- Everybody lives by a script. The script may be implicit or explicit. It may be recognized or unrecognized, but everybody has a script.
- We get scripted. All of us get scripted through the process of nurture and formation and socialization, and it happens to us without our knowing it.
- The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.
- That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.
- That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy. We may be the unhappiest society in the world.
- Health for our society depends upon disengagement from and relinquishment of that script of military consumerism. This is a disengagement and relinquishment that we mostly resist and about which we are profoundly ambiguous.
- It is the task of ministry to de-script that script among us. That is, too enable persons to relinquish a world that no longer exists and indeed never did exist.
- The task of de-scripting, relinquishment and disengagement is accomplished by a steady, patient, intentional articulation of an alternative script that we say can make us happy and make us safe.
- The alternative script is rooted in the Bible and is enacted through the tradition of the Church. It is an offer of a counter-narrative, counter to the script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.
- That alternative script has as its most distinctive feature, its key character – the God of the Bible whom we name as Father, Son, and Spirit.
- That script is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. It is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent. Partly it is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because it has been crafted over time by many committees. But it is also ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because the key character is illusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness, and, I’m embarrassed to say, in violence – [a] huge problem for us.
- The ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless. [I think the writer of Psalm 119 would probably like too try, to make it seamless]. Because when we do that the script gets flattened and domesticated. [This is my polemic against systematic theology]. The script gets flattened and domesticated and it becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism. Whereas the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism is all about certitude, privilege, and entitlement this counter-script is not about certitude, privilege, and entitlement. Thus care must betaken to let this script be what it is, which entails letting God be God’s irascible self.
- The ragged, disjunctive character of the counter-script to which we testify invites its adherents to quarrel among themselves – liberals and conservatives – in ways that detract from the main claims of the script and so too debilitate the focus of the script.
- The entry point into the counter-script is baptism. Whereby we say in the old liturgies, “do you renounce the dominant script?”
- The nurture, formation, and socialization into the counter-script with this illusive, irascible character is the work of ministry. We do that work of nurture, formation, and socialization by the practices of preaching, liturgy, education, social action, spirituality, and neighboring of all kinds.
- Most of us are ambiguous about the script; those with whom we minister and I dare say, those of us who minister. Most of us are not at the deepest places wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script. Most of us in the deep places are vacillating and mumbling in ambivalence.
- This ambivalence between scripts is precisely the primary venue for the Spirit. So that ministry is to name and enhance the ambivalence that liberals and conservatives have in common that puts people in crisis and consequently that invokes resistance and hostility.
- Ministry is to manage that ambivalence that is crucially present among liberals and conservatives in generative faithful ways in order to permit relinquishment of [the] old script and embrace of the new script.
- The work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one [see if that’s an overstatement]; there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence and too manage a way through it. I think often; I see the mundane day-to-day stuff ministers have to do and I think, my God, what would happen if you talk all the ministers out. The role of ministry then is as urgent as it is wondrous and difficult.
The seminar this weekend with Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke was excellent. Steve was just as impressive as Brian, and the whole conversation was useful and challenging. Here are some of the soundbites that stuck with me:
“In a post-modern theological setting, our dialog partners are no longer Christians.” -Brian McLaren
“As in art, poetry, music, etc., the best theology is worked out in pain” – Steve Chalke
“Sin is best understood as an infection rather than an infraction” -BM
“In an intelligent church, our Christology shapes our missiology, which shapes our ecclesiology” -SC
“A church is best defined as a dynamic set of ongoing social and spiritual relationships centered on Christ… everything else is cultural baggage.” -SC
“Our task is to create, model and encourage new ways of doing and being church at the heart of every community.” -SC
(in speaking of the Kingdom of God and the deliverance it brings) “We are saved FROM sin, not just from punishment” -BM
“We exist to bring God’s Kingdom, his Shalom, to these people.” -SC
“The greatest danger, and compromise in the church is to hide away and entertain ourselves to death” -SC
“We need to develop a culture among us where we can experiment and fail.” -SC
“There are two synergistic ways to bring about productive change in our churches: planting new churches that innovate to meet the immediate need, and renewing (or reconceiving) existing church that imitate.” -BM
“Let’s hope that churches on all levels and from all backgrounds are successful.” -BM
“I think mega-churches have a bright future, but it is a difficult future.” -BM
“God may not be a universalist, but we should all wish he was.” -SC
“I am not asking the question of who is in and who is out, I am asking the question of how can the Kingdom of God come to earth.” -BM
**quotes may not be verbatum**
I opened up my email today and found the weekly newsletter from Emergent Village to be particularly relevant to where we are as a gathering in our formative stages.
People are drowning in the world—they are rethinking Jesus and church and Christianity and ministry, and they think they are all alone. People are ready to give up on faith and ministry and church. Then, one day, they find a blog or read a book or show up at an event, and they say, “Omigosh! I thought I was all alone. I thought I was the only one feeling these things, and now I find there’s a whole host of people asking the same questions as I am!”
I can’t help but wonder how many more people are out there, about to give up on ministry or even on faith…? Or how many people will never give Jesus a chance because they’re convinced that Christ-followers are a bunch of closed-minded ideologues…?
Those questions reconfirm to me the importance of the Emergent Village friendship, and the necessity of keeping that friendship open into the future—really, into God’s future.
I keep hearing similar sentiments from those of us already engaging this conversation. We have been burned by what church has become and hoping there is something more. This is why I am convinced of the importance of getting several of us together to continue discussion.
Have you ever tried to explain the emerging church to someone who has had no exposure to it what so ever? I found myself in that situation not to long ago and I kept stumbling over how to describe this “conversation.” In one of Emergent Village’s podcast (I think it was from the 2004 Theological Convention), one of the participants jokingly referred to the emerging church as having connections to gnosticism because it was one of those things that you can’t describe it until you are a part of it.
Well anyway, I have found the best way to discuss the emerging church is by walking through a few descriptive terms and what they mean for this conversation. Here is a list I have compiled. Feel free to add your own words or comments:
- Narrative driven
- Engages culture