This last week, I’ve encountered some very bitter people. I don’t want to misrepresent their position, but it seems that they are angry at the church for what they see as apostasy. There are things being done ‘in the name of Christ’ that they do not feel should be done at all and which are leading the church astray. (Talking generally about the American church, not a particular congregation.) They see some of the leading voices in the church (Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Bill Hybels, as well as anything ’emergent’, or Purpose Driven) as nothing less than false prophets who are taking the masses straight into the pit of hell with them.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. If you see someone leading someone else to hell… do something about it! But I have a hard time understanding how that label fits with those men (or their churches/movements/conversations…
In Velvet Elvis, Bell has a great section at the end of this challenging and thought-provoking book that speaks to this situation.
“I am like you. I have seen plenty done in the name of God that I’m sure God doesn’t want anything to do with. I have lots of reasons for bailing on the whole thing.
I am also like you because I have a choice. To become bitter, cynical, jaded, and hard. Anybody can do that. A lot have. Hatred is a powerful, unifying force. And there is a lot to be repulsed by.
Or, like you, I can choose to reclaim my innocence. We can choose to reclaim our
innocence together. We can insist that hope is real and that a group of people who love God and others really can change the world. We can reclaim our idealism and our belief and our confidence in the big ideas that stir us deep in our bones. We can commit all the more to being the kinds of people who are learning how to do what Jesus teaches us.”
I’m not sure I line up with everything emergent. But at least I can ask questions there without being branded a heretic. One thing that really stands out to me about the emerging church is that people are encouraged to use their minds and creativity in service to the One who made them with minds and creativity. Is there potential to misuse that freedom? Yes (just ask Adam and Eve). But there is also the capacity to become a church that even all of hell cannot stop.