Well, since my buddy Marshall actually mustered up a few posts again, I’ll have to follow suit. My time of late has been consumed with work, trying to sell a house, and spending time with new friends. I haven’t even done much book promotion yet, although Jason Evans has graciously set up a reading at his house next weekend while I’m out in San Diego for a weekend with him and some other friends.
My mind has started to recharge lately in spite of everything else going on. I just didn’t realize how much brain energy writing a book takes – obviously my blogging has suffered considerably. The fact is, this blog was my canvas for the past seven years to work through new ideas (or perhaps old ones, depending how you look at it). Now that I’ve published something cohesive from that work, it’s difficult to go back to dabbling again. I start posts and find myself sitting in front of the computer trying to not write a book. Not very good for blog production I’m afraid.
So I’ll stop apologizing and try to splat some words on the page. Here’s what I’ve observed at a macro level over the past year (beware…mass generalizations ahead…):
– The “Emerging Church”, whatever it was or wasn’t, is pretty much done for.
– There are two theological camps that are now trendy to align yourself with – some amalgamation of Reformed (MacArthur, Piper, Driscoll) or some amalgamation of Social Justice / Kingdom (Wright, McLaren, Claiborne).
– Your church is pretty weak if it isn’t Missional (TM).
– Evangelical ministry leaders still don’t have a clue on how to lead in this context.
And some micro observations through local / trans-local relationships both new and old:
– Those of us on the front-end of transition 8-10 years ago are pretty much either healed or off the deep end.
– Todd Hunter was right. Most of the groups we started during this transitional period lasted about 3 years and then died or radically changed.
– There is an undercurrent of unrest in most evangelical churches, particularly among the 25-40 year old age group. Their unrest is not cultural / theological / social, they are just dying for someone to authentically lead them. They have kingdom-born dreams, but are bored out of their skulls for the most part because they have no advocates.
All of this has been leading to a question I’ve been asking myself. Who leads those people that I described in the last bullet and how does their leadership work? If you doubt me that leadership is required, you haven’t been spending any time around typical evangelicals lately. There won’t be another cohesive movement with evangelicalism anytime soon to replace church growth, so forget about “movement-ism” doing anything to sweep people into action. Theological debates can be productive long term, but are pretty meaningless to the people on the ground. The ‘missional church’ conversation is excellent for the most part, but has the tendency to be a little paralyzing when it comes to praxis. Those of us who have been in transitional communities (house churches, new-monastic groups, or just plain outside the whole church scene) can come off way too out-there for typical evangelicals, to the point where it feels like we’re not even speaking the same language. Finally, since we’ve adopted a much more egalitarian outlook on leadership in these communities, we’ve struggled to discern our role and what leadership is really necessary.
In the end – in spite of the challenges – I think we have a better chance at answering my question than the current batch of ministry leaders in evangelicalism. They are, frankly, just too absorbed in crisis to deal with the question in the first place. They’d love to do something about it, but when half your congregation is unemployed, you have to keep your priorities straight. The problem is, many of us on the other side are dealing with our own personal crisises and don’t have the muster to deal with anything else either. But on the whole, my guess is that our crisis will settle down faster. Give me a little time and space (and debt relief, dammit) and goodness knows what I’ll accomplish.
At this point, I’m still a little in crisis, but I’m willing to question and dream again….