Aimless Wandering and Pointless Stagnation

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A good friend is a little more skeptical of the emerging church movement than I am.  He has some legitimate concerns that sometimes post moderns don’t feel the need to come up with any answers at all.

The thing that occured to me is that this is like countless other debates.  Put one way, it’s a matter of balance.  One can even go so far as to say that it’s about idolatry on either side.

On one side stands the traditional church.  I would submit that the traditional church– at it’s worst– has made an idol of the end result/product/destination.  A stereotypical old-school pastor simply wants his flock to agree with his conclusions.  He doesn’t much care how they get there.

On the other side stands the emergent church.  The emergent church– at it’s worst– has made an idol of the journey/process.  A stereotypical emergent just wants everybody wandering.  There’s minimal concern that this wandering might be aimless, or even headed to destruction.

The bible is filled with stories of people on important journeys with meaningful destinations.  We’d be hard pressed to find an example of someone in scripture sitting a person down, using only words to explain things, and then the other person says, “Oh!  I get it now!” and then that person experiences true life change.

On the other hand, the life experiences of biblical figures had a point.  Even if it wasn’t clear to the Isrealites why they wandering in the desert, the fact that they endeded up in a land flowing with milk and honey is significant.

People on either side are ignorant at best… and dangerous at worse.  A person who knows what to believe but not why the believe it hovers near facism.  A person who is only about the “why” and who is unclear about the answers lives a life that is devoid of true meaning.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

4 thoughts on “Aimless Wandering and Pointless Stagnation”

  1. “A person who knows what to believe but not why the believe it hovers near facism.”
    Aside from the obvious syntax errors, i’m not sure what you mean here. You make a great deal of sense in the post until you get to the last paragraph. The juxtaposed conclusion is pitting an external/sociological/political construct against an internal/personal/spiritual condition. i find that to be distracting from your broader point which is a good one.


  2. Sorry for the delay in replying Garret.
    While I take your point about the juxtaposition, and also probably could have developed the last paragraph in a clearer way, I stand by the following claim, which is what I was really trying to say:

    It’s dangerous to elevate certain beliefs and hold them out of context. Consider the Inquisition. People held fast to the importance of the claim that Jesus is King and uniquely the son of God. Idf they had known why they should believe this, if they had a wider context of equally true beliefs such as “God is Love” they would not have engaged in torture and murder on a tremendous scale.


  3. jollyroger:
    Thanks for leaving a few thoughts. I agree with some of what you have to say. I’m an American, and not a super-culturally literate one. (I’m gathering your British or Austrailian.) I know that by “fag” you mean what we’d call a cigerette. I’m not so sure about a “stanna stair lift.”

    Nonetheless, I think I take your meaning.
    I believe that we are hard-wired to move foreward, toward God. I believe that this tendency was perverted by the fall of mankind. I think whether or not we move foreward or sit on the stair smoking is partially determined by whether we’re acting on our most basic wiring or whether we’re acting on the urges of the perversion of the fall.
    I suppose this dynamic plays itself out on group levels. It’s possible for individuals within a church to come together and move foreward or it’s possible for individuals’ brokeness and falleness to feed off each other and grow larger so that the church sits on its laurels.

    If I did not believe that God was outside pulling us onward, and that God’s spirit was within us at the beginning, the only evolution I would believe in would be of the Neodarwinian sort. (Just for the record, I do believe that Neodarwinian evolution is at work in the universe. It’s just not particularly relevant to this conversation as it doesn’t lead to the sort of progress we’re talking about.)


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