As a product of the Charismatic movement, a mostly American revival of pentecostal Christianity in the late 60’s which began in California and spread around the world, I am always intrested in the latest trends in the non-traditional (cutting-edge) church. Tim at e-church.com has a nice article on the current debate going on between the Purpose-Driven Life movement and their criticism of the Emerging Church movement. What does the Emerging Church look like? Check these quotes from Tim’s article:

  • In Japan, the “new tribe” of Japanese young people, often characterized by dying their hair a rust color, have been the group that have begun many of the emerging churches in their country among the punk and rave scene.
  • In Germany, the Jesus Freaks started their first church in 1991 among the punk and metal culture. They now have 80 churches in Germany and their yearly Freakstock Festival numbers 7000. And yet the alternative culture still flavors their ministry.
  • In UK, the alternative worship scene started among the rave culture (Nine O’Clock Service) and was also influenced by the punk scene. The early connection with the rave culture partially explains why UK had a head start on worship over USA.
  • In USA, the hippie culture of the 60’s birthed many new forms of church and ministry, most of which can be found today in the emerging church. The punk scene of the 70’s gave birth to more churches and eventually the Underground Railroad network of churches among punk, goth and metal cultures. In the mid 90’s, many of the emerging ministries, including my own work among the postmodern subcultures in San Francisco, were connected to UR. FoundKids was a mid-nineties movement of rave kids who came to Jesus and ministered around the country. The Prodigal Project formed in the early nineties out of the hippie culture. Further – Read “Understanding the different Sub-cultures”, and other articles on the Paradox web site

My observations about the "controversies" surrounding the Emergent Church, and revivalism in general:

  • True spiritual awakening often looks like the modern culture. Many traditionalists love to attack true revivals because to them, it is taking the form of "the world." What is actually happening is, people unchurched in the often stale, anachronistic church culture are finding faith in God, and are expressing their faith in the manner that they are familiar with. This means that they employ current language and music forms, rather than King James English and hymns. It is important not to confuse the form with the content. Thrash metal music (a form) is not "sinful," even if born out of human angst and anger. However, what is sung about (the content) is very important.
  • True spiritual awakening always has a little heresy in the beginning, and in some of its spinoffs. I had a pastor who liked to say "I’d rather have a little wildfire than no fire at all." This occurs because true revivals usually involve many unchurched people experiencing God, but having little doctrinal framwork by which they can interpet what they are experiencing. This is good in that they are not limited to the modern contemporary misundersandings of God, but bad in that they can go far astray and not have the relative safety that proven orthodoxy provides.

Experience without doctrine leads to heresy Doctrine without experience leads to Pharisee

  • True spiritual awakening needs criticism to keep it from sliding into heresy. A little testing by fire goes a long way. Sola scriptura!
  • God offends the mind to reveal the heart. Jesus often taught in parables, which surprisingly, were very accessible to the common people, but to the intellectual and religious theologians, it was confusing. He did this so that the proud and fault-finding would not see, but the humble would. Don’t ask why, but the scriptures do say that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. So be careful. Check it out in Matthew 13:10-17.
  • You can tell them by their fruits – if you can wait. Many spiritual movements that are man-made or spurious end up in disaster. Those that are of real consequence, like the Charismatic movement, continue to save and bless people who come in contact with it. Despite whatever early abuses take place in the immature stages of a movement’s growth, the later stages surely show what it is made of.

Nice job Tim. I will be learning a lot more about this over the coming months.