A BRIEF REPORT FROM MIDWEST EMERGENT in CHICAGOJuly 20, 2007
After a miserable night sleep in the local Motel 6 where a half dozen hockey teams are also bunking for the weekend I slid into my seat at the Midwest Emergent Conference in Rolling Meadows. About 200 people in flip flops (noisy when they all get up to leave). I really feel out of place with my lace ups.
Tony Jones launched the day on the subject….what is missional and what is emergent. Missional, he reported, is that designation that goes with any congregation that is tired of talking endlessly about staff changes or carpet or programs for kids or the pastors last lousy message…and the one before that! Emergent took a bit longer to describe. His approach was through the dialectical method of Hegel who proposed the thesis, antithesis, synthesis sequence. Like the disciples who wanted to build temples to commemorate the transfiguration of Jesus, denominations have been building systems and order as a way of capturing their essence in time and space. But Jesus did not respond to Peters proposal and according to Tony he would not have much to say about our systems either. The Kingdom is unfolding in a way that cannot be contained by these systems. The dialectic has made liberal/conservative or other such polarities pointless. What is emerging is more real…or is paying attention to the questions and concerns that Jesus is answering. Hummmm.
OK…..now some thoughts from John Armstrong who spent time talking about the emergent movement. Armstrong is a friendly critic and bright bulb from Wheaton College. His thoughts landed on some positive contributions of emergent…(pushing the missional conversation forward in our north American context and emphasis on the kingdom over the church)….and some criticisms…(a bit too unaware of how this movement is not saying anything new, read Barth or Brunner of 50 years ago, emergent movement can be a bit proud and self absorbed). Most importantly he encouraged us not to be smug or faddish about our work. Courageous work is good…proud is not. Armstrong was not wearing flip flops. ..and people seemed to like him! Thank you Jesus!
So I am trying to decide if I should actually buy flip flops. For some reason they just don’t work with my anatomy but at some point I may need to accomodate. Dirty word!