Building Bridges

Here is a short & light article – an interview with Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations”.

He talks about the possible hundreds & thousands of models of ‘emerging church’ – the variety of house church models that are developing are probably some of these …

Dan is the author of the book ” The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations” (Zondervan) which features commentary by Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Howard Hendricks, Sally Morgenthaler, Chip Ingram and Mark Oestreicher. Dan is now working on his second book which will address the misconceptions people have about Christianity. Dan is also involved in some national ministries which are rethinking church for the emerging culture (see Emergent and the Emergent Convention).

1. Dan, I recently finished reading Emerging Church, what audience were you trying to reach with the book?       

I was trying to be a bridge builder and write to both modern-thinking church leaders and emerging church leaders. That is why both Brian McLaren and Rick Warren wrote forewords and commentary throughout the book. I also had people like Sally Morgenthaler, Howard Hendricks, Mark Oestreicher from Youth Specialties add their insight throughout the book so it reflects many voices.

I tried to move past deconstruction and begin giving some examples and ways many emerging churches are changing the way they think about and practice leadership, preaching, multi-sensory worship, etc.  So, my hope is that someone who is a Rick Warren purpose-driven thinking person can begin reading why change is needed in the seeker-sensitive type of a church today and not be offended or freak out. I think I made a case for why change is needed and tried to give insight into the culture and emerging generations and who they are.

The book is also for those in the emerging church who are looking to be able to have some clarity to their feelings and be able to explain why they sense change is needed. And for them to also have practical examples of how emerging churches are changing the way they design worship gatherings, preach, evangelism etc.

I tried to move into some actual reconstruction of ways to be in ministry in this post-Christian time period we are moving into so it isn’t just theory or discussion about what is wrong with the current state of the church. I tried to begin moving into what we can begin trying to do about it all.

2. As a pastor, and now a church planter, are you encouraged or discouraged with the “church’s” response to the cultural shifts we have experienced? 

I am both encouraged and discouraged.

Starting with the encouragement, it is absolutely thrilling to see how God is moving among emerging leaders to rethink what “church” is. I see a lot of community being formed among emerging leaders, and a lot of healthy and much needed discussion. This is so refreshing as it helps leaders not feel alone and not feel crazy. To see new communities of faith being birthed is also extremely encouraging, especially as the focus of these churches is not just on getting big or designing the bigger and better worship services but on being missional, building true community and being Kingdom-minded.

I see the call to be missional as a common link among emerging churches. It is also encouraging to see non-canned or prepackaged creativity being fleshed out again in these new worship communities expression of worship.

At the same time, I am discouraged by the very sad stories I have heard about some churches who are not only dismissing that anything is happening in our culture, but even resisting and fighting it.

In many modern-thinking churches someone on their staff begins to sense change is needed and begins to rethink things some start new worship gatherings in their churches or alter their current ministries. However, when they do, many times what happens is senior pastors and other staff who don’t feel change is needed begin to feel threatened or bothered by new forms of worship, spiritual formation, evangelism etc. that doesn’t fit in their current systems and isn’t matching what they already are doing. Then sadly, control and power are wielded and the ones who are rethinking church become the bad guys. Many have to leave their churches as a result.

Now there are some good signs of hope too. I am meeting with a staff of a very modern church next week who have read the book and want to discuss what they can do. The senior pastor there recognizes something is needed, and isn’t just brushing off postmodernism as a fad or trend but a reality they need to rethink and redesign their categories and approach to what they are doing. So, there is some encouraging things going on in some churches too when the senior leaders aren’t afraid of the discussion or dismiss it.

3. If there were one point you would like to make with “Emerging Church” what would it be?        

For one, the emerging church is not about a new model or simply lighting some candles and playing Matt Redman songs. It is about hundreds and thousands of various models and rethinking of all we do, especially rethinking what the “church” is. How we view what “church” is determines what we do in our worship gatherings, how we evangelize, how we view success etc.

A major point I would like people to know if they don’t already, is that while many of us have been busy in our churches preparing sermons, designing worship services, and 4-point sermons to modern thinking people a new world is being birthed all around us. And the people of this post-Christian world are not coming into most of our churches. Maybe the modern-thinking ones and the younger people who grew up in a church are visiting, but not the post-Christian, post-seeker generations who didn’t grow up in church.

I also think that a major point in all this is that there are wonderful modern churches which are packed with people, and God is using them tremendously. But there is a need for new types of churches too. Don’t be afraid or threatened about that.

There are emerging generations who are not part of these modern churches and they are the ones we must be rethinking the culture and what the role of the church is in a missional way. Different types of churches are needed for various people groups who will think and form ministry much different than another. This doesn’t mean one type of church is right and the other wrong, or even one outdated and the other isn’t. Its about being missional in a multi-cultured America and a multi-world view America.

http://www.next-wave.org/may03/kimballinterview.htm