I regularly read Scot McKnight’s blog, and this past week he profiled some discussion about the closure of Axis, an age-specific worship gathering within Willow Creek, the famous first megachurch in Chicagoland. This ministry began while I was a student in Chicago, and I remember friends talking a great deal about it. I also new people who became leaders within this ministry.
There was a link to another blog entry discussing Willow’s decision to end Axis that Scot deemed a “must read.” So I went to it and found an interesting discussion by Dan Kimball about how existing churches, with set worship, mission, and leadership cultures, do or do not embrace the needs and desires of the “emerging” generation.
What struck me in the entry was an assumption that makes what I am a part of seem absurd. The assumption is that worship and mission and fellowship should be aligned with whatever current trends are in culture and are in fact most “missional” when they do this.
If this is true then Church of the Redeemer is missionally impotent.
The author assumes that the best way for churches to embrace differences, be they cultural, generational, stylistic, is to encourage the birthing of new worship gatherings to cater to them. With this assumption, then, his biggest complaint is against the leadership of the pre-existing churches that seek to maintain control and only allow for independence or change that is cosmetic at best.
Dan Kimball writes:
“However, when launching a new worship gathering in an existing church, the question is – are the changes occurring out there, mainly generational (music style, appearance, language) which changes every generation? Or are the changes bigger than that in worldview(s) and more about how people learn, specific values people have, how people think of God and the spiritual world etc.”
He obviously believes that for him and his peers, the latter is true. That is why he left a “mother church” situation to start a new ministry altogether.
I guess what struck me in reading his post is that we believe we are missional at Church of the Redeemer precisely because we are doing the opposite of this. And I guess I knew we were a little strange, but I am realizing more and more that our vision for mission which demands each of us to relinquish our “right” to those things that divide (“how people learn, specific values people have, how people think of God and the spiritual world etc.” — just sit in for five minutes of one of our board meetings and you will know what I am talking about!) for the sake of another is more foreign than even I figured.
I don’t know a thing about Dan Kimball and I am certainly not judging him or his ministry (again, I know nothing about either) but I am wondering if the “emergent church” that he represents is not embracing yet another outpouring of the spirit of homogenous church growth principles. And maybe they are okay with that–again, I am not sure.
I’ll have to do some more reading…when the nap gods smile upon me again soon.