A few years back I frequented Willow Creek Community Church (Bill Hybels, with Lee Strobel at the time), I've been a member of a church following the Saddleback Church formula (Rick Warren) and I infrequently attend Cedar Ridge Community Church (founded by Brian McLaren). Each of these churches is involved in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and each of these churches has their own unique culture.
It has been through these experiences, other churches I've attended and individuals I have been associated with that my understanding of the Gospel and my understanding of the church has been formed.
With the above in mind I'd like to paint a picture of an Emerging Community of Faith that I am humbly leading.
About two years ago, after I had been introduced to the idea of â€œEmerging churchesâ€, my family and I started to get together on Friday nights with other families. Our focus was to get to know our friends and neighbors, to build new relationships and strengthen ones that we'd had for years. Over the two years we've been meeting, two families and ours are regular participants and others have circulated through our gatherings and continue to come back from time to time, our friendships transcending any need to get together every week.
More recently we have moved from dinner, games and conversation to also discussing our faith more openly. The backgrounds that we each come from are somewhat diverse. Of the three main families, we represent the Catholic, Episcopal and Wesleyan traditions (though each has been exposed to many other traditions as well). Through the differences in our backgrounds, we have a common bond in Christ and a fundamental belief that I suppose is best stated in the Apostle's Creed.
Our conversations over the last couple months have touched on whether we are becoming or we are a church. I suppose the â€œtraditionalâ€ view we have of church leads us to want to answer the reflex within our minds that we take some â€œorthodoxâ€ form of what a church looks like and acts like. We each have a home church that we attend regular â€œworship servicesâ€ at. But within these churches, we still find we have needs for a deeper relationship with Christ.
So presently we are exploring our diverse roots. Looking at specific traditions originating from our backgrounds, seeing where the tradition comes from, how it is viewed (essential/non-essential), how we view it
Specifically we chose to investigate and discuss Baptism, Penance and Communion. Mainly being a group that individually grew up in protestant or no denominations, except for one couple, our understanding of these is primarily shaped by two things 1) personal experience and 2) conveyed understanding. You can see the problem right there, from the git go. This would obviously lead one to say that seeing we are so far removed from these traditions, weâ€™ve grown up with one meaning of the and weâ€™ve heard others â€œdisâ€ them, there is a high chance that we have a skewed view.
We are not seeking to jettison the traditions we've been a part of, but we want to gain a better understanding of 1) What the Bible says, 2) what the early church leaders taught regarding the practices, 3)how or why change occurred over centuries within the central Church, 4) where our particular tradition comes from in itâ€™s understanding, and 5) how people of today understand their traditions place within these sacraments.
Another thing to be noted about our â€œcommunityâ€ is that we're not just meeting on Friday nights. Our three core families have developed a close relationship in which we are constantly sharing each others joys and pains. The others who visit with us now and again on Fridays are a part of our â€œcommunityâ€ that we are naturally in communication with throughout our weeks whenever and were ever appropriate.
As a group we have discussed what we will do beyond celebrating and learning. We are currently exploring options for our small community to serve neighborhoods and communities throughout the Baltimore/Washington DC metropolitan area. Service is contagious, once one gets a taste of it and others see it in action, they become hooked on â€œbeingâ€ Christ to others around them. Being linked to a denomination, we feel we can be a light that not only finds areas in impoverished areas, but also can serve our brother and sister churches, helping them to feel the love of Christ in a different way.
Our story is young, though it's connected to a rich history and tradition. Our minds are being shaped by God and each other. We aren't perfect and I wouldn't say we are even a model. But our hearts are full of God's love, pouring out on all those we come in contact with.
This is my picture of an emerging church. My goal of sharing this with you is two fold 1) to encourage other emerging churches to find their roots and their mission, 2) to share with those who may be concerned about emerging churches, and let them see inside my group, hopefully to still their inhibitions about our orthodoxy and our praxis, as well to gain their support, encouragement and prayers.