In Defence of Alt.Worship | We Haven’t Even Begun to ‘Emerge’ Yet

I was disappointed to read on Jonny’s blog that Graham Cray wanted to down-play the significance of alt.worship and emerging churches in the future of the church. And I’m glad Jonny attempted to correct him.

Just a couple of observations.

According to Jonny’s notes, Graham Cray said:

“Mission vision not church angst. Emerging churches good but only part of picture. Alt worship etc part of picture but not future… Postmodern is passe – paradigm shift has taken place”

I agree with some of this. Alt.worship is not the future. But it has been a very vital catalyst. And catalysts rarely get the credit they are due when the history is told. They are the invisible spaces that allow reactants time to create newness. Without them the process of change would take much much longer. However, this energy they bring to speed up the process should not be interpreted as ‘angst’. It is disingenuous to suggest it.

I would also want to take Graham to task on his view that ‘Emerging Churches are good but only part of the picture.’ If he is right that the postmodern is passé and a paradigm shift has already taken place, then the church that emerges from this shift is, by definition, all there is going to be. The big problem is that people are, I think, far too easy with the definition they are using.

The chapter I wrote on Advent in the book – about waiting for the old to pass and the new to come – is pertinent I think. And I don’t think people in the institutions have shown enough patience to wait yet. They think the transition has already happened. That we are already ’emerging.’ I don’t think we are even close. Unless there is a proper ‘wait’ then what emerges will still be too much infected with the old forms. And I think this is happening now. People are tacking together programmes of café-style stuff and a few nightlights and thinking they are ’emerging.’

I’m afraid I’m sceptical. I just don’t think that’s going to work. We need a far deeper change to occur. One that reaches wide and deep. And given that this was led by the same old white men, I’m afraid I don’t think that can possibly have happened yet.

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3 responses to “In Defence of Alt.Worship | We Haven’t Even Begun to ‘Emerge’ Yet”

  1. From outside the inherited structure it is easier to create time to wait. In many ways you have created your space and your time to grieve and wait.
    Within the tradition, there is a need to move on much quicker. The need for the institution to continue creates a pressure to talk up the possibilities and the opportunities.
    However, all paradigm shift is difficult, because you think you have got it and then it becomes clear you haven’t. It is a bit like whenever you pay attention to what Jesus said and did, it always challenges your perspective and approach to life as a Christian.

  2. Thanks for this response, Kester. I think your points are very pertinent; but I also appreciate the tone in which you express them. Disappointed you may be; taking to task you might do; but you are generous in response. We are all in this together. Graham has said many thought-provoking and helpful things, and I guess he’d be open to views that challenge his own. I was disappointed by the ungenerous tone of the recently published formal response to the Mission-shaped Church Report; which I thought was a wasted opportunity, when constructive criticism could have been given to develop ideas, instead of resorting to emotive language to dismiss them. Thanks for modelling a better way.

  3. Kester, THANK you for your kind and informative post. I agree with you that the pomo paradigm has not shifted. I blogged about it here: