Last month, we identified the “Emerging Church” as a community looking for The Way of the original Jesus followers.  This month, we want to identify the Emerging Church within the LCMS.  After reading this column you will better recognize the heart, mind, and faith of the Emerging Church within our own church body.  You may be surprised by what you read.  You may even recognize these characteristics in your own church: a battle against blind acceptance, a heart for ancient traditions and a deep longing to experience the roots of the Christian faith.

the birth of the emerging church

The most popular question today in the Emerging Church is: “What does this mean?”  In fact, this is the question that gave birth to the Emerging Church in our church body.  Traditional church terms (i.e. Kyrie, introit, Agnus Dei, invocation, creed and sacrament) have lost their significance because the unchurched, dechurched and even the churched don’t know what they mean.  The Emerging Church regards these ancient worship terms as simply country club jargon, religious talk, or church lingo that raise more questions than answers.  Why?  Many of us are no longer teaching generations why these worship elements are necessary and relevant.  As a result, the Emerging Church is establishing their ethos outside the conventional church.

reaching the emerging church

When I entered the seminary, I did not know what the word Kyrie meant. I wanted to know why it was in our worship service and why it was important.  Only after taking a worship course did I learn that the Kyrie is a Christian responsive prayer that originated from the fourth century.  Did you catch that?  For nearly seventeen hundred years the Church has been praying this prayer and seeking Christ’s unfailing mercy…together!  We sing this prayer.  We chant his prayer.  Wow!  Talk about power and raw worship!  Once I learned the meaning of these ancient worship elements, they came alive for me.

the heart of the emerging church

While the Emerging Church has many questions about conventional worship, they are clearly not against ancient traditions.  They actually crave reverent, raw worship.  Bring on the candles, indulge in the seasonal colors of the Church year and sing the ancient hymns.  The Emerging Church says, “Bring it on!”
The heart of the Emerging Church craves raw worship and rebukes hypocrisy. They shudder at the idea of being fake and cringe at forged, Sunday morning smiles.  They dismiss empty conversation and cling to testimonies of personal faith.  They build up the church as a hospital, not a country club.  The Emerging Church is wild at heart, yet chastened by a deep reverence for Christ Jesus.
the battle against blind acceptance

The Emerging Church refuses to participate in blind acceptance.  They desperately want to break free from the conformist entanglements that plague today’s church.  As a result, they ask many questions about conventional LCMS practices.  Why the common cup and small cups of wine at Holy Communion?   Why is the pastor wearing a white robe in one service and not the other?  Do I really need to hold a bulletin in one hand and a hymnal in the other?  Why does the pastor make me stand up and sit down during worship?  Why is the Church asking for my money?  What does the pastor do Monday through Saturday?

If the conventional Church refuses to recognize their own bend toward conformity, they wont reach the Emerging Church who primarily consists of fourteen to thirty year olds.  The answer: “This is how we’ve always done it” only adds mortar to the brick walls that separate the Emerging Church from the conventional church.  The Emerging Church is on a discovery to find the roots of Christianity.  They want the church of the ancient Apostles.  They want to heal the sick, feed the poor, and point souls to Jesus.  They want ownership in the adventure, not just ownership of a church building.

Our youth are hungry to experience this return to “vintage Christianity”.  I encourage you to share the rich ancient traditions of the Apostolic Church with your youth and young adults.  Teach young adults about the Bible and where it came from.  Teach them the ancient elements of worship like the Kyrie and invocation.  They want to know “what does this mean?”.  Point them away from conformity and into the vibrancy of worship and community!  Show them that Christianity is a lifestyle, not a pew bench.  I invite you to join me in this year-long discussion.  Enter thESource forum and share your thoughts, frustrations and ideas.  It’s time for an awakening!  The Emerging Church is alive and kicking.