I want to write a little more about my brief conversation with Andrew on Saturday night. I was telling him that it seems like I’m called to do something that most American emerging church folks have given up on; it seems like I’m called to stay within an established church and follow where Jesus is moving in a changing culture. I talked about Newberg Friends; about our wonderful people, our wonderfully varied people, and what’s felt lately like a God-given mandate to care for the people already in our community, while at the same time finding ways to get out of our Christian/relational bubble and share the hope-giving journey with Jesus with new people.
He said something like this: “Not everyone has given up on it. I haven’t given up on it. All people need a church community, and church can happen in all sorts of ways. It should happen in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of people. Just so they don’t have the expectation that they all come together in the same gathering.”
What I absolutely love about the Tall Skinny Kiwi is his ability to have a level head. He can be as cutting edge as they come, but he’s somehow avoided hip for hip’s sake, or change for change’s sake. His heart is for God’s people to be an open community of Jesus lovers, through whatever means possible. And in the above article, one of his first word pictures is seeing Jesus as a connoisseur of fine wine, not of new wineskins. Old fine wine needs old wineskins. New fine wine needs new wineskins.
One of our hallmarks for decades at Newberg Friends has been our blended worship style. All of our services are the same, intentionally, because we want to have one diverse community rather than several segmented homogenous groupings. A noble goal. One of the problems it creates, though, is forcing old wine into newer wineskins, and new wine into older wineskins. A lot gets spilled in the process.
My big question now is how do we move forward at NFC? I want to find a both/and, which again is a noble goal; but the reality is it’s probably a multiple choice test. Both/and is better than one size fits all, but it still can’t contain the plurality of culture around us. (And of course I know it’s not just about worship style; I’m just using this as an example.)
We probably move forward, to use Andrew’s metaphor, if we act more like turtles than skunks. Or better yet, as butterflies, finding ways to be undamaged by our fumbling attempts at community that never fit quite right, finding ways to still hope that we might connect as brothers and sisters in Christ…and finding ourselves moved by the presence of God to open up Jesus’ family to the ones who have never found a spiritual family.
And that’s all I have to say about that. (For tonight.)