Since the Great Reformation, we have been very conscious of the church gathering into institutions. Those institutions are further defined in many cases by declaring the truth of a creed as the principle tool of connection. In truth, neither of these is Biblical or necessary. But, the emerging church isn’t about institutions or creeds. It is both a para-structure–existing outside and beyond the institutions–and an unstructured and loosely affiliated people that more resemble Christianity of the 1st Century CE than at any point in the Post-Constantinian era.
In other words, there is no “official” doctrine or institution. This causes a great deal of confusion for people who see church as requiring structure and that a movement precludes one’s ability to be a part of another institution. Many suggest that one can’t be both a Lutheran and a Methodist or a Christian and a Jew, so one cannot be an Episcopalian and an Emergent. For this to be accurate is to assume that collections of people must be exclusive institutions.
As I wrote in the previous page “What is the emerging church?”, church is not a word that denotes institutions or physical buildings, but a gathering of people. For us, emergence is the way we come to understand what it means to gather and be better Christians in light of society that is no longer beholden to modernism. We are living in a world that is different, and whether we recognize it or not, we are different people.
I see myself as part of a movement that seeks to not only raise Christian awareness of the Great Emergence, but to reform the institution of which I am a part to embrace its role in the unfolding drama. The alternative is to either fight against a tide that is already consuming us, or deny its existence, continuing medieval practices in a postmodern world.
Ministry in the 21st Century is creative and hopeful and transformative, just as it was in the 1st Century, and can be so for you, too.