[D]mergent & a Cookie Cutter World

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”[1]  Except that doesn’t seem to be true in the mainline church anymore.  Our practice of “we’ve always done it this way” is not yielding the results it once did.  Clearly something (or many things) needs to change. Which is where my interest in the emergent church comes from.  Or in this case, [D]mergent.  Except it doesn’t really matter to me that the label emergent is connected to it all.  It’s just a word after all.  A word we’re trying to use to get at these new/old ways of doing and being church.  I find it interesting the ways that mainline churches are jumping on the emergent bandwagon, like it’s the next big thing to bring about church growth.  Because it’s not about that.  It’s about being faithful.  It’s about finding what works in your context.  In fact, it’s about vocation.  Like Frederick Buechner says, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”[2]  That works on more than an individual level, it works on a communal level as well.  And that isn’t going to look the same for every church.  Thank goodness!  How boring this world would be if every church was just a cookie cutter of the super successful mega-church down the street.  So my interest in [D]mergent is out of my desire to help congregations realize that they actually do hold the key to doing and being church.  They just need to open their eyes and take a look around.  Where are the areas of giftedness in your congregation?  What are the needs in your community?  Do you have a lot of green thumbs in your church?  Work together to build a community garden that can provide fresh produce to your local food bank.  Do you have a lot of artists?  Put your creativity to work by communicating the Gospel through painting and sculpture.

Oh, and one other thing.  Start thinking theologically.  OK, I know you all probably think that you’re doing that already, but here’s what I mean…have your theological thinking infuse the way you work and act as a church in the world.  The things we do should not be done because we’ve always done it that way.  They should be done because they are a theological extension of what we believe in our hearts and our minds.  So yeah, that’s what [D]mergent, if we have to use that word, is about for me.  Let’s go out and be the church!

by Emily Bowen

[1] I think this quote comes from Anthony Robbins, but I’ve also seen it attributed to Mark Twain.  Anyone know for sure?

[2] In Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABCs, pg 119.

Emily Bowen is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and coauthor of Toward a Hopeful Future: Why the Emergent Church is Good News for Mainline Congregations. Emily is a graduate of Chapman University, Christian Theological Seminary, and Phillips Theological Seminary, and she currently serves as a pastor at Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri, where she lends leadership to the Awakening, an emerging community rooted in Brentwood Christian Church.