Greetings! Thank you Taylor for the invitation to join this exciting conversation and for the work you and others have put into it. This is my first post on this site, so allow me to briefly introduce myself.
My name is Chad and I am a recent graduate of Lee University in TN and will be attending Duke Divinity for my MDiv in the fall of '07. I currently serve as the lay associate of a 1000 member UMC in Cleveland, TN which has been a wonderful opportunity for me to preach and be involved in church life (the good, the bad and the ugly!) while going through school and preparing for seminary.
My interest with the emerging church came about when I was asked to lead a young adult Sunday school class which had never gotten off the ground at our church. While studying and seeking materials to use for a 20-30's type of crowd, I discovered the NOOMA series and read Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis, which led me to McLaren, Kimball, Grenz, N.T. Wright, Willard and a host of others whom I have been reading voraciously ever since. I also found that the nuggets of wisdom I gleaned from my new favorite authors were resonating in the lives and hearts of the young people (myself included!) that I taught each week.
What got me hooked was the theology of the emerging church, perhaps even moreso than the worship or praxis of it. What I found in my reading was that my faith was being exploded and challenged in areas I had never before dreamed. In emergent I saw a faith that was rooted in Scripture, fortified by the traditions of the ancients, articulated with sound reason and lived out passionately through experience (a good Wesleyan quadrilateral!). This was not the faith I borrowed and maintained from my parents as a child - no, this was something much bigger, far more mysterious, and far more demanding of me - in a word, it was authentic.
I admit that at first I thought "emergent" was little more than window-dressing to spruce up some rustic worship styles. Light some candles...jazz up the music...Labyrinths...meditations...etc. I feared that this would be just another fad, like contemporary music, and would eventually fade away like all fads. But like I said, the theology of it all, especially as it is articulated by N.T. Wright and some others, has convinced me that not only is this not a fad, but is a much needed corrective to the direction of the church as we plow into the 21st century - a corrective to our faith as a whole, encompassing worship, missions, ecclesiology, christology, and everything in between. It is exciting to me (as it should be for us all in the Church) to be on the cusp of this theological paradigmatic shift that is taking shape and I look forward to witnessing what ministry and the church will look like 5, 10, 15 years down the road.
Allow me to pose a question or two and then I'll shut up: First, I don't want to presume that all of us feel that emergent entails shifts (or advances) in theology like I do. But assuming for the moment that we are on the same page here, how are some of you incorporating these new theological insights into your preaching and/or teaching? Eugene Peterson, in his book The Contemplative Pastor says that it is essential for a pastor to be subversive. By this he means we must prayfully consider the direction God wishes to lead the flock we have been entrusted with and then we must teach in such a way that the congregation feels as though the vision and idea was all theirs. I think Peterson is on to something there. My second question is related: Are there some here who feel that the emergent conversation is not about theology but is primarily about worship style and practice? If so, I would be interested to hear your thoughts as well and how you have incorporated new modes and styles of worship into an already established church. Did it require an entirely new service? Does it attract the "older" members or is it attended primarily by new faces?
Grace and Peace,