October 24, 2005
Why James MacDonald Is Not Emerging (Part 2)
(Here is the remainder of James MacDonald's commentary on emerging culture. MacDonald is pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and its several satellite locations. He is also the featured preacher on the radio program Walk in the Word. )
4. Because the answer is Jesus, not cultural analysis.
Several times in the past few years we have baptized more than 200 adults in our church in a single weekend. When you listen to so many concurrent stories of conversion to Christ in such a short period of time, you get a clear picture of how it happens. "I was going along thinking I was ?too sexy for my shirt,' and God dropped a boulder on my life to break me down and get my attention." While the label on the boulder may change, the story does not. Bottom line: God uses the painful circumstances of life to soften human hearts and bring people to faith in Christ.
In the past few years we have analyzed our culture ad nauseum. Cultures don't come to Christ, individuals do and the fields are more ripe for harvest than ever before.
Our endless discussion of culture has become just an elitist substitute for rolling up our sleeves and getting the Good News to the people who are hurting right now! Baby Boomer, GenX, Postmodern, blah, blah, blah. The discussion itself is modernistic and we're just talking to ourselves. How about a more compassionate extension of our own life in Christ and please . . . a lot less perpetual babbling about culture, which even when rightly observed is not the answer, duh - Jesus is!
5. Because Jesus is the purpose for the party, not the surprise hiding in the closet of respectability.
If you have not traveled to the places in our world where the Gospel of Christ is spreading like wildfire, I covet that opportunity for you. What you find there is not careful connoisseurs of some Rodeo Drive Jesus, but flag-waving, flame-throwing, on-fire followers of Christ. The power of God's Spirit is moving because Jesus is experienced, adored and proclaimed in all of His transcendent glory.
Why do so many of the emerging church websites speak of God/Father and less overtly or not at all about Jesus Christ the Lord? Claiming to be postmodern we are still marketing Jesus and hiding Him in the closet of respectability until we feel like people are ready to handle Him. Jesus can't be handled and He doesn't need spin doctors. I know we're pretty fussy about music forms, but let's bring back an old chorus, This Little Light of Mine, and in case we've forgotten the answer to "hide it under a bushel?" is NO!
Anyway . . .
I am thankful for the honest and often accurate critiques of current western Christianity flowing from the emerging church movement. I strongly desire to see them show greater promise in the arena of solutions or at least be more open to analysis from outside their community than they have been to date. (Witness the harsh rejection, rather than careful analysis of D.A. Carson's book, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church on many emergent blogs.)
These are some of the factors affecting my decision not to emerge. What I am doing is hoping, praying and spending myself, along with many others, for "revival in the church in America in our lifetime." The problems in the western church are extreme: legalism or license, dead orthodoxy or compromised consumerism, professional entertainers with pop psychology or angry disregard for the sinful world Jesus weeps for. The western church in our lifetime has become an awful mess, but Jesus is not giving up on her and neither should we.
Now hear this: the answer we desperately need is a fresh move of God. We need a renewed vision of God's exalted, infinite holiness. We need an overwhelming sense of our own pride and personal sinfulness. We need our eyes lifted from the bankruptcy of cultural reflection to the crucified, risen, glorified Christ. There must be a returning to the centrality of the unadorned Gospel and the power of God's Spirit to redeem, restore and rebuild broken lives. We need men and women on fire with passionate confidence in the power of God's Word proclaimed; not because pagans say they want it, but because God promises to bless it. In short, what we need, what we desperately need is a renewing work of God that will cut a swath of revival across our land like a tornado across a Kansas wheat field.
That's what we need and nothing else will do. In fact, anything else is window dressing.
Most urgently I am praying that we will repent and turn from the horizontal, man-centered focus that grieves God's Spirit and prevents the presence of Christ from emerging more fully in our midst.