the Crucible


      How can leaders move from being ideological practitioners in talking shop if they have never been taught to hear God’s voice? I am not proposing gaining intellectual understanding of biblical texts and dogmatic teachings; literally and specifically, I mean hearing God’s voice. There is much literature regarding inner journeys, retrospection, and the inner voice; however, the praxis and instruction to answer this question have not yet emerged, and neither have methodologies which incorporate the metaphors to accomplish this. If we are called to prophesy, where are the “how to” books of the emergent church?  The ideological thought fomenters are visible, but where are the practitioners? Who in this emerging paradigm is working through this? Who is hearing God’s voice, audibly, silently, through dreams, visions, and prophetic words of understandings? How can we as the Church have interpretation for unknown cultural knowledge if we do not know how to hear God’s voice? The concept of waiting upon the Spirit or leading within a corporate setting, which borrows from the Quaker or Brethren notion of “corporate guidance,”77  presumes that those who speak to or for the group are following the Spirit. This clearly is not normative in teaching of prominent emergent church voices. Who is equipping the church to use this vastly undernourished tool? How can we be complete without it? How can we be led if we do not know how to see the leader?

      The largest component of spiritual formation that is missing in the emerging church is the absence of the understanding that “kingdom” = “reign/rule” = “power” = “dunamis,”78 or the gifts of the Spirit. From the aforementioned emerging authors and organizations, there has been very little mention of spiritual praxis. The charismatic battle was waged and won in the 1970s, but that message is absent within both the emerging church and academia. There is much talk about community,79 heightened discussion on personal reformation,80 and recently the dialogue has begun to turn missional.81 But the voice of the emerging church is failing to train its leaders in matters of deciphering pneumatology. It is failing to teach them holistic methods of hearing from God and seeing God in ways other than reading a Bible. It is not that leadership does not believe in the practice of gifts, it is just that that leadership has no priority to fulfill that component of spirituality and has not yet given it priority. The seeker movement has had great effect on this. Recently a prominent Christian scholar, leader, and author said that “the seeker movement” (as described by Rick Warren in his stunning book, The Purpose Driven Church), was the most destructive force to yet attack the Church in the last 2000 years.”82 This comment was addressed to the perception that messages that raise controversy or awareness will negatively affect attendance and must therefore be avoided.83 A reductionist Gospel with an ear for public opinion must be radically positioned when compared with practitioners in the early church84 who were both in defiance of cultural sensitivity85 and at the same time, as St. Paul indicated, “all things to all people.”

      The Holy Spirit’s role in the emerging church86 has been reduced to a means to accomplish personal spiritual transformation. Within personal transformation and spiritual formation lie the dormant force and the next phase for healing the emerging church. However, it would seem that an obvious precursor or addendum would be hearing God’s voice. It would seem a difficult postulate to determine what God’s heart and vision for accomplishing that transformation is, if an individual had no understanding or paradigm for listening to or hearing God’s voice.87 A synthesis and marriage of these concepts need to take place within the emerging church. How is it we can be prophetic, if we do not know what God’s voice sounds or even looks like? How is it we can pray for others if we do not have a paradigm by which to see what the Spirit is doing?88 How is it we can pray to see an individual healed if we have no understanding of physical healing? How, in the middle of conversation, can we be spiritual guides and leaders if we do not know how to discern God’s voice? As guides and spiritual directors, it would seem essential to know what it is we are guiding towards and to possesses the means to determine the directions to the destination. How is it that we can gain understanding of the Spirit’s activity if we cannot see the Spirit?89 How can we creatively co-labor if we do not have knowledge of spiritual matters? How can we be signposts of the kingdom if we cannot read the sign? How can we pray if the Spirit is not heard?90 These are ridiculous rhetorical questions (in the context of 1 Corinthians. 12:29-31); however, the emerging church is encouraging these behaviors without answering the questions of “how to.”

      Where are the visible models that radically intersect sin? Perhaps if one has a problem with addiction, one can pray for guidance and wisdom, ask for help and, of course, thank God for one’s prophet, the psychologist. If one continues on, one can eventually get to the sin motivators of that issue and, through steps and guidelines suggested by their counselor, eventually one is able to control one’s addictions. Perhaps a prescription of self-help, a peer group, and even accountability structures are set in place.  This is wonderful, amazing, and glorious, but where are the models of divine intervention and why is it that those “prescriptions” are not brought about, demonstrated, or written of with more regularity?

      In the recent book, Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic,91 written by a diverse group of Christian leaders whose purpose was to comment on culture and direction of the Emerging Church, there was not a single account of pneumatological expression. Not one! This wasn’t a surprise; in fact, it only took a perusal of the book to predict this. It is a message that has simply escaped this group of leaders. How sad! How “absolutely unauthentic!” There is much literature on the praxis of inward journey, but very little on the praxis of the apostolic. If the Church is writing on hearing and finding a voice, would not a precursor to that be hearing God’s voice? The Holy Spirit’s activity has become atrophied; in many of these circles people are desperate to understand more.92

      The emerging church is asking its congregations to be girl scouts without giving them the cookies. This has to change. We desperately need practitioners who can articulate and demonstrate the Kingdom. We need forums, chat rooms, and places where this can be discussed. Most importantly, we need demonstration theology that supports this agenda and provides accessibility for those who wish to learn. 

      The books have been written, the research has been done, and information is overwhelmingly abundant. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Tell as many people as you can about Jesus and if you have to, use words.” We have to do both show and tell. I want to be part of the generation that tries it. I want to see the emerging church dabble in, play with, and consume this Kingdom mindset and way of living. I want to see it move from rhetoric and ideology to praxis. I want to see radical demonstrations, monuments that engage a marketplace culture, entire exhibits pointing to the stories of God’s wonder, like the twelve stones brought from the Jordan River by the tribes of Israel forever to stand as a metaphor for the stories of God’s love for a people. We need cultural iconographies that are both personal and purposeful demonstrations of God’s heart.


Tagged as , ,
Categorized as E-Say\'s

Leave a Reply