Friday, October 28, 2005

Shooting the Wounded

Had another important long-distance phone conversation the other night with an existing church leader trying to make sense of emerging church. Sigh. If I could get the sneaking suspicion that some evangelical leaders think that the only way to attain unity or maintain standards is to circle the wagons, and that the only way to get the wandering herd of cats which is evangelicaldom to circle wagons is to scare or anger everyone by some outrageous betrayal in the ranks or some conspiracy of harm from outside--in other words, by entirely worldly means familiar enough from The Prince--it would be easier for me. Someone worthwhile--Swift, I think, said patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and someone else worthwhile--Mark Twain, maybe?--said he begged to differ: for patriotism is in fact the first refuge of scoundrels. If the cultural captivity of the modern church is the biggest issue facing the American church, why are its leaders spending so much quality time shooting its black ops troops in the back? Because they mowed down all the open theists, and the emerging church seemed like the next likely target-rich environment?

The existing church is of course eminently critiqueable. But critiquing the existing church is not what I do. Because it is not my primary intended audience. And granted, the emerging churches will not necessarily be a lot better than modern churches, although they will be better for emerging-culture people. (Although I'm not so sure why it's an especially good idea for existing leaders to make sure that everyone knows that emerging churches aren't any better than theirs. Is it sensitivity to their own Achilles' heel at work, or are they the sort who would rather no one succeed than someone other than them doing so? Surely they don't want the emerging churches to fail to honor God and reach the culture, do they?) And I may well be wrong about my reading of intellectual history or the movement of worldviews and society. I don't care all that much whether I'm wrong about my predictions about the directions of American (and world) culture: if I turn out to have served a fringey-edge, rather than the cutting edge, that's alright with me. And you'll get no disagreement from me that emerging leaders are, taken as a group, bright and clever and determined but messed-up people. After all, it is we emerging leaders, by and large, who frankly and forthrightly admit, in a way that existing leaders, by and large, do not, that we are at best wounded healers and compromised guides, whom no one should trust very much unless God is in this.

In other words, up to a point, all this criticism is all right. What is not alright is generals shooting privates in the back.


Blogger iMonk said...

*from the peanut gallery*...

Thanks. It seems interesting to me, maybe it's that whole "wounded healers" thing, that there are so many who are on the emerging side of the question are open for dialogue, but many times are met with only criticism rather than conversation.
I hope that by the roles that people like you and Joseph Cartrwight play, we can all learn to engage purposefully with those who have come bfore us.

12:27 PM  
Blogger gdwill said...

Hey Mark, the kiwi blog tipped me off that you were, in fact, still blogging away. This piece, in particular, should be looked at by a wider audience. You continue to have a knack for saying what's on the tip of my tongue!

9:11 AM  

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