This past weekend, Southeastern Seminary hosted a conference about a popular topic (or an unpopular topic) - the Emerging Church. It was called the Convergent Conference.
Some key people in this discussion were present on the campus of the old Wake Forest College (now the Demon Deacons of Winston-Salem) to lead this dialogue: Dr. J. D. Greear, Dr. Alvin Reid, Ed Stetzer, Mark Driscoll, Dr. Danny Akin. If you weren't able to make it to the conference (like me), you do have the opportunity to listen to it thanks to the media services at Southeastern. If you have any interest in this area of church/missiology/theology/culture - then you should definitely spend some time in the next few days to listen to these messages. I've listened to Driscoll's now twice and am sure I could still glean more from it.
JD did a great job on Acts 16 - noting how Paul reached different types of people and broke the customs of his day - but didn't water down the gospel at all.
Stetzer, who works for Lifeway in Nashville, spoke on the church and who we are. He asked why the church is in decline in North America? It is mainly because we have forgot the Jesus message that should define us and we have become ineffective: we have lost our passion and we must truly not want to see the world change. If we had those two things - we would be doing church differently in most of our churches. Two other things he said that were important enough for me to write down: "you can't love Jesus and hate his wife" - (my friend wrote a blog post on that, go check it out as well), "we fall in love with the forms" - He was talking about how we fall in love with the form of church (worship, carpet, evangelism programs, etc) but then we fall out of love with Jesus. The forms aren't the things that are going to save of us from hell and give us abundant life. No programs ever saved people. They were instruments - not the Savior. Jesus is that!
I want to talk mainly about what Mark Driscoll said. He has gotten somewhat of a bad reputation within conservative circles, some were even surprised by Southeastern bringing him to the campus. But, his theology is right on - no one could fault him on his theology. So maybe he practices it a little differently than we do...
Anyway...Dr. Akin asked him to categorize the Emerging Movement for the audience. This was very helpful. Everyone linked to this movement is not necessarily in the same boat.
He set up three categories if you will: relevance (the "cool church"), new reformed (nicer version of the old reformed), and revisionist (these are the ones that we need to be concerned about).
He would put the following people in the Relevance camp: Dan Kimball, Donald Miller (of Blue Like Jazz fame), and Erwin McManus (he is also speaking at the Catalyst Conference coming up soon). These (as far as he is concerned) do not have anything wrong with their theology, they aren't heretics.
The Revisionist Camp would be people like Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren: These are ones who have left the Scriptural faith and have opted for their own theology. They use books in their writings from people from the Jesus Seminar and ones who believe in Open Theology (that God is bipolar and still evolving). Driscoll said that he heard McClaren say that he didn't want to take a side on homosexuality because he didn't want to hurt either side. Sin is sin - as Driscoll pointed out that any sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage is sin. I loved what he said about taking stances on God's Word: "When God speaks, we aren't to converse, we are to obey."
The New Reformed people would be folks like Joshua Harris, CJ Mahaney, John Piper, Matt Chandler, JD, Mark Driscoll, young pastors who preach longer expository sermons and want to preach the Word, call people out of sin, to trust in Jesus, and to change the world with the love of Jesus.
If I had to be in a "camp", I would definitely choose this last one. And I'm not just saying that. I am not just saying that because some would call it the right camp, because frankly I know a lot of people who fall into the other ones. I honestly haven't read Blue Like Jazz or Velvet Elvis (although this is the book I'm working through when I go to B&N for the evening) or Generous Orthodoxy.
But, you know, as I've been in seminary and out of seminary...I've learned church and the Christian life is not about being in a camp, although some people might want it that way.
I figure this:
God is holy
Jesus is both God and man
Man is sinful and is going to a final hell without Jesus
Jesus died on the cross as my only way of salvation
The Spirit regenerated me
Salvation is by grace alone and faith alone
The church has a command to reach the world with the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus
The Bible is the true utterance of God - he spoke it through the Spirit to the writers.
The Word is sufficient.
We need to be going out in the "real" world and reaching the lost of our cities: something that JD and Mark and Dr. Reid are doing on a normal basis. Driscoll may go to places I won't - but why won't I go? Dr. Reid wants young people and students in his churches that have earrings and long hair - what is wrong with that - why don't some of our churches want them in their's? JD spends his time and his staff's time in the "slums" of Durham reaching them, ministering to them, LOVING them with the love of Jesus and the cross. That is what all of us should be doing. Why aren't we?
Dr. Patterson preached on 2 Tim 4 - this is the truth the churches should be doing. We have to change our methods - but we CANNOT change our message:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.