Wednesday, June 01, 2005

from the May gathering...

My “Emerging” Confession - Wayne Squires
(Five Ways I’ve Really Screwed Things Up)

What follows is an admission of unhealthy patterns I have developed as I have “surfed the edge of chaos” toward a “missional, continually converted, connecting, equipping, aqua church” that “stands on the threshold of the future between gospel and culture,” practices a “virtual, ancient-future faith” and “re-imagines spiritual formation,” embraces “leadership on the other side,” and exerts “irresistible influence” while becoming “an unstoppable force” in the world. I have realized there is “a future for truth” and entered “the dance of change” and connected with others to “generate hope” as “a peculiar people.” I have become “blue like jazz” while learning to “let my life speak.” However, I am “less ready than I realized” and not as “generous” or “orthodox” as I sometimes let on. I am better at deconstructing the present than “shaping the things to come.” In fact, I have reached “the tipping point” of true confession regarding the dark side of my emergent sensibilities.

--> I have used “new” language to cover up “old” behavior.
My sinful tendencies and patterns are not all that different from twenty years ago when I was into “doing theology” and implementing church growth strategies. It’s nice to think that I have a prophetic imagination in a de-centered culture, but really I’m consistently angry and pissed off about unmet expectations. It sounds great when I deconstruct the systems and strategies of a mechanistic worldview, but I am often nurturing a critical, judgmental attitude. I can speak of organic environments and missional patterns in a way that feeds my ego and supposedly keeps me at the cutting edge. I can describe the “double-loop liminality” of those attached to the world of Christendom, but I, too, struggle with bouts of fear and anxiety. Perhaps I have gained some awareness of cultural transitions and emergent dynamics in recent years, but I still have to continually release the grip on my own baggage: anger, judgment, fear, and pride. If I don’t, I bring pain to those with whom I serve and limit the possibilities of shared life and ministry. (Mention the interview responses of other church staff members.)

--> I have allowed a big gap between my intentions and my behavior.
I can converse ad nauseum about the comprehensive nature of the gospel: the gospel is a way of life, the gospel bears witness to God’s reign, the gospel embraces the practices of Jesus (and his early followers), the gospel challenges prevailing social and political systems, the gospel calls for the sharing of life and ministry with the poor, the gospel confronts self-protection and autonomy, etc., etc. I have consistently had good intentions about faithfully modeling and proclaiming this gospel. But, to be crass, how I spend my money, how I use my time, where I live, and who I hang out with say more about what I really believe than well-crafted words. There have been too many times where I have called people to the life I intended to live, not to the life I was actually living. It is only in recent years that I have made some of the lifestyle changes that bring a greater capacity for wholeness, generosity, love, and simplicity. Rather than passively benefiting from systems of injustice while declaring a radically inclusive gospel, I have taken small steps to live in a way that challenges these systems.

--> I have missed significant “life signs” in traditional (i.e. “modern”) ministry systems and models.
I have spent so much energy reacting to and challenging hierarchical leadership, Sunday morning vendor events, programmatic ministry, centralized decision-making, personality-driven youth ministry, segmented ministry areas, project-oriented mission, etc., etc. that I am sometimes surprised that people are actually being transformed in this framework. I have dismissed most denominations as being totally irrelevant, yet my recent work as a congregational coach has opened my eyes to the informed theologies, historical practices, and culturally-engaged attitudes that are being creatively carried into the new world. There are some struggling denominational urban congregations that are far ahead of some “growing” suburban, emergent churches when it comes to sustained, yet adaptive cultural engagement.

--> I have been drawn to innovative concepts, creative language, and imaginative interpretation and undervalued the immediate, particular, daily opportunities to simply love God and others.
I have gone through periods of time when I’ve been captured and consumed by “big picture” issues and visionary possibilities. I have played out imaginative scenarios for missional engagement in a postmodern, post Christendom, post-Einstein, post…whatever world, but more often than I like to admit, I have not been fully present with my family, available to my neighbors, or responsive to the needs of my friends. Only recently have I begun to experience the deep joy of being firmly rooted in a particular place and time with a particular group of people. I have become more alert to a major myth of modernity: the “clean slate.” When it comes to relationships, we don’t have multiple “do-overs.” (Mention the recent painful, transformational conversation with Andre.)

--> I have overestimated my role as a “change agent.”
A subtle grandiosity can enter the hearts and minds of those who think they understand the cultural landscape and feel called to being a “prophetic presence.” In their desire to have “an impact” in a given context and be “a catalyst” of transformation, they can fall into the trap of trying to convince others so that they “get it.” I have fallen into this trap. I have used relational, organic, emergent language to bring about pre-determined outcomes and then wondered why there was so much resistance. I have been selectively “authentic” so that the changes I wanted would become reality. As one who has become incredibly sensitive to the leveraging strategies of others, I still catch myself trying to “make something happen.” This remains a “dark side” area that continually needs the light of truth-telling friends.

Emergent Cohort Simply my observations in my context.
5 things we’ve screwed up – Mark Riddle

The ant on the mobius strip.

I’d rather call this.. 5 ways I’ve screwed up…
I’ve written some stuff about people who copy Rick Warren and it’s certainly fun to go Andy Rooney on someone’s ass. I mean I really was interested in doing a nation wide program for the church called “325 days of Purposelessness”… I wouldn’t have charged anything… and I had a few sponsors lined up, including the United Methodists and the RCC. I almost had the Southern Baptist, but they had already begun a program called “365 days of Narrowmindedness, Bigotry and rightness” I learned quickly that most other churches had identified a program for their liking as well. Non-Denom’s had “365 days of Doing things my way without those damn controlling people.”
The Episcipal church were deciding between slogans, first,“Whiskypalian’s and really short hair cuts” and “Episc Your Pal” I’m not sure what that means…
The Emerging church had deconstructed all of the above programs and were now paralyzed by their inability to actually do something, for fear of being deconstructed. This resulted in an inclusive amalgam of all of the previously mentioned programs put together in one ugly idea.

That being said here are some things I’ve learned over the past few years.

Mistakes I’ve made.

I am historical snob. I love history, but not the last 50 years. For some reason, it’s cool to know about history right now. It gives us context. It brings clarity. But for some reason I get all more infuriated than Jerry Falwell at Tellitubby land or James Dobson listening to the Spongebob Squarepants theme songs while trapped in Carnival Funhouse and maze called the “Wild Wild world of the American Judicial system” …
Regardless… when I’m with my friends I mention Rick Warren and Bill Hybels and I see their skin crawl like a South American missionary with parasites. Why can’t I be respectful (in some way) and honor what our modern “friends” have done?

I’ve sought to understand Jesus in his context, but failed to re-engage him in my own.

Leaving the gospel bland and tastless…

I’ve read NT Wright and sought to understand Jesus’ context, however I’ve often fallen in the same trap as every other modernist thinker in trying to find a universally pure gospel that has not been dirtyd by cultures, trends, specific geography and context.

In addition we fail to actually act on what we discover about God.

I am often insecure. I used to argue a lot. I loved debate. Calvinism, Arminianism, Openness… are you on a line or above it? We appear confident… but our need to argue gives away our insecurity. We argue because we don’t really know if we are right. IF we can just convince someone else to see it my way, then (ironically) maybe I’ll believe it a little more myself. This leads a lot of problems for the rest of us.
If your insecurity is driving how you engage people then you are not only hurting yourself, but you are hurting others. Like the people in this room.

We are arrogant.
On a hunch, often with great risk to reputation we began to do the unthinkable in our homogenious context, we began to think… in new ways. Some for the newness of a trend, others because the “good news” didn’t seems as good as it once did. Things weren’t right. With our new found perspective came a new reason for arrogance. Many of us are always subconsciously seeking a new and creative way to be proud… it is then that we find ourselves a wonderful new perspective and being a modern pharasee.

Matthew 20

The first will be last and the last will be first? Is it like some kind of cosmic musical chairs? Because when your are last you find yourself first in the story… which changes your thinking… and then you have to move seats?

The mobius Strip – We often get separate ourselves from a side we think is very different from ours… but in the end… we may find we are on the same side and our judgement on the otherside is now judgement on ourselves.

That the tricky thing about Jesus and his parables. Humility and gratitude is where you we must find ourselves.

So. I’m sorry if I’ve screwed things up for you. If there is anything we must learn about this journey we are on… it’s that we must be finding ways of agreement to engage the world… humbly… and with gratefulness.


Anonymous andrew said...

wow . . heavy stuff . . . great to see you thinking it through - if i had a WWJD bracelet i would send it to you as penance . . . d-)

11:25 AM  

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