Emergence and the Struggle for Power

I had a chance to listen to Phyllis Tickle give a sermon titled “Ancient Disciplines for the Church” at Mars Hill Bible Church (i.e., Rob Bell’s church). She reflected upon that about every 500 years there is a major change in the Christian Church. 500 years ago, we experienced the Protestant Reformation. 500 years before that, the Great Schism (East and West Church split). 500 years earlier, the Council of Chalcedon. 500 years before that, what she calls “the Great Transformation” — Jesus comes on the scene, followers of Judaism transform to followers of Jesus (which is obviously where this all started for the Christian Church). I think you get the picture. Phyllis Tickle continues to talk about how today we are experiencing the “Great Emergence.” Whenever a 500 year period passes and a new one comes on the scene, the old is not done away with, but the new is tacked on and removes some of the old skin (so to speak). For instance, Roman Catholicism was not done away with by the Protestant Reformation, but the Reformation removed some of the old skin that layered Christianity (such as the rethinking of the priesthood to “all Christians are priests,” etc.).

As I personally reflect on our past 500 years and look at the Great Emergence, I see that the Emergence is simply saying, “Let’s keep the good of the old, but we’ve gone too far with this, this, and this.” For instance, good ol’ Protestantism does not die here, but we say, “The emphasis of personal, spiritual growth is good, but we’ve gone too far in getting rid of anything we perceive to be ‘Roman’ such as images of any kind in church (some Protestants even have removed the image of the cross…yikes!).”

The question arises in my own mind, then why are people so afraid of the Emergence? Then it hit me – it ultimately comes down to power. Subconsciously, people are afraid that if the emerging church (or the emergents) get their way, we will no longer be in power, and they will be. Now, we all want control. Even emergents speak the same way about whatever has gone before them, “Well, if we fix this, this, and this, and we do such and such, and if we are leading the way, it will all get better.” Unfortunately, this all boils down to the “Us vs. Them” fiasco. Those who dislike the Emergence, deny its influence and condemn it, why?…because it’s a power struggle. Those who are part of the Emergence, poke fun at the old regime and deny its influence, why?…because it’s a power struggle. “If they are out and we are in, it will be perfect.”

The solution then is, I believe, to accept the good and the bad from both. Build off of the past 500 years, remove the bad, and add some good to it. We should not deny the influence of the Great Emergence (or that it exists…which it does). The Reformation brought a lot of good, right? And a lot of bad, too. But no Protestant is sitting there saying, “I wish that Reformation never happened because it has brought about a lot of baggage.” They are saying, “The Reformation brought some baggage, but also some good. Let’s get started!” Or now one is saying, “That pesky John Calvin! I wish he never existed.” They don’t because in many ways what we deem “bad” has made us a better, stronger church. For instance, particularly in the past 100 years, conservative Protestantism (if I may use that term) has fallen short by emphasizing the rescuing of “souls” so much that they neglected the social aspects of the gospel. On the other side of the spectrum, Emergence reminds us that one’s physical condition is important, but it must at times remember that so are “souls” (I don’t believe either would deny this things in word but often can by implication in deed). If we do so, we can become a stronger church.

Therefore, I conclude: we must put behind our “us vs. them” struggles–our power struggles–and we must accept the new Emergence as a chance to remove some of the old skin. Simultaneously, we must remember our past and the influence it has had on the world. Thus, by looking back, we can create a greater future for the Christian Church and its mission for the world.

You can listen to Phyllis Tickle’s talk on Mars Hills’ website here.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

[…] has a put up a reflection that starts with Phyllis Tickle, and continues by sharing his impressions of the emerging church […]

Pingback by » A late night reflection on emerging church, power, and conversation … »

[…] 34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50, 51,52, (then there is this?)    Phyllis Tickle on "The Great Emergence": […]

Pingback by Phyllis Tickle on “The Great Emergence”: Homebrewed Christianity ep.31 | Homebrewed Christianity

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: