Emerging Church / Alternative Worship

Someone asked me recently if I still keep up with Emergent/Emerging Church “stuff.”

Not really, though its hard to say these days – what constitutes “emerging” anymore? If we’re talking Peter Rollins, I’m still intrigued – but that’s because he’s actually doing some theology. (I’m looking forward to picking up his new book Insurrection next month.) For the most part I’ve backed away from Emergent not because I think they’re too liberal or because I’m afraid of some kind of guilt by association.

I’ve backed off because frankly, I got bored with the whole alternative worship conversation.

This of course is a gross overgeneralization, but it seems that after a while what I was hearing/seeing in this conversation was just 21st century hipster modernism. We find an old warehouse, add candles, sit in the round and viola – we’re emergent. And yet the conversation is still focused on what we do during the once-a-week event. When our theology makes implicit claims on our living based on explicit claims on our gathering, I don’t really think it matters how good it is – it stops short.

I recently saw Kester Brewin’s article titled Into the ‘Year of Opposition’ (thanks to Tony Jones’ fb post) in which a side comment was made suggesting that New Monasticism may be a redressing of the old while the “alternative worship” types represent the radical new. I’ve already admitted that I’m somewhat out of the loop here – I’m not entirely sure what “stuff” Brewin’s been doing that is gaining opposition, so I need more before I make too many assumptions.

There may be much more to the conversation than I’m currently aware, but I have a hard time seeing that alternative worship will truly be the more “radical” position – even compared to fairly liturgical contexts in which many new monastic communities worship. The reason? The aim of new monasticism is first about incarnating the gospel in community and only then about how that calls us to gather for worship, whereas the alternative or emerging worship stuff seems to go the other way around. I could be wrong here…and if anybody who’s more in the know wants chime in, I’d appreciate it.

I still find some of McLaren’s stuff interesting and helpful – I highly recommend his recent book, Naked Spirituality: A Life With God In 12 Simple Words. Brian is certainly still a figurehead of emerging church – but he tends to focus on more broad issues of ecclesiology than just the setting/focus of the worship gathering.

Maybe once I get this dissertation finished I’ll catch up on what I’ve missed – who knows, there may be a new depth to the conversation.


Posted on September 6, 2011, in emergent, emerging church, Missional, new monasticism, worship and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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