Just got back this afternoon from darkest Wales, where there was no internet, no mobile coverage, and virtually no radio reception either. Just a wonderful beach, and an old clap-board cottage. Great medicine.
Nice to come back to some good debate though. I just wanted to write a final post in the series (may be) to respond to some comments and clarify a few things.
Firstly, of course Jonny is right: ‘no strategy’ is a strategy of some sort. But we also mustn’t be bound by these apparent linguistic traps. They are not as binding as our tongues would have us believe…
I had to choose a word, and strategy is the one I picked. What I meant by it was the competitive spirit, the desire to have a ‘winning formula’. As I’ve said, I think this is something that Paul never quite exorcises, and this has then infected the Evangelical church, which has always seemed to me to exalt Paul’s letters above all else. This has perhaps had two effects:
- Evangelicalism has always been competitive. It wants to win. It hates losing. And thus white men have grasped hold of it and led it with more and more programmes.
- Many, many people have been very turned off this. The Paul that is preached seems so different from the Jesus they thought they were following. It is perhaps not too much to say that people leave Evangelicalism for the emerging movement to get away from Paul and get back to Christ.
In Peter, on the other hand, we see an emphasis on love. And it is this that I would want to see hallmark the emerging movement:
- An emphasis on quality of relationships, not quantities and numbers
- An emphasis on distributed leadership that always shuns power and seeks to collaborate
- A move away from credentials.
- An emphasis on taking part, not winning.
Strategy is always about the self. It is about celebrity. And I would want to suggest that no Emerging Church project should ever need a publicist, ever need a media event.
Malcolm’s comment really resonated with me. The institutional church wants to be able to strategise this new movement. It needs to. It needs the money. And ever since Constantine’s patronage, it been enmeshed in finance. Abjectly poor people funding the building of ever-more elaborate cathedrals for power-hungry bishops… Same old.
This is not what we see in the incarnation. What we see there is the viral, powerless, bottom-up Christianity that I tried to describe in the book. And it begins today on Good Friday, with the crucifixion of the Temple-bound, profiteering God, the end-game of the Babel-onian plot of human power against divine love… But love will not be played with. She appears to wither, and then spring again, eternal.
The powerful will play with our faith. But Easter reminds us that God slipped their trap to shower love for free. No rules. That’s grace.
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