Don Heatley (or Heat Donly as we used to call him sometimes) went to high school with me and we did the drama club together. A bit ago we found each other via Facebook and I discovered he was a church planter. He has a blog. He recently wrote a terrific piece on his experience with the vaunted “young” generation that should be flocking to the emergent churches. Terrifically honest post! I wanted to keep my response to him so here it is.
Great post Don! It raised a couple of thoughts for me.
The success tease even for the “authentic” emergent: Read the literature and supposedly there is a large pent-up “market” of persons such as you describe and all you need to do is create this venue, as you describe that embodies this mythical “third way” and they will flock. You rightly expose the gas and “vapor ware” that this is. It is simply an echo of the previous ambition induced enticement of the seeker movement that suggested that if you “create a safe place for people to hear a dangerous message” by replacing the organ with a jazz band, adding a praise team and a positive “how to fix your life/kids/marriage with Jesus” message then “seekers” will flock to your church and you’ll be Willow next… Perhaps the emergent movement isn’t as “turnkey” an operation as the seeker wasn’t either.
I imagine your “sample” is dead on correct because it speaks to human nature and the realities of community. Nobody likes to face the fact that their current reality is “authentic” and that the institutionally-offered “upgrade” they hope to acquire by virtue of identification or attendance whether from the big-box seeker mall down the road or the hipster emergent save-the-world community are really the same thing. You are still you whether you buy your coffee at Costco, Starbucks or the locally owned place down the road where the guy swears third world locals get a fair deal. Where you buy your coffee doesn’t change your life.
The seeker movement teased by offering transformation on the cheap. The emergent movement has the same potential of offering community on the cheap. Neither transformation nor community can be had on the cheap, it costs us our lives which is exactly what Jesus said it would.
Thank you for speaking the truth and daring to unveil the market and success temptations of every new American wrapping of the church that seduces us into short-changing the basic gospel which is cross first then resurrection. pvk