What are you afraid of? Snakes are among the top of my list. Even though I knew that a recent trip down a stairway covered with coiled, hissing snakes was only a dream, I had to fight my fears in order to fully extend my legs back down the length of the bed. I really don’t like snakes.
Fear, it seems to me, is one reason we evangelicals are ill-at-ease with the emerging church. Emerging folks are asking questions about things that many of us hold close to our hearts as unchanging. Scot McNight, in a Christianity Today article on the emerging church, writes “…no language is capable of capturing the Absolute Truth who alone is God.Frankly, the emerging movement loves ideas and theology. It just doesn’t have an airtight system or statement of faith.”
As someone who likes certainty, this approach to theology makes me uneasy. Yet, a fear of questions should not prevent us from extending our spiritual limbs into the emerging conversation. When I am part of a conversation that challenges something I believe to be true, my first reaction is to end the discussion because of that niggle of fear swirling in my stomach.
One of the reasons I’m working to change this initial response is that my own children are among the people who are asking questions that make me uncomfortable. And years ago I promised myself that I would not parent out of fear but in hope. I had been home from the hospital less than an hour with our first child when I realized that fear would be my biggest challenge as a parent. It was overwhelming to realize that this baby was for now totally dependent on my husband and m. As our daughter grew, I found that the potential to fear grew along with her. So each time I bumped into a new set of fears, I reminded myself that hope rather than fear would be my guide.
If hope is our guide than we will view the surfacing discussions for how to do church in the 21st century as a strong signal that Christ’s church will be relevant to the next generation. We will admit that the young people in our congregations, including those who were raised in Christian homes, have grown up in a postmodern world and that this has impacted their understanding of faith and the church, just as previous generations were impacted by the Depression, two world wars, the civil rights movement, the hippie era and the war in Vietnam. Yes, the emerging church is asking questions that often make us uncomfortable. We may not agree with their conclusions, but refusing to think with them is not the answer.—Connie Faber
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