Seeking to emerge from the journey through the church

The emergent conversation. The journey. Seekers. Dislike and distain for the institutionalized church. It seems like most of what I hear about all of this is the opposite of a Radio Shack commercial. “You’ve got questions, not really looking for answers.” I’m one of those people who can take a look at something and come up with whether or not I think it’s good pretty quick. Most of the time when I decide I don’t like it I just dismiss it and its done. Sometimes I decide I don’t like it, dismiss it, but in reality it’s on one of the back burners in my brain, stewing. Such is the case with the emergent/emerging, seekers, those who say they are on the journey, those who say they are trying to look beyond the institutional church. You know what? I have no idea what any of that means.
OK, I do, but not from personal experience. So I started to wonder why people were thinking these ways and talking about these things. Why are they experience this stuff? Why am I not? Have I not had to deal with all of this because I’ve spent most of my spiritual walk involved with Calvary Chapels? I’ve dabbled in a couple of Baptist churches. I’ve delved semi-deeply into a seeker/40 Days of Purpose church. But I’ve always come back to Calvary. I’m sure that what I’m about to say isn’t unique to CCs (at least I hope it isn’t) so don’t go thinking I’m saying something I’m not. I think that the reason I have not been led to seek, to go on a journey, to emerge, or to go beyond or bail on the church is because in CC I have always been taught to be a disciple of Jesus out in the real world. Being a disciple, and a fellow disciple with other disciples, has always been at the core. It’s never been about programs, bringing in the sheep, building up the numbers, committing to the organization, or keeping the thing inside the four walls. It’s always been about living it out daily everywhere you are. So in those respects, I have no idea what all the fuss is about and why everyone is trying to figure all of this stuff out.

Having said that, all the questioning has caused me to question, and then to question the questions. And then something else occurred to me. Am I, are they (the seekers/emergents/journey people) really looking for answers? I mean really. Are questions being asked because answers are genuinely sought after? Or are they being asked because it seems right to ask them, to consider the possibilities? I don’t see anything wrong with that, but it can lead to trouble. In reality it can become kind of a fad in a way. To be on a journey, seeking after truth, always asking, always challenging. Kind of an intellectual or philosophical buzz or high is achieved and maintained. “Are you looking? I’m looking too. Let’s look together.” Kind of like what the hippies were doing back in the day. The nobility of the quest for knowledge (the quest itself, not the achievement of knowledge) can be very seductive. Please understand that I’m not knocking anyone. My intent isn’t to be critical of anyone involved in this process. I’m going somewhere with this, honest.

If questions are being asked but answers are not being sought, then it seems pointless to be asking them. If, in the end, all we can say is, “Those are good questions.” then we haven’t gotten anywhere. If questions are being asked and answers are really being sought, how will we know once we have found an/the answer? What are we evaluating the answer against? Where are we looking for the answers? When scientists do experiments and ask questions, they are asking specific questions and expecting specific results. Before they even answer some of the questions they determine if the questions are even going to be useful to the experiment. It doesn’t seem like that is happening in all of this.

What I have been observing in the blog-o-sphere seems very similar to a group of students comparing their answers on a test to the other’s answers. People have the same set of questions (generally), they get together to compare their own answers (if they have any), and then I’m not sure what happens because more questions seem to follow that are basically same as the ones asked before. There isn’t much concern for coming up with an answer, let alone if the answer is right or wrong. The thing is there is an answer key for all of these questions in the teachers book. God’s word, the Bible, gives us at the very least all the basic guidelines we need do to what it is we are supposed to do and how to do it. There are many rabbit trails one could go down at this point. Everything from the reliability and relevance of the Bible has come into question in many Christian circles (which is just sad). Absolute vs. relative truth. I’ll try to stop there. What happens when you throw the answer key out the window? You have no wrong answers. You also have no right answers. I’m not saying that everyone but me or CC has bailed on the Bible. I am saying that it doesn’t seem to be the first place people are looking for the answers. The first place seems to be how people feel about the answers. When did Jesus ever ask that? A guy wanted to follow Jesus but he wanted to bury his dad first. Jesus said “Let the dead go bury their own dead.” He did ask how the guy felt about the answer. How the guy felt was not relevant. But I digress.

While I understand the concept behind calling a person’s walk with the Lord a “journey” there seems to be something unsettling about it for me. There is a sense of uncertainty attached to it. One woman who commented on my wife’s blog said

“My husband and I call it a journey because, as I have said on his blog, it’s like we’re starting out on a road, have no idea where it’s going, can’t see the path ahead, but we know we’ll be safe and we’re in for the time of our lives! So in that, it’s a journey. I think most people are calling it that because that’s what it is … a journey from where we are or were, to where we’re going. But none of us quite know what lies ahead.”

I get it, but I don’t get it. I’ve never been too concerned about the road ahead, where it leads, if I can see it or not. The way I read Jesus it’s all about where you are at now. It’s always about today. While Jesus did talk about the wide and the narrow roads, He also talked about not worrying about tomorrow, about taking up our crosses daily (today). We are told to make our calling and election sure. We are told to be ready to give an answer (not more questions), a reason for the hope (not doubt) that is within us. Seeking, journeying, and carrying on the emergent conversation, all seem irrelevant when what is being sought after and conversed about has already been laid out before us in those 66 books. It’s all right there. I have no problem with questions. I don’t look down on people who have doubts. I ask questions. I have doubts sometimes. But the reality is that there are answers to questions, there is comfort for doubts. No one has to live in that state of uncertainty. We can have confidence. We can stand on the absolute truth of Jesus Christ even if we don’t get it all of the time.

Are there problems in the church today? No doubt. Are Christians consumed with irrelevant stuff? I sure am. Er, um, they sure are. Where are we going for answers and solutions? Our first stop ought not to be the web. Needless to say our first stop ought to be God’s word. (Why do people say “needless to say” and the go ahead and say it anyway?) I’m frustrated because I don’t see enough of that out there. I see/hear a lot of comparing answers to other answers and not the answer key. My challenge to myself is to make sure I’m evaluating everything against the word. While there may not always be a one-to-one correlation (though I think there is far more often than we think), it needs to be where I start and finish. If I’m asking a question, genuinely seeking an answer, and I get an answer, I need to be ready to act on it, to do something with it, to use it, to stand on it.

The Holy Spirit speaking through Peter puts it beautifully. 2 Peter 1:2-4

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

The knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. All things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him. Partakers of His divine nature. Escaped the corruption that is in the world. Does it get any better than that?

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© Corby Stephens 2005-2018