Thursday, May 27, 2004

Crap!

All those wonderful comments...toast... just cause I changed colors! Great.

OK..secretly, remember everything you wrote, and which post it was on and re-enter everything. It will only take a few minutes. Really... it'll be fun!!!

Really, if you liked something from a previous comment, comment here, and I'll try to connect for you.

Sorry!!!

rob

UK vs. USA Battle Royale!!!

The following is a re-cap of a conversation Gareth (from mootblog), Jonny Baker and I had in nashville. At our meal of barbecue and beer, I launched into an as yet unwritten analysis of UK vs. USA emergent culture.This shows a gross generalization of us and uk churches. It isn't intended to offend, but rather to give a way to see some of the larger picture of church culture.

Gareth's re-cap of my ramblings from his blog:

In the US church:
1. churches still want programs (e.g. 5 steps to convert the emerging generation)

2. Mega-churches are still succeeding and growing, to a certain extent they embody what many people want from church

3. pastors are still very much career people - setting up an emerging church for a maximum of 50-100 people for not very much salary or working part-time in Pizza Hut does appeal very much at all to pastors on $70,000+ in large churches

3. Success is still the operative measuring stick - if a 'program' is not getting bums on seats then it is not a success in Kingdom terms

4. The post-WW2 period in the UK which saw rapid decline in church attendance across the board (save for some renewal from the Charismatic movement) actually had a positive side - out of this fallow ground grew the shoots of what we would now call the 'emerging' church, without this fallow period we may never have seen the creativity and imagination during the last 15 years

5. Unless the US evangelical church (which has for all intents and purposes become a civil religion) undergoes a serious decline in attendance or an incredible turn around in attitudes towards the make up and purpose of church, then the great opportunity presented at this time for the church to become a creative imaginative force may well fade away.

He actually said this so well, it was way better than the original.

i'll try to fill this out, responding to one of Gareth's points per post over the next week or so. I'd enjoy comments from anyone who has experienced both cultures. The more the merrier!

But this post is to give my basic overview of the situation. It's essentially

The US is just different from the UK and y'all are lucky. J & G were kinda.. "gaa" what do you mean?
Well:
After WWII the UK had quite a spiritual dark age. They had the crap bombed out of them.The US was bloodied, but not bombed. War is hell and the Brits no longer had a cheery view of the nature of man, or the providence of God. They had some churches which became successful but most declined, and essentially went off the radar screen of UK culture.

In the US, Billy Graham's ministry took off in the late '40's and the 50 year American evangelical revival began. With high hopes, nuclear bombs, a clear enemy, and a booming economy, life was great. Campus Crusade, Intervarsity, Nav's all began to make major inroads on college campuses.

By 1975 high school and college kids in the US were experiencing salvation in record numbers. College fellowships of 1000 students were commonplace all across the US . The Jesus people had made their impact and now the fruit was showing. From these christians came the massive church planting, and mega church movements. WillowBack style churches would begin popping up everywhere. Calvary Chapel, Vineyard, Foursquare, AG were all growing like weeds.

However, in the UK during this time, only a few churches saw anything like this growth. But not hundreds and hundreds of 1000 member churches hatching like rabbits.

And that makes all the difference.

So in the UK starting a youth ministry meant that you had 9 or 10 kids, and the rest you had to meet on the street, or in clubs. There was not the same "if you build it they will come" as in the US. Nothing was that easy. Slick programs meant almost nothing. And so:

1. In the UK if you wanted to present the good news, you better not use that old fetter, the anglican church. So gospel had to bypass church, and deal directly with culture.( See Roxburgh) The result was new forms, new wine skins. Great wine. Any success wasn't based on a great band, or great preaching. Both of those were "generally" already passe. UK youth didn't believe the preacher anyway.

2. This created a small, new, developing culture of creative people in the UK participating in the creation of worship, having to create new things, not waiting for the professional to give permission, letting the process be messy, and having to learn lots of new things constantly to keep up with culture. It seemed everyone I met at Greenbelt last year in the UK was so comfortable with culture and would be so much more effective than me. Greenbelt, a UK arts festival, began in 1973. So this group has been developing for 30 years.

3. Much of the opposite has happened in the US. Church and gospel were one, and culture didn't care, didn't listen, and became even more defensive against the gospel! But frankly the church didn't freakin' care if culture doesn't care!! There are millions of us and we want culture to conform to us. Just a tad arrogant. Just a tad. And we have professional everythings. Freaking everything. Music, worship, Leadership, Preaching, yada, yada, yada...We've created a culture of spectators. The spectators are told to tithe, read, pray and everything is fine. And we pay those professionals lots of money. lots. It's safe, easy, power based and has some semblance of being a career.

4. Now 45% of the US considers themselves either born again or evangelical. 45%!! Jesus! If I'm a seminary student; do I want to make miniscule gains, create new things, have messy ministry, live and work in the dirty city center, or do I want to make money, have lots of clout, live in the 'burbs, see lots of "fruit." Doh? Pretty simple.

5. New UK ministries (that's all there were because the old ones gave up the ghost) became much less "extractional" (See Frost and Hirsch) than ours. They went to culture, outside of the church (cause there wasn't any, really), to love people. We on the other hand, wanted people to leave their culture, get saved, come to our building. Crap! We succeeded. Double Crap.

So when Lilly and I visited the UK in '01 and '03 we noticed how so many of the ministry leaders were outside church, most of whom didn't get money from church, were comfortable with culture (not afraid of it), and did ministry which normal non-religious people would like. We saw this at Grace, holy Joes, Revelation/Warehouse, Greenbelt, etc. These people knew culture, were fluid in it and made a difference. Conversely across the pond, leaders told people in the US that culture was bad, could poison them, steal their children, and make them adulterers. So not only are US Christians afraid of culture, we've been disconnected from it for so long that we are awkward and seem "dorky" in it. Like a whole generation with "high water" pants. We also told them the lie that if they stay in church they wont be soiled by culture! How totally impossible is that!

As a result of all this the UK is 10 or 15 years ahead of the US in doing and experiencing "emergent" stuff. It will also probably develop and grow better than in the states. Why? Because so many young passionate believers in the states will opt for the accepted route in ministry. The model and resources of the established evangelical churches in the US aren't going anywhere. They will be intact for the foreseeable future. We have made inroads, but what happens when the status quo is challenged? We will get marginalised! Count on it! If bookstores can ban McLaren's books, anything is possible. If you can be angry with someone that humble and accessible, wow.. you can be mad at anybody.

Taking another bite of barbecue, I stated that the UK was probably the best training ground for young emergent types, since the DNA of taking the gospel to culture, and comfort with culture already exists. And that seems so difficult to find in the US. Most of those going to culture in the US seem so religious, and patronizing. Even with the best of intentions.

And lastly for this post... so many of the seminars focused on "transitioning" existing churches into the emergent matrix. Jonny and Gareth were "uh, why." Because many of us in existing churches believe, to our detriment, that marginal change, not developing all-new wine skins, is the order of the day. We are drawn by the siren song of the 75 million evangelicals. "Well, if just a few of them got excited..." instead of learning the culture and taking the gospel in a new way to the culture. We still first assume that we are church people, and ministry happens from church, with church and in church; instead of active people of faith with good news to incarnate. People we touch we will learn to love, and then enjoy friendships with them for a long time.

So the folks at EC fall into two basic categories: 1. those expecting to bring emergent stuff into already existing churches or 2. those small few who will build new wineskins and go to culture outside of the church. Jonny and Gareth already live in a UK church structure which knows it won't ever reach culture. So they support lots of little ventures as multiple little viruses (Roxburgh). That's what UK denominations have known for years. Only 5% (if that) of the US denom leaders get this. Again, still lured by the money, and ease of attracting the already convinced.

Now, I make fun of Jonny hanging with the Archbishop of Canterbury, but Rowan Williams (not atkinson) knows his name. Really. Why? Cause Rowan knows Jonny has answers, and religious people don't. So he surrounds himself with people like Jonny who are in culture. Most other leaders won't.

When speaking to Emergent types in the UK, they never seem to have real jobs. (except for the Rev Dr. Dawn) A project here, and 2 year ministry launch there. They create proposals for foundations etc. They don't have church jobs. Because church jobs don't really exist. Jonny and Gareth have assumed that the only folks who have full time jobs, which don't need other income, are Anglican priest types; in the church culture. Everyone else there doesn't depend on church, it's not strong enough to carry everyone. They've disconnected from religious stuff, with money, worship, and have found new ways to incarnate jesus.

So that's my little overview. Any comments?

More on Gareth's comments later.

rob

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Look at the comments!!

In the comments on my last post, Marko from Emergent/YS shares some great insights. He also gives his e-mail address if you want to be a part of the solution next year.

Jonny Baker and Gareth (mootblog) have challenged me to express more on the US vs. UK on emergent issues. I've done a rather long post, but I'll work on it more tomorrow.

Thanks for welcoming me back!

more tomorow,

rob

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Yes Jonny it was March!

So back from a self imposed bloggin vacation.
Bugged by at least 8 folks at the nashville convention to start bloggin again.
Here goes. I'm learning that I should write shorter posts, and more of em.

I agree with most of the posts I've seen that the large group meetings need to resemble emergent culture rather than any old YS conference. How do we change 'em?

Well they're gonna hate me, but Marko and Pagitt and Thom and Holly need to have you send your post to them. Directly. Now. If you want to have a voice, tell them. Specific actionable stuff.

I've complained about conferences on this blog before. And all I got was crap cause it was perceived as whining. I wasn't, but that's the way it was perceived. And I didn't get the result I wanted. Nothin changed.

So if you want change; talk to those who can influence change. And when you blog, try to express that you know they worked their butts off. Cause they did.

So thanks Doug, Marko, Thom, Holly, Tic and everyone involved. You rock. I think you have an army of opinionated helpers out here who want to give input and will help you work to make the changes.

rob