A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional?
- Thursday, November 05, 2009
Similarly, deep church is centered-set instead of bounded-set or relational-set. This means the church focuses on drawing people to the Well (Jesus Christ) instead of guarding all the fences (like the traditional church). It also means the church knows what it should be focusing on (the center), instead of allowing the community to determine truth for itself (like in the emerging church).
2. Deep Evangelism - The traditional church insists that belief must precede belonging. This has the effect of slamming the door on spiritual seekers. The emerging church insists on belonging before belief. But every community must have some standards and everyone in the church must be challenged to repentance, faith, and obedience at some point. So is there a third way? According to Belcher the third way understands that there are two circles around Jesus. There is an outer circle of seekers and an inner circle of commitment disciples. Deep church welcomes everyone into the outer circle, regardless of their beliefs, but challenges them to become a part of the inner circle.
3. Deep Gospel - The traditional church has made salvation too personalized, too much like fire insurance. The message of individual salvation is important, but it must be balanced with Jesus' teaching on the kingdom. We must avoided reductionist gospels and remember the gospel has a public dimension. We must not shrink the gospel to the forgiveness of sins. But, Belchers adds, penal substitution and justification must form the foundation for everything else we say about the gospel. The kingdom cannot be ignored, but it must be linked to the doctrines of atonement, justification, union with Christ, and our need to be forgiven (118).
4. Deep Worship - The emerging church tries to contextualize its worship, but in so doing it sometimes becomes untethered to history and too much a product of the culture around it. What is needed is not just a sampling of tradition, but a return to the Great Tradition. Belcher's third way looks like this: "worship that embodies a genuine encounter with God, had depth and substance, included more frequent and meaningful Communion, was participatory, read more Scripture in worship, creatively used the senses provided more time for contemplation, and focused on the transcendence and otherness of God" (124).
5. Deep Preaching - Traditional preaching is often boring and uninspired. There is little drama to it. Most sermons boil down to two things: you suck; try harder (142). The emerging church tries to suggest a better way. In practice their "sermons" sound like sermons, except with a little more interaction from the congregation. But underneath the emergent view of preaching (at least that espoused by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones) is a radical shift, a hermeneutic of community that says nothing is privileged, not even the Bible, over the community in discovering and living out truth (145). Belcher rejects this hermeneutic, seeing that it leads to a rejection of classical orthodoxy. So neither traditional nor emergent preaching will work. We need a third way that is not deductive and legalistic like traditional preaching, nor open-ended like emergent preaching. Instead, those who belong to deep church "preach Christ in every text, laying out and analyzing the human condition through Scriptures and experience, and exposing the radical, shocking grace of God that enters our situation, transforms us and empowers us to live differently" (157).
6. Deep Ecclesiology - Traditional church gets bogged down in meetings, paperwork, and organizational bureaucracy. This is bad. So the emerging church calls for a more organic, open-source model for church. But even organic churches cannot survive long without structure and accountability. What we need is a third way that calls the church to be both institution and organism, respects the offices of elder and deacon, celebrates worship as a means of grace, and cultivates and learns from tradition.
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