Many new voices are on the horizon claiming to be the wave of the future. That’s both exciting and a bit scary. Let me mention a few of the leading contenders – The Incarnational Movement, The Emergent Movement, The House Church Movement, The Emerging Church Movement, The Outward-Focused Church Movement, The Revolution Argument – I could go on. All of these, and many more, suggest they may be, or are, the wave of the future.
However, I doubt if there is one wave of the future. I think the emerging world will have multiple waves. The real issue will be how far can these waves go and still be considered part of the Christian fold? This question must be asked honestly without any judgment attached to it. The future will require a very open, honest, humble dialogue between these waves or else the church sea will become very turbulent.
So, before you buy into any of these new voices, consider the following: Is this voice a new interpretation of the Canon or a deviation from the Canon? Is it a call back to first century Christianity or a call to embrace a new version of Christianity?
One of the subtle issues of our time is the slim difference between offering a version of the Good News that can be communicated to a new world or culture and a new version of the Good News under the guise of the need for a new way to communicate in a new world.
This is why our (Easum, Bandy & Associates) mission is to ‘guide Christian leaders for ancient mission in the contemporary world.” We want to be able to communicate the ancient mission in ways it can be understood and appropriated into the new world – but we do not want to change or add to the Good News in any way. It is one thing to communicate the ancient mission in a way the contemporary world can respond to it; it is a far different thing to construct a new version of the old to fit the values of the contemporary world.
I’m afraid some of the pastors I’ve met are too prone to jump into new waves of thinking without knowing how deep the water is or what direction the current will take them.
The real issue today is akin to that during the first three centuries – what is acceptable doctrine and interpretation and what isn’t. What should be included in the Cannon and what shouldn’t be. And the key question of our time – is there room for more Scripture? We don’t think there is.
What has this to do with leadership?
Ours is a world of situational values. No way to avoid it. Leaders must find a way to communicate the Good News in such a world, but leaders must not succumb to the temptation of adapting or adding to the Good News to fit the culture.
It’s not an easy time to be a Christian leader today. We want so desperately to communicate with the emerging world, that it is often tempting to accommodate the Good News to fit the values of our culture. But to do that is to prostitute the Good News.
Many of us have major, haunting questions today about the validity of Christianity and the institutional church as we see it being played out (notice I didn’t say lived out). I know I do. I know something is really wrong with the vast majority of existing churches. But that has nothing to do with the ancient mission or message.
The problem isn’t with the inspiration or amount of Scripture; the problem is with us and our churches. Most of them are clubs rather than churches. We are often too easily led astray by the new. In our desire to connect or answer our unanswered questions we grope for another interpretation of the old and wind up with something different from the ancient mission or message. We simply cannot afford to make that mistake. We can’t be seduced by the new.
So be wise in the changes you make in the way you conduct your mission. Be humble in your critique of what people poking around on the fringes of Christianity might be saying. They could be the next Martin Luther; or they could be…
So heed the Scripture’s warning to “test the spirits” because we live in an exciting and dangerous time.
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