"Lines of convergence:
while thinking through the emerging church issue, I primarily began from
questions of the postmodern, which then turned into urban concerns, finally
morphing into global reflections. I realized through this process, however,
that the order of concern should be first that of the Global, then
to the Urban, and then finally to the Postmodern. I thought
this because for the emerging church conversation to becoming more than
a parochial, idiomatic exchange, it too should gaze upon the global, then
urban, and only then the postmodern, seeking lines of convergence with
the worldwide church. (of course I'm happy to note that the turn to the
global and urban is happening already in many quarters, as could be noted
even on other posts here.)
There are so many reasons: 1) While we have reached the end of modernity,
we will never move beyond it only gazing through western ideas (even most
postmodern critiques of modernity because they are still generated in
the West); 2) Because if we truly believe all this stuff about the "marginal"
and the critique of power, the importance of "multiculturalism," then
we have to listen to those marginal/multicultural voices from Latin America,
Africa, Asia; from within the church and outside it; 3) While economics-politics-culture
have gone global, much of church consciousness remains rooted in particular
countries/localities. Our "humanity" is affected through the globalization
of economics-politics-culture which means it should also affect how we
think/live as the Church. For the only truly global body the Church, not
nations or corpor(n)ations. 4) If we really believe the West is the new
mission field, then shouldn't we listen to those who know more about missions
than we do, namely those who have been the recipients of good and/or bad
mission activity, the Third World Church. 5) And lastly, not everyone
is talking about postmodernity. For the emerging church to be more than
an Anglo-middle class concern it must figure out how to be part of the
entire emerging global church.
So we should be
asking "What does it means to be a global Christian?"
How can our theology be enriched by global Christian perspectives? What
can we learn from Africa, What are global practices and trends that we
in the West are connected with/responsible for and how should we then
relate with/on behalf of our brothers and sisters around the world (this
is an economic issues and a justice/righteousness issue). How can we have
relationships with African/Latin American/Asia Christians that will effect
two-way enrichment, understanding and accountability? And how can we
root out racism within ourselves?
1) Because the globe is going urban 2) and the evangelical church abandoned
urban centers for suburban/rural ones (while feeling marginalized in culture
they physically marginalized themselves by where they lived) 3) and mainline
churches have lost much of their voice in urban cities. 4) Urban centers
are a small taste of the global, concentrating questions of multiculturalism/pluralism/racism
into smaller localities. 5) Urban contexts are powder keg of class relations
and the politics of place, which the church needs to speak prophetically
So we should be
asking "What does it mean to be an urban Church, an urban Christian?"
How can/does the urban and the suburban related- and how should it in
the Church? What are the economic issues, esp. for the poor/underprivileged?
And how is race of factor in poverty, and is the Church perpetuating or
solving structural racism and the oppression of the poor? What is 'gentrification'
and is it good or bad? How does technology play a role in all this, and
what about the media? We must ask serious questions of class, race,
and gender, if we are move beyond where the modern church got stuck.
(for more on this see the brief "Post-Community").
Isn't it obvious? 1) Because the West (my context is N. America) is changing,
philosophically and culturally into a postmodern world; 2) Because the
church has lost its critical distance from modern culture, needing a postmodern
critique from within; 3) Leading toward a process of de-modernizing the
Church here in the West. 4) And all your other favorite reasons
So we should be
asking "What does it means to be a postmodern Christian?" But really the
question is "how should the church relate to postmodernity?"
How can our theology reflect/articulate the experience of Christians in
the West? What is worship after cold propositionalism or hot emotionalism?
What is discipleship and evangelism? Who are the leaders and where is
our authority? And a myriad of other questions that all of us are already
asking. But we really need to be asking the question of postmodernity
from a global perspective. From our perspective we are
de-modernizing the Church here in the West. But from a global perspective,
we would see this process as one of de-westernizing the Church,
just as Africa is de-westernizing the African church from the Western
Missions movement (which brought the gospel, but a gospel fused to western
ideals), and so also Latin America and Asia. And maybe they have resources
available that we could learn fromů
typical emerging church move, and its global supplement Here is an example
of how a global perspective might be more helpful to the emerging church
conversation. After moving beyond a rationalistic faith, which reduced
everything to impersonal propositions and a privatized faith, I begin
looking for alternative expressions of faith. In this search I find "Celtic"
Christianity, with its emphasis on nature, body/spirit holism, its prayers/rituals,
etc,...or, as many others do, I go all the way back to the "Fathers" because
their cultural situation is (claimed to be) like my own post-Christian
culture, and therefore much could learned from them.
But instead of
going through history to find conversation partners for a holistic faith,
we should go global. The problem with this type of historical approach
(although thinking historically is a big step) is it still only moves
through "western" faith. (We move to the "Celts" back to the catholic
mystics and monks, and then back to the "Fathers.") African and Asian
Christians never became disconnected with nature, nor had a dualistic
notion of man, and therefore are just as valuable to us as the "Celts"
or the "Fathers", and even more so because we can actually dialogue with
them. The Third World Church is living, and has lived, in situation similar
to the Fathers for a long time now, and are therefore much farther along
then us in "living" it. Let's talk with them about it. It is great to
overcome our historical amnesia, but we also overcome our myopically localized
These, then, are the questions we are left with: What does it mean
to be a global Church? An Urban Church? A postmodern Church? Even
though our immediate context is "postmodern" we must continually broaden
our horizons toward the the urban and the global church if this conversation
is going to be more than rant session of navel gazers. Let us align ourselves
with the global/urban concerns of the Church, creating a convergence of
life in the Spirit. Amen.
Holsclaw is an emerging church pastor @ life
on the vine, co-founder of up/rooted
in Chicago, a continual student of philosophy and theology, and everything
else beyond p_stmodernity, and his thoughts are at for
the time being.