Signs of Emergence

signs-of-emergenceMany have observed that the church needs to change. But how? Kester Brewin posits that transformation can no longer persistently focus upon individual members, but upon a deconstruction of the entrenched corporate practices of the church. As in the time of Jesus, the organization of church is the obstacle. We’ve too long emulated the Old Testament model of ‘top-down’ management. God gave us a completely new way of church – an empowered ‘bottom-up’ paradigm.


Brewin suggests that the church is stuck in the Fowlerian ‘synthetic-conventional (faith stage 3), yet the gospel calls us to operate in ‘conjunctive’ stage 5 (the ’emergent church’?). Of course, the way to this fifth stage of faith necessitates a ‘dark night of the soul’ journey through stage 4 – ‘individualistic-reflection’.


The author suggests that the way to learn a ‘new corporate church dance’ first begins with ‘waiting’. This waiting time insists that we grieve our loss of God – though we have been busy in His name. True change cannot be forced, it must allow space to deconstruct what is and then time to re-imagine. The very way we approach change, must change. Thus, rather than effecting change by the time-proven ineffectiveness of ‘revolution’, we must cling to Spirit-created heart ‘evolution’.


Secondly, we must we must re-emerge – being born anew. Finding both hope and direction in the incarnation of Christ, the church must be totally, and courageously, birthed as helpless infants in ‘the codes, the language, the history and the life of that which it comes to serve’ and then allowed to evolve and adapt within it.


Thirdly, this emergent church must be empowered to manage itself with feedback coming from the bottom up – from the place of its existence – rather than from the offices of insulated leadership. Real life ‘springs up in the complex region between rigidity and disorder’ – at the edge of chaos. Thus the emergent church, the conjunctive church, will re-establish itself between rigid fundamentalism and anarchic liberty, as the body of Christ, rather than the ‘machine of Christ’.


The emergent church provides a framework for a risky existence that remains open to and dependent upon its environment, sensing it, quickly learning from it, responding to it, remembering what it has learned and then, in turn, more effectively capable of shaping it. This flexible, networked ‘open source’ change to our corporate way of being ‘church’ allows everyone to make a contribution that is valued and requires decentralized servant leadership.


The last three sections of Brewin’s book discuss the place of ‘city’, ‘gift giving’ and ‘dirt’. First, we need to take the time to get our hands ‘dirty, listening for and working with God in the city rather than retreating to the insulated safety of the suburbs. It is in the city where ‘wounds are carried, pain cannot be hidden, people have to face their prejudices, hatreds and fears’, and God presence is more evident. Second, we must reflect on whether our church practices are more of a commodity or a gift. Do we make room for all to give or do we merely encourage the majority to sit and appreciate the performance excellence of a select group of experts? Third, we need to re-evaluate our ‘dirt’ boundaries. Church is all about ‘dirt work’. The ‘cleansing’ aspect of church was not intended to leave us ‘purified to the point of powerless sterility’. Rather, the church must always serve as a refuge for ‘dirty’ people.


Much here for all of us to reflect upon.


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