Saturday, August 13, 2005

Is this just "conversation" or more?

I've heard and read a number of comments in recent weeks in regard to this emergent stuff just being a bunch of 'conversation.' Critics, and even some of us within the 'conversation,' have suggested that we need to get doing something. Until we have 'fruit,' we have done nothing but talked.

Every time that I hear these kind of comments I cringe. This so called 'conversation' is much more than just conversation. As John West recently said, it's code for 'discipleship.' My only addition is that we're not trying to talk in code. We're simply trying to talk like normal people who don't need a special church lingo to understand and learn from one another.

In the real world, conversation shapes people. Or at least it shapes us if we listen and respond according to the person(s) talking to us. In addition, learning theory people have found that younger generations are learning through conversation in ways that previous generations did not.
Back to the point -- I've learned a great deal through conversation over the past five years. I've listened, responded, been pushed against, and have grown in my understanding and expression of the gospel message --- and it is quite different from what it was ten years ago.

The people with whom I have had 'conversation' have been shapers of my understanding of God, and of his kingdom. While many of you would not have considered yourself people who have discipled me, you have.

So, to suggest this emergent thing is simply a 'conversation,' is inaccurate. In addition, it undermines the value of the Spirit in our midst. Each time that I agree to have lunch, to have a cup of coffee, to listen, or to give advice, I hope and believe that the presence of the Spirit and the kingdom accompanies me. I believe that God blesses these 'conversations,' and we don't need to add the label of 'discipleship' in order for them to have kingdom significance.

So what about the 'fruit?' While we need to recognize that a harvest needs a yield, is isn't only a matter of lots of fruit. It's a matter of quality as well. Lots of wormy apples don't make for a good harvest.

In the words of Dallas Willard, "Instead of counting Christians, we need to weigh them. We weigh them by focusing on the most important kind of growth - love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, kindness, and so on - fruit in keeping with the gospel and the kingdom."


Blogger Robby said...

I think that you have a valid point, but...

I believe that anytime that we engage in conversation we should be careful. It is very easy to become critical of our past when we so desire change for our future. From an outsider's perspective, certain conversations could seem negative. And to be truthful, I believe sometimes parts of conversations are. Perhaps, we should celebrate our past, embrace where we have been and what we have been given, and discuss where we can go. (Though, certain aspects exist that are questionable to celebrate). Thereby, conversations not only shape but encourage.

What still is ringing loud in my mind is the words of my friend. He said, "We can talk all that we want, but until we feed the poor what good is it?" Perhaps, we should consider a balance. While conversation is so vital (not only to my sanity) but to my shape as a Christian, it can't be all. It's similar to the Dead Sea. 7 million gallons of water flow to it everyday, but no life exists (not even microorganisms) because no outlet exists for the Sea, which creates huge salt levels of salt content.

Its similar to conversations and actions. Growth comes from both. Conversations should be the starting point, a tool to help define us, to continue to build and shape our lives. But to obtain growth as a Christian we must also apply our principles in our lives. We can not continue to take in without having an outlet. God wants to bless us, and I believe He does that when we live out the truths that He reveals to us.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous James Littell, Lighthouse Village said...

I believe Randy's point was clear.....and what I took from Randy's comments was that it is the conversation that helps to encourage and produce fruit in our lives and the lives of those around us.

I am not speaking about the conversation (The emergent church, the emerging church, the church emerging, Emergent, often times referred to the conversation), but I am speaking about what happens when those of us in West Michigan meet one Tuesday a month for conversation.

All of us who meet together come from and represent many different communities around West Michigan. It is by joining together once a month and participating in "the conversation" that we continue to connect ourselves to one another as part of the body of Christ and continue to get closer to living Christ's teachings the way He did.

Robby made the point, "We can talk all that we want, but until we feed the poor what good is it?"

To think that any of us who connect through "the conversation" would be satisfied to say, "We sit in a room once a month with coffee and we talk, we e-mail, we blog, therefore we are living Christ's teachings", would be to completely miss the point.

We all join together in this way because we are passionate about seeing the risen Christ change our lives, and then use us to change the lives of those around us. (i.e. "feed the poor")

Many of us are tired of the formula of witnessing, getting someone to say the "sinner's prayer", and than telling them "enjoy your crappy life, we'll pray for you, God bless you, and hope to see you in heaven someday!"

The "conversation" exists because it is in community that the Holy Spirit and Jesus can change us, and it is in community that we can be used to freely put the love of Christ on display for anyone in need.

James 2:14-17

Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup--where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

James 1:27

Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

3:29 PM  
Blogger loren said...

Hope you won't mind an observation from a semi-outsider. I first encountered the emerging (post-modern) church in 1999, and they were hungry for a reformation. What a wonderful thing to see! But I was unclear where they wanted to take that reformation. In other words, what is the vision that is driving the change? What is the emerging church trying to become? I would love an update if you could provide some links or something.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

As a person who spends much (too much) time in Theological discussions, I must point out a potential (and dangerous) problem with this "conversation". God has provided a GREAT deal in His Word that is not up for negotiation. These core, non-negotiable Truths (commands, precepts, promises, etc.) are to be meditated upon and obediently trusted/followed. God Himself speaks to us through these Truths!!! He desires personal communion/conversation with us, so we may obediently act upon His proddings and fall into a deeper love relationship with Him. Think about it - the emergent chuch and post-modernism have not made Christians more effective. They have accomplished the exact opposite - Christians spend far too much time in "conversations" that do not fulfill the Great Commission or the deep need that we have for communion with our Heavenly Father.

Think about it - God has provided us with enough simple Truth to last us for the rest of our lives! For instance, how much time do you think you could spend loving your neighbor as yourself, or feeding the poor, or visting the sick, or praying for your enemies, etc. When we meditate on God's Word and DO His will, we grow close to Him! It has been my experience that "conversations", no matter how interesting/fun they may be, do not draw us closer to our Lord ;-(

Do you honestly think that we should be spending time trying to discover some new theology/doctrine? God warns us about this when He says:

1 Cor 3:10-11 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay afoundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. NASU


1 Tim 6:20-21 20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge"-- 21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith.
Grace be with you. NASU

11:19 PM  

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