Thoughts on Vintage Church, part 2
There are two post-evangelical streams in conversations about church. One, the emerging church, has worked at recasting Christian life and witness with a nod to ancient Christianity. The other, led by the likes of the Gospel Coalition, has latched on to a different flavour of old-school: a Reformed vision.
Both these streams are striving to shape authentic Christian roots for our time. Both streams may even share similar visions for the character of authentic Christian community. But one question particularly seems to distinguish the two streams: how should Christians organise and mobilise?
The final chapter of Vintage Church considers how the church can bring about global transformation. In it, Driscoll focuses on the idea, developed by Tim Keller, of the church as the city within a city. While integrated in culture, the church is actually the Spirit-filled home of the new humanity found in Christ, the light on the hill that points the way to God’s future city. This idea seems to flow straightforwardly from a church with clear organisational and leadership structures, and seems especially appropriate for urban populations.
From what I gather, this is quite distinct from emerging church patterns. The house church movement, for example, emphasises organic organisation and denies positional leadership. On that note, I’ve got a copy of Frank Viola’s Reimagining Church, which I hope to read in the mid year.
I wonder if organisation is shaping up as the key distinction between the emerging church and the neo-reformers, because I wonder if these different expressions mean different visibility for the church. In the case of Mars Hill, it has become a highly visible Christian community, largely through its organisational strategies (which I’d say are embedded in and flow out of gospel distinctives). So I’m keen to read Viola’s perspective on Christian visibility.
The other interesting figurehead here is Rob Bell of Nooma fame, who’s got an emerging church tone but runs a very large church that may share a lot more in common with Driscoll’s church than just its name.
In any event, both these post-evangelical streams are looking back to the early church, where Christian communities were both distinctly love-filled and distinctly organised. The rapid growth of the early church seems to have come in part through the Christlike love of these communities, which led to a coherence unmatched by any other institutions. How might we recapture that kind of impact in our time?
Categories: Written by Arthur
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.