I think the emerging church should disappear and then emerge again – as something entirely different. I think it should do that every five years, in that emerging church spirit of always wanting something new and hip. I think it should emerge with great fanfare, set to music, preferably with people dancing and looking deeply spiritual and yet somehow extremely sexual at the same time. And of course it should do all of this in the name of authenticity and keeping it real.
And naturally each new emerging should be recorded and broadcast to “non-emergent” churches everywhere to help the rest of us emerge. There should be instructions for exactly how to emerge — words to say, words to avoid, directions on taking over other “less successful” churches in the area to start “satellite” churches, marketing, the whole spiel. Asking price should be no less than $80.00 per packet.
This would be good. After all, the biggest problem in the church, surely, is that we are not hip enough, right? My senior year of high school each of us seniors got to leave a parting quote, or life plan, for the underclassmen, and those words were bound in a book and distributed. Mine says something about “joining a band and teaching this world what Jesus rock and roll is all about.” Great. Jack Black evangelism. “Come to Jesus, man, and see how he will rock you and totally melt your face off.”
I never did join that band and show the world what Jesus rock and roll is all about. (They still don’t get it, and I’m not sure why they should.) The truth is, I grew up. I quit thinking that what God really needs is someone to make the message cooler. This is not to disparage artists who are trying to do quality art and who cannot authentically do that without mentioning God. I’m referring to that mindset I used to have, that what we really need to do is get more people to think this whole God-thing is cool. Sometimes I wonder if the emerging church is full of people who want, more than anything, to show the world how cool Christians can be. But Christianity, dressed up in cool clothes, is no longer Christianity but something completely different. Is the emerging church led by X-gens and Bridgers who never grew up? By people who want to be pastors and teachers and leaders, but not at the expense of being considered the cool kid?
I’m not questioning anyone’s sincerity or commitment. I’m just saying that when we watch Jack Black in movies, we laugh at his desperate, twitchy, lunging and cavorting around, his over-the-top descriptions of rock and roll, and his bombastic showmanship. We laugh for one simple reason: it’s funny.
I don’t think it’s funny at all in the church, but I certainly don’t think it should be taken seriously either. “Come to our church. You’ll love it. We have a rock band, we wear jeans, we show videos, we even have a dance team. In fact, when you come to our church you won’t even know you’re in church!!”
As for me, I set aside those ridiculous plans to rock the world for Jesus and melt the faces of the faithful. I set them aside because at some point it dawned on me that Jesus already did it. The world has done been rocked, and the world (at least the Western world) still bears his imprint today. Somehow we who are trying to still hear his message have to hear it with fresh ears and then convey it in fresh ways — not in ways that rock, but in ways that will show how much that message rocks, and will rock, anyone who takes it seriously. Somewhere between the fundy “accept Jesus as your personal Savior and you’ll go to heaven and avoid hell” message and the cozy middle-American “Come and take what you like and discard the rest” is a message that is sure to go totally beyond our simple theological formulas and institutional pictures of Jesus, and to threaten all who are bent on coolness and comfort.
I said “somewhere.” I’m not positive exactly where, but somewhere. After 2000 years the world still doesn’t know what to do with Jesus, so I’ll stake my claim somewhere in that territory — still figuring out what to do with him. But I’ve at least grown up enough to know I don’t need to try to make him look cool. The desperate attempts being made to do that in the emerging church say a lot more about us than they do about God.