What is the church emerging from?
The Lutheran Church has always been the “emerging church.” Lutherans emerged from the Catholic Church almost five-hundred years ago! It is in our DNA to emerge! In fact, Jesus himself emerged from the Jews to offer salvation through His blood for all who repent of their evil ways and follow Him. In this way, the Christian Church has always been the “emerging church.” Since the Church has always been “emerging”, it is appropriate to ask, “What is the church emerging from?”
Answer #1: The Church is always emerging from the world.
There are countless ways that Christians emerge (and break away) from the world in their day-to-day endeavors. Christians love their enemies (Matthew 5:44), care for the sick and visit prisoners (Matthew 25:39), remember the poor (Galatians 2:10), feed the hungry (Matthew 25:42), tell the truth (1 Timothy 2:7), remain sexually pure (Hebrews 13:4), stay out of unnecessary debt (Romans 13:9), do not seek revenge (Romans 12:17) and avoid drunkenness (Galatians 5:21). This list is just a short one; it goes on and on.
Answer #2: The Church is always emerging from the Church.
Yes, it’s true. We already mentioned Luther emerging from the Catholic Church, launched by its twisting of the Gospel. It is really no surprise, then that Christians continue to emerge from the Church today. The question is, why?
Because the church they see has not risen above the world. The church they see does not love its enemies or visit the sick. The church they see does not remember the poor or seek to refrain from drunkenness. Those found in today’s “emerging church” does not hear pastors preach about sexual purity, visiting prisoners, staying out of debt or even loving their parents. The “emerging church” wants to hear how to live because of Who has claimed them through the Word. They want to literally live in obedience when Christ says, “Follow me” (John 21:19).
When we think of church we think of worship, faith, community, and a building. When those of the “emerging church” think of church, they think of an obedient lifestyle, intimacy, relevance, wholeness and experience. Let me paint a more complete picture of a few of these themes.
Lutherans do not often talk about obedience. Having recently graduated from seminary, I look back and see that we rarely talked about obedience. We should.
Did you know that in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives over one-hundred commands, which offers a new meaning to Jesus’ title as “Master” (Luke 5:5). Contemporary people desperately want to know how to live. Christ certainly told us and showed us. Christ said, “deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me.” Does this mean we must also be crucified? No. So what does it mean? It means to obey Christ as Christ obeyed His Father. The world is always pledging for our obedience, but Christ pledges for our obedience with His own blood. So, what might this obedience look like?
Emerging church application
Many congregational groups (youth groups, men’s groups, mom’s clubs, etc.) know how to have a good time. They know about retreats, ice creams socials, and even mission trips to Tijuana. But does your congregation know about the local battered womens shelter? Do they feed the poor? Do they know how to love their enemies, especially at school? Do they know that Christ cares about their every vocation: student, son, daughter, citizen, believer, and grandchild? The “emerging church” challenges the Church to change the world by obeying Christ the Master, out of obedience to the Word and by His Spirit at work in sanctified lives.
The “emerging church” is not looking for a Sunday morning fix. They are not a pin-point collared country club. They are emerging from church that lasts only an hour. They see church as a twenty-four hour lifestyle, not a one-hour duty. The pastors of the “emerging church” preach about the twenty-four hour lifestyle Christ gave His disciples. They ate together and fed the widows together (Acts 6:1-4). Did you know that the churches in the first century would break bread in the underground tunnels of Capedocia? They would escape the evil of the Roman Emperor Domitian by caring for each other under ground! They knew each other’s name! Talk about intimacy!
Emerging church application
Today, the emerging church is gathering in homes (Romans 16:5). These gatherings tend to be small in size, somewhere between 10-50 people. They pray for their enemies. They memorize Scripture together as a defense against the evil one. They study words like “righteousness” in candle-lit rooms. Together in the Word, they unlock the mysterious treasure revealed in Jesus’ parables. They raise-up holy hands to praise the Holy One. They visit orphanages and provide dinner to the poor. They live as the kingdom of God on earth.
If we define “emerging” as meaning that which rises above something, then the church is always emerging. It is constantly emerging away from the world. It just so happens that a group of Christians, who call themselves The Emerging Church, have felt the need to recall our attention to the things that separate us from the world.