Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One thing I like about the emerging church

While I am a 20-something Seminarian, I find it far easier to critique aspects of the emerging church movement rather than affirm what I see as good. Thus, I give the following praise without qualification in an effort to be generous (perhaps until another post beckons me to offer a less generous critique)

Emerging folks often talk about a need to communicate "God's Story" to people. They says, "The Bible is story - the story of how God redeemed man - and there are many stories within that story." At first, I want to say, "Sounds 'far out' (do I smell smoke?) and 'liberal' (an abused adjective, I know)." But I recently reflected on what I see as a major problem in youth ministry and found myself in agreement (I think) with this 'story' talk:

In my observation, many youth ministries are not feeding their students the Word of God in such a way that they teach the youth how to study for themselves. Teens need to know, for example, what God says through Paul to the church at Ephesus. They need to understand that the whole book of Ephesians cries out to the church: "You have been called by God, saved by grace through faith in Christ, and placed into a body of other 'saved folks', all of whom are gifted in special ways to promote unity and the building up of this body!" To get this, one must understand the whole book of Ephesians, not just a couple of verses.

Youth pastors must stop feeding their teens piece-meal devotionals (i.e., here’s five verses from here and there that teach such and such) after which the hearers are left with only a handful of principles (like I can do all things through Christ . . .) and have no idea what that means in the context of (in this case) Philippians 4 – It does not mean Christ helps my three point shooting percentage go up if I pray about it! Paul is talking to the Philippians about his economic situation, being content whether in need or having abundance. His point: whichever the circumstance, I can do all things by means of the one who strengthens me!

The Bible has a story to tell, and many stories within the greater story (I am surpised I can use such language with conviction). While Ephesians is full of “propositional truth” (which I find very helpful and necessary), these truths can only be understood in the context of the whole passage, section, book, etc., and historical situation! We’re too often giving teens a book of rules to follow with verses as references. We need to teach them how to read Ephesians, understand the context and original situation, and apply it to their lives. Rule books can be handy, but they become tedious and disconnected from their source. The Bible lives – the epistles (not just the narrative texts) are vivid (and very true) stories in which God reveals his will, commands that must be obeyed, and truth related to who He is, who we are, and how we ought to relate to Him and others. If we rip verses out of their 'story' (context), we rob our students of the coherance and beauty of a book like Ephesians.

p.s. - Oops, I recognize that while I desired to "give the following praise without qualification," I clearly qualified many of my statements.