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Q & R: does emergence always lead to people getting offended, betraying each other, etc?

Here's the Q:

Having read some of your books a few years back and watching the emerging movement a bit, where do things go (i see this myself in my church community):

People get emerging awareness, see a plurality of ideas and directions in a postmodern setting in the church. They rethink authority, etc. The very foundations, authority, mission, identity and direction a church community are questioned. This causes division, disagreement and eventually a split. People see and live different versions of the gospel together (in the same place and same), but can't quite see and come together as before. There is inter-generational strife. People get offended and betray one another. You end up looking life a divorced, dysfunction church family that is no better than the world.

Have you seen things like this? I live in it. In your books, you alluded to some post post-modern that we really don't know what it would look like, how things would emerge. Any further insight into this?

Here's the R:


Great question.

I often use a diagram I adapted from Andrew Jones (tallskinnykiwi) that depicts a "big" existing paradigm and some distance away, a smaller "new" emerging paradigm. In between is a bridge. The first part of that bridge is the early transition period - and that's what you're describing. It's full of conflict because those who are dissatisfied with the existing paradigm tend to criticize it, and those who love the existing paradigm (or can't imagine a better one) defend it ... attack and defense is pretty much a recipe for dysfunction.

Eventually, some folks get tired of criticizing the old paradigm, and they start investing in research and development for the new paradigm. They realize that for the old paradigm folks, "the old is good enough," so neither new wine nor new wineskins are needed. Why bother them? They also realize that they will never get a) permission, b) encouragement, or c) funding from the old paradigm folks ... so they let go of their expectations and try to humbly and creatively get on with what needs to be done.

Of course, some (not all) of the old paradigm folks continue to criticize the late-transition emerging paradigm folks - because they seem to the old-paradigmers to be betraying the old ways, and they may even pose a threat to the future survival of their old-paradigm institutions if the younger generation finds the new paradigm more appealing. Others, though, wish the new paradigm R&D folks well, if only secretly, because they see that the old paradigm isn't working so well - that the old ship has sprung some leaks.

The key to avoiding offense, betrayal, strife, etc., is very simple, and very hard. It's 1 Corinthians 13. Those who practice 1 Cor. 13 throughout the process will not find their path easy ... but they will at least not be toxifying the world with more spitefulness and venom. My personal belief is that God calls many to keep the old paradigm going - and to tweak it and work for incremental improvements. They practice 1 Cor. 13 as conservatives. I also believe God calls others to build the new paradigm ... to dream and imagine what's needed for the future. They practice 1 Cor. 13 as progressives (problematic terms, I know). My point is that both groups can practice 1 Cor 13 ... and both groups, if they're not careful, can practice Galatians 5:13-15.

I hope that helps. My prayer is that more and more of us will - whether we're old paradigm loyalists or new paradigm creatives - decide to practice 1 Corinthians 13. It is the more excellent way.

And also the more costly and painful and humbling way. But way better.

Paul was a new paradigm creative guy in his time, constantly criticized and threatened by those who found his wild new ideas threatening to all they held dear. He understood them, of course, because he had been one of them before his Damascus Road experience. Because he understood them, he didn't fear them and didn't capitulate to them. And because he understood them, he loved them. Although he paused occasionally to defend himself (2 Cor. and Galatians, for example), and although he employed strong language on occasion (e.g. Gal 5:11-12), he didn't go out of his way to attack them. He just wanted to be sure the new paradigm got a fair hearing because he knew it was about "Christ in you, the hope of glory."