Story of emergence

April 5, 2008

church / emergent / emerging church / life / ministry / pentecostal / charismatic / spirituality / theology

From Emerging Pentecostals:

…a conversation about emergence within a pentecostal framework would be helped greatly if we took some time to share our stories of emergence.

This is a wonderful idea, and I want to be a part of it. Thus, consider this my story of emergence, or of how I came to be involved with both the pentecostal church and what is commonly called the emerging church.

I met Jesus when I was just shy of fifteen years old, and met him through what you could call a dramatic encounter that took place in an Assembly of God church in Salisbury, North Carolina. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a part of the supernatural actions of God in the world. I wanted to be close to him in tangible ways, and I wanted to bring others to be close to him as well.

As my faith developed, I began to grow in some very specific ways that together have shaped the person I am now, almost ten years later. First, I began to seek out how I, specifically, should serve Jesus with my life. I looked into being a pastor, a missionary to an obscure country, and a number of other things, because I felt strongly that I was called to reach out to people that were far from God.

Finally, I found confirmation in the idea that I was called to reach the outcasts of our own society. The people who did not fit in with the traditional church, whether because the church rejected them, because they rejected the church, or both. This manifests itself in more ways today than it did ten years ago. At the time, most of this kind of ministry was happening in the various underground subcultures, and it still is. But now, it has moved significantly further into the mainstream with organizations like Emergent Village. In any case, my heart was inextricably linked to the underground, and it remains so now.

As I began to learn about this calling, I also began to learn that I had a passion for being at the cutting edge of whatever I could. I can still remember a message I heard that described the church of today as the kind of organization that would build a church at the site where Jesus performed some great feat, rather than following him to see what he would do next. I passionately want to be involved in the current mission of God in the world. I don’t want to be where God was five years ago. I want to know where his heart is today.

In addition to, and as part of, these previous things, I began to have a deep desire to communicate with love, grace, and power to people who did not yet know Jesus, that they might see him as he really is and give consideration to the kind of influence he would like to have on their lives.

These areas have been molded and shaped through education, experience, prayer, thought, and conversation over the last several years, but at their core they remain the same, and they are derived from a desire to live in intimacy with Jesus, thus my involvement with the pentecostal and charismatic church. I am well aware of the shortcomings of the movement, and at this point I identify far more closely with the term Post-Charismatic than with pentecostal or charismatic, but I am also aware that there is much good in the movement.

As for my involvement with the emerging church, it began through my desire to be a voice to the underground. For most of my life, I have fit with the underground, and I’m comfortable with this. I feel at home there. It’s natural that I would want to share what I believe is commonly hidden about Jesus from these unique people.

As I’ve said before, I have been blessed to be involved with the Underground Railroad and learn from and be in community with the wonderful ministries that are part of it. Many of these ministries have been around for decades, and have been doing the kind of ministry that is now known as “emergent” for longer than I have been alive.

Thus, I have come into the emerging church, and thus into Emergent itself, from what you might call a back door. I have learned ministry by grace, unconditional acceptance, and the power of authenticity from the underground, and have sought to learn how it fits with my personal theology, my personal experiences, and my personal areas of calling. Many other leaders of the emerging church, including Andrew Jones, also came to be involved in similar ways.

I feel that this is one of the most valuable facets of the emerging church and the Emergent conversation: that people who spend their lives reaching out to the darkest corners of western society can come together with people who study postmodernism in universities or painting in art schools, with people who understand that colonialism is dead and its obituary is the power of the non-Western world, with those who do research on the effectiveness of modern Christianity in the Western world, and with those who simply feel like something is missing from their normal church experience.

More interesting still, than these examples, is that no one fits into only one of these areas. For example, I have a passion for walking into dark places as a shadow of Jesus, but I also have a ministerial education from a pentecostal university, an art degree from a secular art school, and a weird job history of discussing theology and politics and philosophy for hours at a time while cleaning toilets and mopping floors. Emergence indeed.