely teaching Jesus and his fabuously moralistc principles. The emerging church seeks to embody Webber's notion profoundly through a new kind of church living the way of Jesus in the world.


Dan said...

Hi Dave -

No, I am not promoting more of a parachurch or churchless philosophy. The book is focusing on how the church can respond, as well as gives a summary of that we cannot like Jesus and not like the church, as we need the church.

I am even writing a book that is for non-church leaders, but to those who say "I Like jesus but not the church" which is being released next year. that book does the same thing, where it is an apologetic for the church.

Hope that helps make some sense of it! The titles of these books are intentionally a little questionable, but to some degree that is the point. But they clearly are pro-church books as you would read.


Dan Kimball

dave said...

hello dan. thanks so much for clarifying where you're coming from and what you're trying to get at with your book. ambiguity is a great thing...your title is apt.

talked with karen ward today and hope to make a visit out to seattle this summer to consult with her about an emerging church that is in the middle of the gestation period.

just out of curiosity, because this is my spiritual gift, how did you happen to get to this blog?

may your lenten journey lead you to newness of life!