I have a theory that weaknesses are the flip side of our strengths. I don’t know if this theory is true or not, but I think it is true in the case of the emerging church.
Last week I posted about what’s good about the emerging church. Here’s what I think is bad:
- Angst – The emerging church correctly reacts to many of the bad things they see in the modern church. It’s easy to overreact and to start to see everything as wrong, and to become overly negative and cynical.
- Doctrine – The emerging church is broad, and one could argue that it defines itself by the center (Jesus) rather than the boundaries (doctrinal distinctives). I generally like this approach, but I wonder if it’s worth drawing a few more boundaries while still holding to the center. To switch to a soccer metaphor, without boundaries, the ball is never out of play and the game gets a little silly at times.
- Gospel – Some say the emerging church is not evangelistic. I don’t know about that; I’ve seen them reach people that the traditional church doesn’t. But I am aware that in embracing a holistic Gospel, it’s easy to go to the other extreme and forget about the soul.
- Fear of tackling some issues – The emerging church doesn’t mind being provocative when it comes to tackling some issues, but it seems to sometimes back off on issues that would make it look, well, offensive and regressive. I often wish that they could tackle some of the hot button issues with the same insight and grace, even if it makes them look out of step with culture.
- Critiquing culture – The emerging church is pretty good at critiquing modernism, but could probably be more outspoken in critiquing postmodernism.
I’m painting with a broad brush here. Many of these may be accurate of some but not of others. And, don’t forget, I think that when you add this to my other list, there are many things we can learn from the emerging church, and we’re making a mistake if we write the whole thing off too quickly.
Let me make a prediction: those who visit here who are sympathetic to the emerging church may disagree with me on some of those points, but they will welcome critique. That shouldn’t be missed. I have found that my emerging friends are actually open to admitting where the emerging church still has room to grow, especially if the critiques are offered in a spirit of generosity rather than of attack.
Last week, I was thinking about how easy it is to badmouth those we disagree with. I don’t know how much glee we should take in criticizing our brothers and sisters. I would say, “Very little.” For better or for worse, we’re in this together, and we don’t even have the option of not talking constructively and loving each other.
If you are a critic of the emerging church, and don’t have any emerging friends, I’d encourage you to get to change that. I bet you’ll both learn lots from each other.