Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A time to listen to the Emerging Church

Yesterday I posted about the post-modern confusion, as well as the difficulties in a language that refuses to exist in a definitive, digestable way. Today, I link to Tony Jones' report from the Emergent-US recent gathering of leaders.

Among those gathering is someone I know much more about: Todd Hunter. Todd was previously a church planter, pastor, and eventually president of Association of Vineyard Churches USA. He is currently the president of Alpha USA. He was John Wimber's go-to-guy for many years, and much of Vineyard's plan of operation today comes from Hunter's vision in the wake of Wimber's death.

It's probably very wrong for me to put words in Hunter's mouth, but there is no possible way Hunter can be described as a post-modernist -- no more so than Wimber could. Wimber spoke much of a need for a paradigm shift to a more Eastern worldview. The argument he made was Christanity was an Eastern religion, and much of our Western/modernistic thinking could be a hinderance to faith. This was not a statement in favor of anti-intellectualism or relativism (or pantheism, as some charged). It was simply noting the very real difficulty of many Westerners to receive the miraculous of God without explaining it away. The power -- the dunamos! -- of God runs counterpoint to the Western construct ("at the heart of matter is matter, not an idea"). When it came down to it, though, Wimber was and Hunter is thoroughly Evangelical, moderates in the Reformed camp.

I've had minimal contact with Hunter, but I've always known him as a man with a huge heart for young people. Reaching them is his burning passion, and he left the highest position in the church of his youth to pursue it. He is a practical man with a no-nonsense approach to his faith. After the failed attempt at correction of the Toronto church and the release of that church that followed, Wimber felt the Vineyard was moving too close to the edge of orthopraxy (or at least that was message delivered to pastors, if not the media). He felt the need to return the organization's churches closer to its Evangelical roots. He called on Hunter to complete that mission. Hunter turned the Vineyard in a new direction, focusing on more evangelism -- particularly to youth. The message was, if God was indeed renewing us, the fruit of the renewal would be a renewed heart for service and delivering the Gospel to the world. It was a catalyzing move that I feel healed that organization.

Todd is a man of action, someone who doesn't want to wait around for the Church at large. He's going to lead by example, follow where he feels God is calling him, regardless of his critics or the consequences to his professional career. If Hunter is among those leading the Emerging Churches of the U.S., you should have at least a little bit of faith someone is speaking in grounded, modernist terms. I heard through a common association among the topics of discussion at this gathering was a need to state in plain terms the plain Gospel, the need to draw distinctions between their modern beliefs and their post-modern goals. I'm pretty confident I know who was leading that charge, too.

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