OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.
Without commenting specifically on the 9Marks critiques, I’m wondering if critics are missing the panoptic picture of “emergence” – that of a broad, diffuse, rapidly growing, self-organizing ecclesial phenomenon born of the Internet. Critics nearly always try to evaluate the “emerging movement” as (1) a hierarchy of leadership, and (2) some perceived collection of core epistemology. From these perspectives, it’s no wonder one critic said “defining the emerging church is like nailing Jello to a wall.”
Emergence looks nothing like a top-down organization, and everything like a spontaneous consequence of God’s image reflected in vastly accelerated ecclesial interaction - facilitated by the microprocessor.
By vastly accelerated, I mean that the influence of virtual “ecclesial dialogue” is growing in parallel with the Internet itself. When Sergey’s and Larry’s first home page went up, they had logged something like 100 million web pages. Last year, when Google stopped listing their logging data, the number was nearly 10 billion. That’s a 100-fold increase in just six years. And the rate of change is increasing. Less than 15% of world population currently uses the Internet, and far fewer use it for social networking. As goes the Internet, so goes emergence.
Stacy says “if i were writing a screenplay about this story, i would have to cast the evangelical-powers-that-be as the political incumbents afraid of change…’church’ is still big business and it sure sounds like the old establishment is afraid of loosing head count in the market share game.”
I think there’s a bit of truth to Stacy’s observation. The keepers of religion historically fight against structural changes, arguing against the “disruptive influence” of new techno-cultural tools. Such dialogue is healthy. But ultimately, tools change – and often in unexpected and paradigm-busting ways. I believe we’re seeing the sunrise on just such a day.
To the annoyance of some evangelical critics, the emerging movement is not a hierarchy, and there’s no possible way that a traditional / vertical religious hierarchy could emerge, lest it becomes the “emerged” church. The EM isn’t a new theology. It isn’t a new franchise church plant (Emergent Village notwithstanding). The EM is simply a growing community of Christ-followers sharing their faith, concerns, questions, challenges, failings, dreams, prayers, and visions via emerging virtual networking. The EM is a model of new ecclesia; an example of how local church can be horizontally transformed by global dialogue; an example of how local church gets connected as a dynamic member of the global Church.
This global cyber-phenomenon has never happened on an instantaneous, un-moderated, egalitarian level. We’re witnessing the birth of a new ecclesial revolution in which age-old sectarian boundaries are becoming irrelevant - being replaced by a real-time congruency of global and local community born of unrestricted virtual interaction. The microprocessor is shrinking the literate world into a single village. John L