Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Behold, I am making all things stale and boring

After reading a bunch of Emergent Church type blogs this morning I realized almost no one is saying anything new. Not only does this make blog reading boring and pointless, but it gets a little irritating.

The blogs I read through are supposed to be the big thinkers for the emergent movement. These are the guys and girls that are supposed to be thinking outside of the box. But it seems like everyone got out of the box a few years ago and now everyone is trying to huddle together in a mass of "sameness."

And maybe I am just frustrated because I am a young American who always craves the next new thing. And that is definitely an issue many of us have. Its funny to read some of these blogs though and see people write as if their thought is a new one. In truth, its what people have been saying for at least 10 years if not more. I don't know. Maybe I am just being a punk here.

I guess I search the faces of the blogs to find some new insight and new inspiration. Then I get disappointed as the same old rants are still being posted. Has anyone else noticed this?

Lets see, we have some of the same formulas for most Emergent Church blog posts:
1. The Geopolitical expert who rants against war
2. The response to a published critique of the Emergent Church
3. The social justice savior who like most Miss Americas "Wants to end poverty and bring peace on earth."
4. The punk who is a part of the Emergent Church, gets annoyed with it, and critiques the crap out of it (like this blog post)
5. The "Hey I have a new thought" post that has been written about for years already.
6. The "I am really tied to historical spirituality" post which gently reveals how spiritual and ecumenical I am as a post-modern dude.
7. The insider-lingo post that weaves together words like incarnational, organic, cohort, missional, indigenous, post-(whatever the hell you want to be better than), community, etc. into a terrible cacophony of coolness.
8. The moderate political post that refuses to be pigeon-holed into either the liberal or conservative camps but instead, like a buddhist monk, "transcends" all political parties and labels in general.

I know these so well because these are what make up the majority of my sad excuse for a blog. I just wonder if anyone else is tired of reading the same old stuff on blogs that are supposed to be from folks on the leading edge of the church.


At 9:47 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

I think things only seem new when you are about 4 years behind on the times. The rest of the time, when we are caught up, it all seems rather boring and bland. Such is life I think.

At 2:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is an issue of fruit. If someone is actively working to end war in the world, then I would be a lot quicker to give them space for a geopolitical rant. If the use of such emergent buzzwords is part and parcel to someone self-deconstructing their previous concepts, sure, okay...

I think it comes down to whether those thoughts and concepts floating around really have a formative impact...or whether they stay within the realm of theoretical nice ideas.

At 4:23 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Thanks for your thoughts. Please post with a name next time.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger tali said...

"post-(whatever the hell you want to be better than)"

::cackling madly::

seriously, mark, i almost fell of my chair laughing.

true on all counts. what are you going to do about it?

At 10:18 PM, Blogger CMD said...

9. Sarcastic and self-depricating posts about the ills of emergent bloggers


At 8:36 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, I tried to include that post in on the list. I think its number 4.

Certainly number 9 works as well. :)

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I hear ya, man! I am right there with you... frankly, this whole past year, I have felt that. It's time to just "be the church" - not the postmodern one, the emergent one, the incarnational one, the traditional one, the liberal or conservative one. Just be the church. Likewise, if I hear "connect" - "community" - "accountability" - again, well... I guess I'd just grin and bear it, but even those terms wear thin. I think there gets a point where the same conversation is taking place, over, and over, and over again. Change the subject, but beneath the surface, it's really the same. Excuse me while I get pentecostal on us, but we need a filling of the Holy Spirit. We need newness, and that which only comes from God Himself... not the same old conversation... the same old cistern.

End of sermon.

For now... :)

At 3:09 PM, Blogger tali said...

and behold the Lord said unto Man "go this way." and eagerly did Man go that way. infact, so eagerly did Man go that that way that he left the Lord in the dust.

"um, Lord? where art thou, Lord?"

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe part of the problem is that this whole emergent thing defines itself (in most cases) as a "conversation". Well, a conversation can only go on so long before everyone is saying the same thing. When do we stop talking about the church and be the church? When does this thing actually emerge?

At 4:36 PM, Blogger Greg Garvin said...

"maybe I am just frustrated because I am a young American who always craves the next new thing."
I'm with you. If we could only direct that energy to understanding God and each other ...

At 6:18 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

I'm with anonymous. Say whatever you want as long as you actually do what your talking about. Otherwise, don't talk so much.

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilarious! I'm linking to this on my blog.

At 12:59 AM, Blogger Michael said...

OK, I hate to use your blog as an ad, but I really think you would find some of the comics over at addisonrd.com funny. Take a look at "Brian McLaren and Nordic Jesus". It's totally post. Whatever.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger myleswerntz said...

good thoughts. i've seen the same thing, and though never really associated with the whole thing except as a curious outsider, this is indicative of our whole generation. you have to ultimately start somewhere and say something, and then seek to dialogue--not the other way around.

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Featured on SmartChristian Blog. Andy

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Mike said...

I think, Mark, that you are calling for as new new-next-thing church. I have already suggested the "Detergent Church" on my blog, but I think there are many others that might emerge from the emergent emergence. Such as,

1. The Post-Emergent Church (self-explanatory)
2. The Submerging Church (for mainline denominations)
3. The Converging Church (a lot like the Emerging Church, but in later stages of development)
4. The Divergent Church (wait: that was the Reformation, I think)
5. The Regurgent Church (for people who are sick of . . .)

You get the idea. There may, of course, be others . . .

At 9:23 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

Maybe Mark's just moving towards nirvana, identified by Andrew Jones as the Post-Emergent Church.


Post-Emerging Church?

Who is worthy of saying such a thing? One of the hot conversations right now is the idea of the Post-Emerging Church.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Who can ascend the post-emerging church hill? Not he who has from a helicopter dropped, young Lotus. Nor he whose ascent has through books and conferences been. Only they who through the valley of emergence have walked, stage by stage, the lessons of God learning.

Gen-X Church - Those who through the Valley of the Gottee journey have walked, they have heard God in the minor chord. Sensed they have, his voice in the distortion. Fallen as the leaves of autumn, is the folly of unchanged church.

Postmodern Church - Those who through the Valley of Otherness trod, they have seen exposed the abuse of Pharisees. Softer, they walk. Humble and meek, they become. No longer haughty. Crucified. They see the Other. The bruised reed in the gentle hands of the Master they are.

Emergent Church - Those who through the valley of emergence walk, have seen the Way of the Ant. It has no hierarchical leader and yet organized it is, efficient its resources, wise its investment, constant its feedback. No large investment does it require. Such a church is no longer foreign, no longer rich, no longer a church only for professionals. Organic, it is. Spread it will, like slime mold. Shoot its roots into dark places, it will, like rhizomes.

Post-Emergent Church - Few there are, that sit on this hill. None there are, without scars. A deep ecclesiology they hold, convergence is their view. Talk about models and structures they do not. Recognized, they are, by those who walk in their path.

Beware, the Big Man who has a shortcut found, who breath and composure still has. Who limps not. Beware the Big Church without compassion or children. For colonize and cannibalize it will. The wise man and wise women you must seek. For grey hair, travel. By their love, you will know them. Tears they have shed, poverty in spirit has been theirs. Unity of the one body, they strive for.

At 6:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow - that last thought in the comments is really hard to read - i had to squint my eyes at the computer screen and tweak my mind around in my head to understand it . .. and i was the one who originally wrote it (but it was written tongue in cheek).

Mark - you are right and wrong.

Right, in that there is really nothing going on that is really new. I can track most emerging church phenomena back to 1968. Those who seek the new thing will be disappointed in us because WE are stale and boring and our blogs are a reflection of our lives.

Wrong, in that the Jesus we introduce to people's lives is never stale and boring . . . far from it . . and when enters people's lives and their communities, he introduces chaos and repentance and whirlwinds and tornados and healing and whispers of love and grace and acceptance and the wild challenge of a new and exciting quest that aligns all purposes and aggregates all dreams.

And it is this story of transformed lives that is exciting and never stale or boring and i am grateful that these stories are happening in emerging churches and in traditional churches and also in places not labelled as church at all.

Love your post. Keep blogging how you see it.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Exile said...

Mark, is it possible that most of our problems originate in our obsession with the "box". Living in it, getting out of it,...transcending it, re-painting it..on and on it goes. If God was to give man-kind an endless field, our first order of business would be to put up a fence. Then we would force everyone else to pick a side, "are U in or out?".
Often our dis-illusionment after leaving the box, is simply that you are trying to be soooo diffrent from those inside the box.. THERE ISN'T SUPPOSED TO BE A STINKIN' BOX!
Inside the fence, or outside the fence...in the end there is still ground that you cannot walk on.

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Thank you all for your comments.

I especially appreciate the irony of having Clay say that people should talk less. :)

It is a special treat to have Andrew Jones visit. Thanks for your thoughts.

At 10:18 AM, Blogger Rob said...


Found this post via the Tall Skinny Kiwi. Hilarious!

Although I might add that as new people get burnt or thrown out of their churches, they may need to discuss the same things that others have processed three, four, ten years ago. We need to appreciate where they're at on their own journey, and if that means repeating ourselves for the sake of newcomers, so be it.

I agree that blogs are becoming curiously uniform in recent days, but as long as newcomers drop by my blog asking the same questions, the pastor in me will always make space for them.

At 1:22 PM, Blogger timsamoff said...

I think one of the catalysts of sameness is comfortablity... When the EC movement began (at least, as I have read it began), everyone was rebelling against what their "norms" were. Now, with all of their churches functioning as "normal," there is nothing to rebel against anymore...

The problem with this is, the majority of the world is still on the verge of change. And those who once sought to change the world, became complacent in the fact that they changed their church surroundings -- and forgot about the world.

In turn, a new box has been created... I'm interested to see who are going to be the ones who break out and rebel against the EC!

But I still see promice in the EC... Some of us are still thinking globally (or, at least, trying to). :)

At 3:23 PM, Blogger Tom said...

Your post is sparking some good conversation here in the mid-west. You even got me to say "amen" again. Kudos.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger clay carver said...

the kiwi said:
"wow - that last thought in the comments is really hard to read - i had to squint my eyes at the computer screen and tweak my mind around in my head to understand it . .. and i was the one who originally wrote it (but it was written tongue in cheek)."

No way, man. These bloggers need a lot more tongue in cheek coolness and less incarnational, organic, cohort, missional, indigenous, post-(whatever the hell you want to be better than), community, etc. coolness. Keep me squinting.

Mark wrote:
"I especially appreciate the irony of having Clay say that people should talk less. :)"

Bite me. And what is Missy groping for in that picture?

At 2:58 AM, Blogger Darren said...

Good post and a topic I've written on from time to time.

I personally read a lot less blogs on the topic of Emerging Church (and have written on the topic myself less) these days for a combination of reasons:

1. I have less time
2. a little frustration (similar to yours) of an insular group talking about the same stuff
3. perhaps less need to keep talking and a desire to start doing more
4. I've felt a nudging from God to get involved in the wider blogging community and be a little more outward focused in my blogging.

Having said this - I still value EC blogs (despite them sometimes going in circles a bit). The reason I value them is on a number of fronts:

1. They are often written by people early on in their EC journey and are a thinking out loud, learning experience - testing ideas, learning from each other, experimenting with theories and even testing them in practice. This is vital for their own personal walk and the communities that they are a part of.

2. They are part of an important dialogue in the wider church. Whilst you and I may have heard all the arguments, been convinced (or not convinced) and perhaps are thirsting for something new - so many others have not. I spent a day today with 100 or so church people, many of whom have not heard of the EC movement (is that what it is) and who were incredibly stimulated and moved by what they heard about some very very basic Emerging Church thought from one of the EC Bloggers that many look to as quite prominent. I didn't hear anything new (although it did remind me of a few things that I'd pushed aside) but the basics were rich for most in the room. I wonder if this is true for the EC blogging community also which I believe plays an important role in awakening a conversation that needs to happen in the wider church today.

3. I also have been challenged recently by the idea of 'new' and our need for it in society. You write no one writes anything 'new' - I wonder if anyone ever did. Most conversations in all areas of the church today are reshapings of previous conversations.

I can't remember where I heard this - but in a book I've read in the last year or two I was challenged to think about the growing need that western culture has for 'new things' or 'novelty'. In previous generations and centuries the main 'needs' were for food, shelter, relationship etc. Today we live in a world where we 'need' new things. The latest gadget, car, book, idea, theory, paradigm etc. Whilst I don't have anything against new things - I wonder how healthy this obsession is with new/novelty and whether the church buys into it.

I too thirst for a new conversation - but perhaps God's calling us into an ancient discussion. I don't know - maybe I'm wrong - but I'm going to sit with that for a while.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not having a go at you Mark - I resonate with your post - but I guess I'm also seeing the value in the EC blogging scene.

Lastly I'll point you to an interesting post by Anil Dash - one of the people behind the MovableType and Typepad blogging systems who wrote an interesting piece on the blogging cycle and some of the observations that he's made about a variety of blogging communities. Perhaps what you're describing is part of one of the steps that he writes about.

Anyway, I've raved on for long enough...hope this is helpful to someone

At 6:12 AM, Blogger Rob said...

The #1 article that is read and re-read on my blog is Detoxing From Church. As Darren just pointed out, there are many people just entering the conversation that find some of our "old" pieces really helpful.

As long as that keeps happening, I'll leave my ancient writings online. And I'll try not to be stale or boring!

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Good thoughts one and all. Thanks for all of you visiting my blog. I feel a bit like an unprepared host of a small house party. Feel free to come back any time.

At 10:59 PM, Blogger Luke Chan said...

Dear Mark,

I must admit I have been much blessed as I put to use truths, ideas, revelations in my attempt to actually try to see community being formed - authentic, transfomational and missional. I see lifes being changed in the context of such relationships. Maybe it is time for us to start sharing real life stories of the fruits of our orthopraxis of our orthodoxies [ of our actions from our belief ].Peace.

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Mark said...

I love that idea. I love the idea of bloggers sharing stories of transformation from their communities. That would totally inspire me to follow after Christ in a more deeply committed way. Thanks for your suggestion.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger John Schroeder said...

Excellent comments and interesting post. I have linked to it here

At 3:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your onto something

At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last a blog somewhere in the blogasphere that is getting to the truth of the issue! I think I've read over 30 emergent church type books and countless blogs and they all seem to be just saying the same thing... How people who are disillusioned with modernist churches are forming their own communities which (if truth be known) are formed around just as elitist/exculsivist cultures as the 'evil institutional churches' from where they fled. But worse, these new liquid churches have no permanence in relationships, community, narrative or outward missional commitment. Just a therapeutic self-centred feeding of the personal needs for the "I'm too cool to hang out with older people" Christian. Thanks for the blog Darren. I think you are getting to the point. We are just going round in circles and need Christians older and different to us if we are to be truely formed as followers of Jesus.

At 7:05 PM, Blogger amy sarah said...

Well, why don't I just add to the long list of comments! :) I here ya! What grieves me is that I'm finding it rare to read any school of thought where Jesus is the focus! Not how to "do" church or worship or prayer...but simply beholding HIM.

At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post. You are right, I think. Most of the stuff it old mainlaine theology that was rejected by the evangelical church as liberal 30 years ago. INcarnational is a very catholic (small c) understanding of the faith. It is nice to see it being embraced by a fraction of the church. Faith is a process and a journey and I guess ec is a part of the journey for some. I am with you, much is boring and waht is copied is often poorly imitated.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Garth said...

You could also add lingo like the word 'resonate'.

I think one reason for the 'same old, same old' is due to the fact that Christians are great learners not thinkers. We love to buy commentaries and christian books. Its a learning culture, a book culture, reinforced by the emphasis on teaching and conferences. Consequently the same ideas are shared around.

Another point that I wonder is whether too many actually clue into what God is saying. And finally do we move out of theoretical Christianity and theoretical emergence and do the stuff that Jesus was so characterised by in the lives of people. Meeting human need, showing others what God really looks like rather than splitting hairs on what a service should look like.

At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, stale and getting staler with Brian Mclaren still leading the way in this direction...Is it just me or are these EC bloggers all starting to sound like they're all saying: "ME! URGENT!"

At 5:38 PM, Blogger JQ said...

I just recently stumbled upon the Emerging Church "conversation." Many of the Emergent ideas in terms of emphasis on relationship and community are ones that I wholeheartedly agree with (though having come by them through a different path). The problem with the Emergent Church as I see it, though, is this: in Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us to "fix our eyes on Jesus," but the tendency of the Emergents is to fix their eyes on...the Emergent Church. Stare at the mirror (or your belly button) long enough and the view will get "stale and boring."

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At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you one hundred percent but I wonder if it is because we are all searching for the next big thing too hard- we flit from one emerging post to the next. We look for the new and neglect the ancient, therefore our spirituality reflects our superficial pick and mix society.

I just fear that the whole concept of emerging church is flawed because it does not take seriously what the church has always been- a community of followers made one in Jesus the messiah. I think we are searching to follow Jesus just as the church of modernity did, just as the medieval church did, just as the pre-modern church did. We are only better or worse than them in so much as our actions reflect those of Jesus more truly.

Perhaps, the future is not in ancient-future faith, discovering the shape of a post-modern spirituality, not even in discovering a way of sustaining faith in this age, but rather in recovering a radical sense of vocation (catholic, evangelical, mainline, emergent) to Jesus Christ who bids us come and die.

I want to thank Andrew Jones for his comment- 'it is this story of transformed lives that is exciting and never stale or boring and i am grateful that these stories are happening in emerging churches and in traditional churches and also in places not labelled as church at all.'

I want to leave you with one observation- the emerging church was about expanding our imaginations about the form and shape of church why then does it seem to me now to just be about one amongst many hierachical conversations often intolerant of criticism and difference which it largely ignores or relfects back at its critic?

Surely, if we are seeking to follow Jesus together regardless of labels we should be saying brother/sister come let us think about how we might overcome this problem and learn to reflect Jesus more truly.


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