02 May 2006

Turn, Turn, Turn ...

There was a book sitting out in a room where one might be inclined to read for a period of time. I was in this room, so I picked the book up and began to read. I always read every page. Even the forwards and acknowledgements and introductions of books. That did not used to be the case. I only began this habit as a senior in highschool. I was introduced to it by a very good friend. He and I were in an independent study together (philosophy). He did his reading very late at night taking long baths and he told me that the most important part of the book were those, in an incredulous voice, as if to say, "Doesn't everyone read every single morsel ... even the index?"

So I picked this particular book up, noting that LightHusband is already reading it by the many dogears (grrrr ... this makes me nuts), and began reading. The title of the book is Turning To Jesus: A Sociology of Conversion by Scot McKnight. I read long enough to read through the introduction. It's quite good, and I'll go on to finish it. But here's what it got me thinking about.

SMK says (and I hope you'll forgive my paraphrase of his introduction) that the differences between denominations, large and small, may be summed up in how they view the conversion experience. How each denomination forces people to summarize their own conversion experience. He says that conversion experiences are like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two are alike. I think fingerprints is a more apt analogy (and he doesn't use it ... that's mine) because our fingerprints are a way of identifying us. Our conversion experience becomes a part of us and none of us has quite the same story to tell, because we are all unique. Yet the denomination we grew up in (spiritually speaking) gave each of us a format to tell the story in and thus all of our stories became somewhat the same. I remember thinking that in my old church when someone got up to give their "testimony" ... that I could probably give it for them. I knew just when certain things were going to happen. It's pretty formulaic after a while. I had an epiphany as I read that introduction.

One of my big questions for the last several years has been that I'm unclear about why established church is so afraid of the emerging church, or emerging conversation or whatever it is that is happening. I'm not really a part of either. I'm not emerging, but I'm not a part of an established church. When I'm out on the blogs and see people in established churches go after emergent, I see fear at the root of what they are saying. And reading SMK's introduction gave me an epiphany.

The emerging conversation pays scant attention to the denominational boundaries, to conversion stories. There are few walls; no measurements about whether or not someone should be in or out, they are just welcomed. People are allowed to have individual conversion stories that have not become formulaic. The ancient denominational boundaries are ignored to a certain extent, especially those between the Protestant, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. In fact, some of those ancient practices are being explored. I'm not sure why, but for some reason all of this is leaves the established church without it's footings.
Feeling lost.

We have such a rich heritage from the last 2000 years. It seems sad that people are afraid to fully explore and engage it.


Blogger kate said...

I'm interested in your statement that you're not emerging. I'm not saying you are, mind you. I'm not even sure what it means to be emerging, if it's not defined by going to an emergent (emerging?) church. How do you define it?

5/02/2006 04:38:00 PM  

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