We've looked at how a lack of theological engagement, thinking about the content of our message, can leave us working with a purely cultural response. Indeed some, like Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost, argue that we don't need a radical theological response, but a sociological one. Alan is a good friend, and we have batted this back and forward in the past in discussion. BTW this doesn't mean Alan isn't theological, he's one of the smartest guys I know. It's just his conviction that the pedal to push is the sociological one (cultural).
For the reasons in my last few posts, I'm convinced, and indeed wrote the whole of my doctoral dissertation explore how a solely sociological response could leave the modern and emerging church largely lacking in growth with new christians (and I am talking about Europe for my research and context). We need to look at the ways, and spaced in which we do church, and the beliefs we have, Sociology and Theology together.
The next couple of posts I'll outline some of the consequences that I think I see, from a sociological response, again by that I mean changing what and where we do church, but using the same language, same beliefs, and constructions.
For now here's a couple.
Faddishness There is a danger that people will view the 'emerging church' as a fad. Generation X members did not deliver the changes and growth expected by the church. There is the possibility that cultural relevancy as an emphasis for emerging church may also not provide results. What might happen is that many emerging church groups may become as culturally exclusive as the groups from whom they distance themselves (I offer these criticism as self appraisal BTW).
Impulsive Arrogance Duffy Robbins writes: Iâ€™m concerned that our youth ministry culture has the same kind of adolescent arrogance that thirty years ago led to the maxim, â€œNever trust anyone over thirty,â€ except that now itâ€™s â€œNever trust anyone who doesnâ€™t define himself as postmodern.â€ Unfortunately, that kind of narrow chronological and ideological landscape leaves us vulnerable to momentary fads and fashions.
This way of thinking may lead groups who engage in emerging church issues to label those outside or who disagree with them as â€œnot getting itâ€ or â€œnot postmodern.â€ But the goal of relevancy is not appearing or becoming postmodern. â€œChristians should not embrace a postmodern worldview; we must not adapt to postmodernity . . . but we do need to incarnate the timeless in the timely.â€
And how do we do this? By theological reflection, that informs the ways we are doing church, i.e looking at our Message (which I will come to later, I promise).