Emergence…

Ok…so I really I’m attempting to ‘sermonize’ (whatever that means) for the Christmas Eve and Sunday morning events that are upcoming…but I’m having a hard time. The first snow here in Wisconsin is trying to poke its way out of the sky, emails from various Minnesota Vikings fan groups are flying in hyping up the Adrian Peterson record breaking attempt this season, and a solid Dave Matthews Band iTunes playlist are all distracting me from the work that must be done.

However, through all of the distraction, I am also derailed by a phrase from the latest Phyllis Tickle book entitled Emergence Christianity. She writes on page 19, “…no culture can go from illiteracy to increasing general literacy without shock waves.”. She is referring to the Reformation period when people had to become ‘literate’ to the written word. The advent of the mechanical printing press and of course the religious authority shifting from the church (priests, pope, and sacraments) to the scriptures (sola scriptura) in many ways forced humanity to learn how to read. This may be a “chicken and the egg” type of story, but the point is the same. The shift from illiteracy to literacy as Tickle puts it, sent tsunami sized shockwaves through the world and changed it forever

Many of us have heard the story of post-modern emergence before, whether through authors, speakers and thinkers such as Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet or Phyllis Tickle or experienced ‘emergent’ congregations such as Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, The House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Mars Hill in Grand Rapids or any other of the emergent congregations that are beginning to pepper the ecclesial landscape. The story that is ‘emerging’ on this newest and most recent monumental shift in human culture is one of digital connectedness, use of the ‘screen’, easily available information and, put simply, and ever increasing pace of life…everything is getting faster and faster and faster.

Here is my thought (I know… along time coming), have we experienced our “shock wave” as Phyllis Tickle puts it, yet? Has our shift just begun? Do we even know what it means to become literate? Do we know what we must become literate in? Are these ‘emerging’ congregations literate? Or are they mistranslating the new culture?

To my post yesterday, are these ‘emergent’ churches simply ‘trendy’ or honest translations of a new language of how to do church? Is ‘church’ changing? Does it need to change? Is change simply to soft of a word? Will the shockwave totally destroy what we know, sending a tsunami of destruction from which we will have to totally recreate something new?

Maybe that is what this is about…something new. After all, isn’t Christmas about that very thing? Something new? A new creation in the infant Jesus? A new reality in the Creator of all things becoming the thing that was created (flesh)? A new reality…I wonder how the body of Christ, the people of God, the church will live into a new reality? I wonder how I will, not just in a changing world…but even just tomorrow…

What Are The Current “Trends”?

Our congregation is looking to ‘upgrade’ our video projection for use during our worship on Sunday mornings (as a disclaimer in case any members of Spirit Alive are reading this, the funds for such a project have been given for this use).

As we look at spending money, I am forced to wonder if it is a wise investment (keeping in mind it is also my idea…I simply am ‘rethinking’ the decision). To be clear about the culture at Spirit Alive, we use video a fair amount. We do not print a bulletin or use hymnals so all the words of songs are on a screen, the message (sermon) uses a screen with images or words often, announcements are on the screen, you get the idea.

However, we meet in a school gym and we are currently forced to project on a cinderblock wall and the projector is small, low on lumens, and must be placed up front directly in the line of sight of the congregation. It sits between the Praise Team and the congregation and honestly is a bit ‘messy’. So the goal is to update, clean up, and generally improve the tool of video projection…you get the idea.

So…the idea here is not asking for advice on our video projection situation (that is a matter for our congregation), but in general the issue or idea of ‘trends’. Is video projection a trend in the church?

In his 1999 book Soul Tsunami, Leonard Sweet wrote, “…the only church that can afford to be indifferent to trends is a church that is not on a mission.” (pg. 26)

This was 14 years ago! Is video projection a trend? Is high end or ‘clean’ video projection a part of church now? Are there other trends that should be invested in? Is this type of thing ‘behind the curve’ when in comes to investing in mission? Should churches invest in other areas??

Thoughts?