Interview with Dan Kimball: Preaching to People Who Don't Like the Church
- Thursday, January 01, 2009
Ed Stetzer has probably done a good job in the wording of the primary divisions. There’s a group he calls the Relevants—those who are basically evangelicals who are passionate about evangelism and not afraid to break tradition or change forms and expression of ministry, how people learn, or even ecclesiology in the sense of “What does leadership look like? What does community look like?” I would personally fit in that particular realm—I don’t like the word relevant, but that’s that.
Then there’s the group that he called the Reformers who committed to Calvinism basically—and that’s a major part of my identity and all of the theology that goes with that—but committed very much to evangelism and breaking forms of tradition for the sake of the mission. And that’s the Acts 29 Network, Mark Driscoll and those kind of guys.
Then there’s the Revisionist group, ones who are rethinking theology and possibly even repeating the patterns of the past of starting in one strain and shifting into something more like mainline type of churches.
You know, the warning is always, “What about those Revisionists?” And even then there is such diversity that it’s hard to say, “Oh, Revisionists are heading down this bad, ultra-liberal path...” It’s not true for all of them. Some of them maybe, but not all of them. You really have to look at individual churches. I am personally not comfortable at all with some of the things that are being done or talked about with some of the emerging or emergent leaders. And so that’s why I don’t see myself in the same grouping as some of them theologically.
With the emerging church, they may look different and have different theology. So it’s hard to categorize. There is no one “all emerging churches are like this.” That’s when the criticism becomes invalid—when you read critics who will say, “The emerging church is...” and they start saying these things. They’re usually talking more about the extreme liberal, to use that word, branches or streams of it. I would actually even say that’s probably the smaller percentage.
The important thing is: Are you a missional church in what you’re doing? The best thing the emerging church has done, in my opinion, is to say to the church at large, “Let’s not forget about people outside the church. Let’s be sharper in our theology. We can’t just go around and assume—let’s be more theologically thinking, not necessarily changing your theology, but let’s teach about it more. Let’s not just be so surface. And for the sake of the mission of Jesus and the gospel, let’s not be afraid to break some traditions and forms of ministry that are not effective anymore in our culture. Don’t change the gospel, but don’t be afraid.” I think that’s the refreshing part of what’s going on.
Preaching: I think there is some solid, biblical preaching and teaching going on on within many of the churches that would self-describe themselves as emerging.
Kimball: Absolutely. I mean, there are some very passionate people. I’ve been speaking with a couple of leaders lately—we’re talking about this a lot. There are a lot of us who are very passionate and have a high commitment to Scripture and the authority of the Scripture, a very high commitment to evangelism, and that’s kind of uniting us. When you get criticized about forms—I get asked, “Are you New Age ’cause you’re doing all that stuff?”—I’m just trying to help people learn the Scriptures better by allowing some other forms of teaching.
Now, there is valid criticism—there’s very valid criticism. I am in absolute disagreement with some of the theology and things going on out there among some. But one doesn’t represent the other. I wish the critics would understand that more and back it up by names rather than just saying generic statements.
I would just love to keep my passion. I say, “Let’s be worshipers of God on this mission in community and theologians and to be training people and multiplying leaders.” I think that’s why preaching is still so important—because it is how so many people do hear. So I think preaching is critical, and multiplying preachers and leaders is critical. Let’s keep continuing the mission but not get led astray, especially being in the culture that we’re in.
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