Today I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the northeast chapter of the Evangelical Theological Society. I normally wouldn’t worry about attending a regional ETS meeting, but this one was hosted at Davis. The topic was on the Emerging Church and Eddie Gibbs was the speaker. It was actually worth spending my Saturday there. Gibbs had some good thoughts and I have plenty to process through.
The largest negative was that I don’t think, even after several hours of listening to Gibbs, that many of the actual ETS members who were there “got it.” They nodded a lot, and they seemed to agree, but I don’t know if they really processed through things. Near the end of the day one particular member asked Gibbs about U2. It was actually mildly amusing, Gibbs response was something like, “I don’t have a problem with beat music.” This, of course, caused me to remember a certain video, the pseudo-similarities between the two lines are made even more striking since Gibbs has an uber-cool British accent.
Gibbs’ actual talk was made up of two sessions. During the first he spent his time giving a run down of the basic situation in which the church finds itself. It was interesting, but less so since I’m already convinced that the emerging church is – er – emerging because of a very real need within the present culture. He did have a few very quotable comments, one of which was that the institutional church was “the ecclesiastical counterpart of government and big business.” He threw out various resources and topics for which he recommended googling. A few I had heard of, a few I had not. In this session he also proposed that the emerging church could best be referred to as a phenomenon instead of as a movement. In the second session he tried to define a bit better what an emerging church looks like. Again, most of the material he presented is available via other resources. It was important for him to cover what he did however. There were plenty of people there who were hearing this for the first time.
He ended the second session with something that I felt worthy to blog about. He referenced Ephesians 4.11, speaking of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. He then said that he thinks the traditional church (in this case referring to anything that is not emerging) has pastors and teachers (or pastor-teachers, depending on your interpretation of the verse) but often lacks the other people. He then made the obvious postulation that the emerging church has apostles, prophets and evangelists aplenty. His whole point was that the church needs both groups. This resonated with me. As I have pointed out before, one of my concerns with the emerging church is a lack of real depth in biblical teaching. Mandy and I both found his splitting of these people into a generally more “traditional church” category and a generally more “emerging church” category very interesting. On the way home, Mandy asked me which I thought I fell into. I’d have to say teacher. I’m tempted to say prophet, especially if we take Brueggemann’s discussion of prophets as those who challenge the establishment and speak out for the dis-empowered. However, I’d say that if I had to pick one that I fit with, it would be teacher.
To sum up, I found the ETS meeting to be of some value, primarily because of Gibbs and the excellent discussion(s) I had with Dr. Snyder, Earl, Florrie and Mandy throughout the day and afterwards. I also had the opportunity to meet two students from Gordon-Conwell. So, all in all, the day was profitable.