My wife and I were watching a DVD last night. When the program was over, I turned off my DVD player and decided to watch some TV as our newborn baby was sleeping.
Imagine my surprise when the announcer of iQ weekly, a local program for QCPQ 13, starts giving a bio on Spencer Burke. Now my attention was piqued. What were they going to talk about?
How about Spencer’s book “A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity” and the institutional church with a mention of the OOZE. Hmmm. Could emerging / emergent church ideas and interests be going more main-stream? It feels that way to me. Some may say that is a good thing and others will hold the opposite opinion. I tend to think that “going mainstream” is the first step to co-option of any message or lifestyle.
Just look at the example of Harley Davidson
motorcycles. A Hog was the preferred ride of those living the biker lifestyle. While
the machines were rather unreliable, they had a mystique about them mostly due
to the hard living, tattooed men and women who owned them. That rough image was capitalized on and mass marketed
in the late 1980’s.
Harley Davidson went from nearly bankrupt to main-stream ride for the week-end rider.
Now a Hog is owned by middle age boomers who dress up in the regalia of a biker, join bike clubs for weekend touring in the summer. These people do not live the life; they are merely posers who try to grasp the idolized ethos of what a biker is. Or worse yet, try to recapture an idealized youth they feel they missed.
The counter-cultural lifestyle of those early devotes of the open road has been lost to an image marketed by a motorcycle manufacturer who want to perpetuate its existence.
While many would use this example to demonstrate the co-option of the institutional church, I believe it holds a warning for the Emerging/Emergent Church forms as well. After all, the message of Jesus was counter-cultural once. Spencer’s book points that out rather well so I’m glad that the book is getting some “buzz.”
Yet I must also be concerned with the upcoming co-option of the emergent ethos by main stream American Christianity. Will the institutional church be like Harley Davidson and embrace the reputation/image/ethos of a fringe movement for its own survival? Selling the image rather than living the life. (I’m painting with rather broad strokes here.)
Let's quit all this useless talk about the type of church form we think is best. It leads to a polarity of thinking and narrowing of the message of Christ. (What brand are you) It is that narrow view that will get us set up to be co-opted with time.
Can we avoid this polarity all together and realize that the burgeoning division of institutional and emergent church forms is an artificial divide? The CHURCH has been emerging since the time of Jesus and will continue to emerge into new cultural forms with time. That is the beauty of the gospel message. It transcends cultures, geography and time as the Spirit of Christ moves within a society.
Christ Emerges in a society through His people. We are the Church in those all-too-brief moments when we truly reflect Christ in our own cultural settings. (I'm going to get rather preachy if i continue this post.)