In a lot of ways, the emergent church struck me as, well, the Christian equivalent of the grunge movement. A little subversive, a little edgy, and whole lot of white, middle class evangelicals trying to make Christianity look cool. In other words, originally I saw a lot of style over substance. However, once I dug a little deeper, read some of the foundational works, a lot of the substance of postmodernism resonated. I was left wondering how this would translate to black churches, wondering what an emergent African American church would look like or what a multi-cultural emergent church would look like. Better put, what would a multi-cultural church look like that drew on all worship traditions? Because, let me tell you, I ain’t feeling guitars, candles, and labyrinths. I love organs, drums, and gospel choirs way too much to give them up. Of course, part of this stems from the fact that we could all stand with a bigger definition of worship.
Mauice raises some important point about how worship can be a point of disconnect for black folks in the emerging church conversation. I’ve run into this at my faith. Some heavily Anglo emerging church times might not want up front preaching (ala Doug Pagitt’s reimaging preaching) most black folks expect that. So it has been important to search for common ground.
HarvestBoston asks can (or should) emergent be a prophetic national voice? he has this statement attributed to Brian McLaren
But this approach fails to realize how compromised those supposedly Christian roots are—by slavery and racism, for example. What Native American would like to go back to the nineteenth century? What African American would like to go back to the 1950’s? Dr. King used to say that the church must be neither the master of the state nor its servant, but rather its conscience.
If we seek to reinvigorate our churches but fail to be a prophetic voice in our nation, we miss an important opportunity. Or, put another way, if in ten years more of our churches are thriving and growing—but racism is intact and no less entrenched, will we be satisfied?
This is the kind of imperative I hear from some in the emergent conversation that give some hope and why I think practicing reconciliation matters. I wish others would pick on the truth that race matters.