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July 11, 2006

Comments

Shane Clifton

I agree that this sort of criticism of mainstream chrisianity is the most disturbing aspect of em. Perhaps the worst example on the web is the signposts blog (i have not referenced it because i dont want to advertise them - but they are easy to find on google_ - which includes endless aggressive and unsubstantiated attacks on hillsong, pentecostals, other churches. This blog is associated with the Northern community emerging church in melbourne, and i contacted the leader, Phil McCredden, about this matter - only to be informed that allowing freely expressed criticism is a form of grace. Mmm - not grace as i would understand it.

Deborah Taggart

Shane - indeed the unreflective, unconstructive criticism is a major issue - but I would also like to mention that most of the practitioners I have had the pleasure of speaking with are supportive of other forms of church - happy to acknowledge their heritage, work on joint projects....and I've even bumped into groups from their churches coming to enjoy/learn from Hillsong conferences.

I think the unfair stereotyping problem has a few causes:
1. Communication via reading and writing (as opposed to verbal conversations) often has a lot more potential to sound harsher than intended or be misinterpreted without the author having a chance to clarify, or for the reader and writer to really get to know one another's hearts and backgrounds.

This problem gets only more complicated when you have writers speaking for practitioners in their books; magazine interviews of EM church public figures; and secular media representations of churches. Unless we go to extra effort to confirm our impressions are correct, or that the person writing is giving a fair representation, it is all too easy to inherit biases and incorrectly assume we have their faults all worked out (I came across a clever poem that reminds me to avoid unfair stereotyping, see https://the-bright-side.blogspot.com/2005/02/recipe.html).

2. It tends to be the most 'sensational' writers, and the shortest and most shocking quotes that are circulated to the public and/or busy pastors (often out of context). So therefore the movement gets a reputation based on its extremes.

3. The blog you mention has a lot of anonymous commenters. Sometimes in online conversations people forget they are people talking to other people about other people - people created to learn to increasingly reflect God's image; not to curse or slander, or be cursed or slandered.

I think it is the responsibility of whoever runs a blog to guide the authors and commenters in healthy and gracious reflection; just as a pastor or even someone running a prayer meeting should take care to make sure the discussion is constructive and appropriate for the audience present.

4. As much as I like to see the best in people and give them the benefit of the doubt, I must face the fact that there are some people out there who are deliberately stirring up disunity. It was a problem in the early church, and sadly it still is today. But Jesus is building his church nonetheless, and I'm glad I can choose to join the building team rather than attempt to tear it down - I hope this essay is received by any EM people out there as the constructive humble reflection of someone working on planting some kind of unusual church herself...

Craig Bennett

Good topic Deb.

I think while there are some valid points you made in the weakness of the EM movement, I wonder if for the most part those weakness's are part of Gods strength in rebuilding / modeling the church.

I sort of see the EM in the same category as what happened out of Azusa street revival and church became culturally different - only it is revising even more so.

From a lot of the old writings I have read, it seems the complaints of the EM movement are comparable with the complaints of the early Pentecostal movement, and even still today how the Pentecostal movement can speak of the traditional church.

Has the modern Pentecostal Church so matured that the EM is now comparing it to the traditional church?

I find it interesting that you quote the "Them and Us" which seems to be a oft quoted quote by those who are against the notion of a 2nd word of the Holy Spirit.

Glad to hear you are thinking of planting a uncoventional church yourself, go for it...

Blessings craig

Deborah Taggart

Craig, I'm not sure I've understood you correctly, but here is my try at response to what I think you're saying...

hmm, I agree that God can work through and/or despite our weaknesses, but I don't think God chooses to show his strength by having certain parts of his church demolish or abandon others, so that he can 'rebuild'....in fact, I wonder if to say the church needs rebuilding is to deny the building that God has been doing before we came along. Maybe this stage of the project looks (and needs to look) a bit different, but if we are to truly glorify God as builder of this thing we call church, we need to be prepared to recognise the greatness of God's work in many different stages of our heritage (although of course the church is a divine-human project, so we can also reflect and work on avoiding/overcoming some of the misrepresentations of God we have made in the past).

It is an interesting thought to study the history of revival movements and the cycles they tend to go through....interestingly, while there are many comparable features, the EM movement seems to be starting from a different basis than usual. Most revival movements begin with some people having a sudden surge towards prayer, fasting and repentance - and while I wouldn't deny the EM church does these things, I'm not sure it's at the strikingly heightened level of most revival movements which erupt from that core; instead, the EM phenomenon seems to have grown more out of reflection, shifts in ideaology (and perhaps pure frustration with our apparent inability to reach certain groups within our culture!).

Not that any of this has to mean the EM movement is less 'spiritual' or has less potential to bring revival to the church; after all, if God wants us to love him with all our minds (as well as heart, soul and strength), why can't a greater, revival-inducing love for him and commitment to his Great Commision arise out of our thoughtful reflection?

It will certainly be interesting to watch (and be a part of) what God is doing....

anyway, I hope some of those thoughts made sense, I'm enjoying the interaction :)

Alan Hirsch

Hi Deb, I may be late in on the discussion but I just wanted to say that I appreciated your analysis. I welcome the conversation anytime. Alan Hirsch

Deborah Taggart

aww....thanks Alan :)

and you MUST appreciate conversation anytime, it says you posted this at 2.25am!! :P

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