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Did the Early Church Have a Honeymoon?

2006 November 2
by Mike

Here’s a great piece by Scot McKnight entitled “What is the Emerging Church?” (a copy of his lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary). It would be worth printing off. He looks at the strengths and weaknesses of this movement that he identifies himself with. Seems to me he’s right on target. (Thanks, SP, for the link.)

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Found these insightful words from N. T. Wright that relate to Monday’s blog:

“Meanwhile, there seems to have been a fourth ‘party’ — claiming that they were the real Messiah-people! Everyone else was following this leader or that leader, but they were simply following King Jesus! This, too, alas, is a well-known power-play in the church. . . . It’s a sobering thought that the church faced such division in its very earliest years. People sometimes talk as if first generation Christianity enjoyed a pure, untroubled honeymoon period, after which things became more difficult; but there’s no evidence for this in the New Testament. Right from the start, Paul found himself not only announcing the gospel of Jesus but struggling to hold together in a single family those who had obeyed its summons.”

– – – –

As you know from comments on an earlier entry, Terry and Dusty Rush wound up with tickets to the Cardinals’ winning game. How fitting. Dusty is a Cardinals’ fan, as am I. His dad is an obsessed stalker of the Cardinals, though. He’s not a Cardinals fan. He is THE Cardinals fan.

When he got back to his office at the Memorial Drive Church of Christ in Tulsa, his room had been decorated by the staff. There are pics here.

27 Responses leave one →
  1. November 2, 2006

    The church was “right from the start” then the Lord graciously added the likes of us.

  2. November 2, 2006

    Thanks for the pix from Terry’s office. Several years ago when our children were small, Terry spent a few days at our house. We all fell in love with him. I’m glad to hear he made it to the big game. BTW, if you enlarge Terry’s office, replace all the Cardinals “stuff” with Three Stooges “stuff,” you have my office … along with some Bible reference books, of course!

  3. November 2, 2006

    I think the idea that the church was “right from the start” is extremely problematic. Better to acknowledge that we have always been a marred movement follwing the gracious God that came to earth- an unavoidably messy marriage, but not a mistake; an unconventional honeymoon, indeed but praise God for this union!

    b blessed and God is still in the “wooing” business

  4. David U permalink
    November 2, 2006

    The McKnight piece should be required reading for those interested in the “Emerging Church”. I can’t imagine anybody laying it out any clearer than Scot does here.
    Thanks SO MUCH for that link!


  5. November 2, 2006

    Mike, It was amazing. I’ll never forget it. Just so you know, dad thought he and I should autograph a program from the game and send it to you. But I thought that was just mean!

  6. November 2, 2006

    I’m all for explaining a phenomenon that seems to be happening among a generation of Christians, but I guess I’m a little uneasy with definitions and labels (emerging/emergent) that box me in or put me in a pre-formed ecclesial mold. By Scot’s definitions (and others I have heard), I am fairly emergent/emerging. But I have never thought of myself in this way or attached this label. It seems to me that if you are calling yourself or your church “emerging” (and Scot makes this point … “emergent” is not a church, but a movement/conversation), then you’ve missed the point.

    The most “emergent” people I know are those who don’t use the “emergent” language, read the books, comment on the blogs, go to the conferences, wear the glasses, sport the gotee, or wear “funny” T-shirts to church.

  7. November 2, 2006

    Steve Jr., we occasionally need shorthand so that we don’t have to stop and explain complicated concepts every time we want to move the ball down the field. I wouldn’t sweat the labeling tendency too much. As McKnight shows us, there’s plenty of flexibility within the emerging-church movement, just as there is plenty of latitude within the GOP, to be unique or different in some fundamental ways.

    McKnight has done us a great service by reminding us simply to make sure that when we use a label, we use it to mean what it really means, not a caricature of it, and then to understand that no label adequately captures all of the nuances and varieties within the movement it describes.


  8. November 2, 2006

    I think I first read Jason Zahariades make the distinction between “churches emerging” and the “organizational emergent.” The “emerging” and “missional” movements may be the first church movements that had already been analyzed to death before they hit North America. Ironically, movements of God’s spirit continue to grow the church wildly in other cultures where Christians never think to bottle and market “cutting-edge church strategy.”

  9. November 2, 2006

    Thanks Mike – printing it out now (30 pages). Congrats again to the Cards. Wonder what the predominant sermon theme will be from this improbable run? David vs. Goliath, the Gentile erroneously mistaken for a Jew (Eckstein)? Gotta be a good sermon in there for you preachers.

  10. November 2, 2006

    qb – absolutely. That’s exactly my point. But I fear that our human nature (maybe Western nature?) is to label it and clone it, and I think we must run — not walk — away from this concept. It has failed in producing disciples in “WillowBack” churches formed in the 80s and 90s, and it will fail if it is applied to contemporary movements.

    I also want to be careful about turning a “movement of God’s spirit” into a movement of “man’s best efforts.” I believe that what has been going on in Europe for many years and what is now spreading West is from the Lord, but our temptation (again, as humans) is to package it and sell it. We must let God do God’s thing (He’s the one working here…), and our job is to pay attention to where he is working — and join him.

    The EC is asking many of these great questions, and for that I appreciate it.

    ike — right on. I’m with ya. I think Jason Z and I would get along fine. 🙂

  11. Rush permalink
    November 2, 2006

    Clarifying movements, whether it be Restoration, Boston, Post Modern, Emergent, etc., seem to have subtle and subsidary attachments of misdguided arrogance and superiority. The smell of “at last the truth has been uncovered” often offers restrictive “you need to align with us” shackles in the name of freedom at last.

    The positive thing about most movements is they awaken us to an element in the kingdom we had yet to notice. Movements are valuable parts of our maturing process. They are useful when they inspire us to notice our God and His incredible glory.

  12. November 2, 2006

    Rush – I agree with you, if the movement is man-created. If it is of the Lord, then “clarification” simply means saying, “This is what God seems to be doing in hearts across North America, and this is how disciples are joining in this work.”

    When millions of unconnected people across the world are coming to some of the same conclusions at around the same time (and putting their conclusions to the test in unique and God-led ways), it just might be from the Lord.

  13. Amanda permalink
    November 2, 2006

    This is unrelated to this post, but I am an instructor in the Sociology dept at ACU and I want to post your comments on homosexuality from April 12 2006 on blackboard for my social problems students. Would you be alright with that?

  14. November 2, 2006

    Amanda – I was in your sociology class a few years ago during your first year of teaching at ACU. You probably don’t remember me … the class was huge. I enjoyed it very much, though!

    Steve Holt

  15. November 2, 2006

    A lot of emergent thought lines up with where I’m at lately. Some of it, though, strikes me more as just “church for Democrats”. And a little bit of it makes me squirm with it’s all-to-prevalent snarky condescension and elitism.

    The key for me is how self-identifying “emergents” treat those who aren’t on board with all of their ideas. Do they (on an personal/individual basis, not painting with a broad brush here) play nice with those of a more traditional outlook? Or do they succomb to the temptation to treat others as less-sophisticated dinosaurs to be scoffed — or worse, run off?

    That’s the danger of “movements”. They usually start small and sincere, but invariably end up as bandwagons for all the “cool kids”.

    Can’t we all just be disciples of Jesus?

  16. November 2, 2006

    Mike great post.

    Isn’t to be emergent to missional minded? Looking at how we can bring in those who are un-church, lost. America has become a missional point. I believe the church of Christ does need to realize that America is a place were 30 years ago we would have sent missionaries. Sundays to most American’s is a day to relax, sleep in, try to get rid of the hang-over, spend time with family at the lake, watching football. The church has to compete with that. We have to as a church show that we care, meet needs and show them that we have something to offer. Things have changed in America. It is no longer Ozzy and Harriet society it is Ozzy and Sharon. It isn’t Father know’s best it is Father’s absent and mom knows best, or grandparents, or even mommy’s and daddy’s know best. We have to be missional and understand that it isn’t the 1950’s anymore. We must be relevant to this culture. Must make a difference in the culture in which we live. I think alot of times we glamorize the 1st century and think of better days. We need to wake up and see that our neighbors are lost, friends that we work with are lost and if emergent works, great. If purpose driven works great. We just as the Church of Christ need to get the focus off of ourselves and start looking outside the walls and realize the world is dying, lost. Are we as missional minded as we need to be? Are we focused on reaching the lost. Do we see America as what it really is or are we still picturing it as the 1950’s? We must change our focus. The emergent churches that I have seen and that are starting everywhere are mission minded. So if they are reaching the lost great. We must do what ever it takes to make disciples.

  17. Ray permalink
    November 2, 2006

    Are we so caught up in a new vocabulary of what is emergent that we can overlok the obvious ? I now hear the term missional but it has always been the mandate from Jesus for us to be constantly reaching out to the masses of people. And can that not be done with prayer for God to open the doors to people we can teach the gospel. Every day is an opportunity for all Christians to be invovlved in good works. To love poeple. To serve. To extend compassion. It is hearts broken over the lostness of the world. It is being so absorbed with the word of God that each disciple is being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It is giving a cup of cold water. It is like the good Samaritan and not passing by on the other side but deciding to help whoever comes into each person’s daily line of vision. Can it be the relentless pursuit of God’s will and hearts on fire to proclaim the glorious gospel whenever the opportunity is presented ? At times maybe to a crowd , or a samll group , or just one person at a time. It does not mean a lot of organized programs but just each Christian concerned about reaching this lost and dying world.

  18. November 2, 2006

    I hear ya’, Ray!

    I’d suggest we need to let up on talking so much about what needs to be done and get out of our homes, out of our church buildings and into the neighborhoods around us serving, talking to people.

    It seems to me that the Church of Christ fellowship has such a history of separating itself from all other declared followers of Christ, of not dating anyone but in the CofC, of having close friends only within the CofC that we no longer have the habit nor experience in taking the Good News whereever we may be.

    If new vocabulary will help us break out of the closed society we’ve traditionally developed in ourselves and our kids, then use all the new themes you like, but they all come down to the words of Jesus; “Go!” “Make disciples” “Baptise” “Teach all I’ve taught you” – that’s really what it all should be about. If any of the new terminology takes us away from what Jesus taught then may we say, “Whoa there! Let’s take another look at this.” Otherwise, let’s add some action to our dreaming of ‘what ifs’ or “why nots,” or worse, “why haven’t we”. But you know, that’s only imho. :>)

  19. Serena Voss permalink
    November 2, 2006


    Re: The positive thing about most movements is they awaken us to an element in the kingdom we had yet to notice. Movements are valuable parts of our maturing process. They are useful when they inspire us to notice our God and His incredible glory.

    I agree. Pride will tempt us to thinking that we have arrived at whatever stage we are in, but what we often fail to realize is that our spiritual predecessors made great strides on which we were able to build. But it is all about God’s glory.

  20. Terry permalink
    November 2, 2006

    To each generation He reveals what they need. It’s not your father and mothers religion, it’s yours. To make it personal and take it to your heart. Read the Book, absorb the words, absorb the Word. Then take it to others in love.
    Under Christ we are free.

  21. November 2, 2006

    Ray & Kathy – I am sympathetic to your point of view, I really am. I have always been a “lot less talk and a lot more action” kinda guy. But the truth is that our language shapes our reality. How we think about concepts affects the actual “putting into action” of that concept. That’s one reason I think discussions like this are important.

    The second reason we need to “talk” before acting is that dialogue like this is one aspect of the continual theological reflection that is necessary as we obey God in deed.

    The third reason we need to re-think and re-talk some of these things is that in recent years, the church hasn’t really been doing so hot with the missional commands we have. Thousands walk away from churches each year, not to mention the stagnant nature of most churches’ outreach ministries. We can’t get them in the front door, while folks are slipping out the back door. I’m certainly not celebrating this truth, but I do think that we need to re-think how we’ve understood the practical on-the-ground realities of how we participate with God in mission. This, I think, is what the “emergent conversation” offers us. I think it was Freud who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over, yielding the same results, and continuing to do the same thing. Our missional strategies have not worked, so we need to go back to the drawing board.

    So yes, we ought to be “acting” as we are “talking,” but I still think we need this healthy dialogue to move forward in better obedience to what God is calling us to do.

  22. November 2, 2006


    Thanks for posting some of Scot’s thoughts. I’ve heard a lot of people in the last few years talk about what’s “happening” in emerging churches and Emergent who do not themselves self-identify with the conversation in any way. Plus, many people fail to understand what emerging churches are and what the difference is between “emerging churches” and Emergent Village, which is a formal organization (I know one older lady who is very missionally minded and upon hearing a description of emerging churches, shouted, “Hey, I’m emerging.”). You can be emerging without being “Emergent”.

    Even some on the the board of Emergent Village have talked about changing the name every few years just to keep the language fresh and help folks not be so confused.

    At the same time, when most folks–like D.A. Carson, for instance, think of “Emergent” they think Brian McLaren. I like Brian and he is on the board of Emergent Village, but he does not, and would not assume to be the only or leading voice within Emergent Village–he just writes a lot of books. As those involved in the conversation know, there are lots of points of view involved in the conversation. There is not universal agreement, nor is there universal thoghts about established/traditional churches.

    Thanks for moving the conversation forward.

  23. November 2, 2006

    Correction: In my last comment, I meant to say it was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

  24. Ray permalink
    November 2, 2006

    SteveJr. , Let the discussion continue but also as we continue to reach out. I am saying that the vocabulary of scripture has already revealed what we need to be doing. Preach, teach,love,do good works,pray,etc. And let us not forget that much good is being done in this world. Certainly there is always room for improvement but all over this nation and all over the world today people have been taught, good works in the name of Jesus have been expressed in so many ways , love and compassion has been extended to all kinds of hurting people , prayers have been raised to heaven and God has been glorified. Each Christian will need to look into his own heart and examine to see if there needs to be more zeal and less selfish concerns and an outward look to the hurting, and hopeless souls all around us.
    Certainly mistakes have been made and it is sad to know of those who have left the church. The crowds left Jesus as He taught about the demands of Kingdom life. In His parable of the soils He warned about those who would leave but described the good and noble heart that hears and retains the word and by perseverance produces spiritual fruit.
    Yes some have left the church but let us also rejoice in the great number of souls being taught , baptized , added to the church and are staying faithful.
    Let the dialog continue.

  25. Calvin (G'ampa C) permalink
    November 2, 2006

    Interesting comments, and thanks for the link, Mike. Would a rose, if called something else, still smell as sweet? Are we so identified by our labels? It brings out the whole “unity soapbox” in my soul.

    “Lord, we found some folks down the road casting out demons in your name and they’re not in our club…”

    Isn’t it in our gregarious human nature to feel drawn to those we perceive to be like us, and exclude (or exclude ourselves from) those we perceive to be different? Maybe that’s why there are over 25 different Churches of Christ within 10 miles of my home, in a metro area of 120,000. Bummer… major bummer.
    Jesus, however, calls us away from our human nature to unity, NOT to be confused with SAMENESS. I am incredibly blessed to be in (Christ’s) love with people who are NOT like me in any way but in Christ. We may not (and generally don’t) agree on at least parts of scripture. We are not in the same social-economic spots, we don’t agree on politics. We have different jobs and raise our families differently. We like different worship and preaching styles. Our visions of the perfect church are just not the same. These (even the scriptural thing) are MINOR (please catch my emphasis****MINOR****!!!!) compared to what we ARE unified on:
    We serve the same Master.
    We plan to spend eternity in the same place.
    We each believe life is better lived in Christ than without him.
    God sent His son, and Christ died for us all.
    Etc., Etc., etc., etc….
    I am so, so blessed to meet those folks in and out of regular “Big Church”, and sometimes to break bread and share the cup with them and look into their eyes and admit to each other that it is Christ who makes us one. We can’t do it, bet we can let Him do it.
    Unity is, it seems to me, more about who saved us and our eternal focus than about whether we agree on the current exegetical hot topic.
    Given the premise that each person in the church is different from each other person, “unity” becomes by necessity pretty tolerant of, and defined within, our differences. How can we ever be “one” as Christ prayed for us to be (in the garden) while we concentrate on our differences and not so much on what unifies us?
    Shouldn’t we all be “emerging” out of our human nature and into Christ?
    Yep. Bail off the soapbox. Exit, stage left.

  26. November 12, 2006

    perhaps the inertia affecting “emergence” is a “maintenance mindset.” See Wm Willimon’s blog on Maintenance or Mission, October 23, 2006. ( bb

  27. January 16, 2007

    Google is the best search engine

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