When I first started gleaning from the thoughts and hearts of those who were considered as "emerging" among followers of Christ, I was fascinated with the gift of a refreshed hermeneutical approach to scripture - especially the depth of the teachings of Jesus. "Refreshed" only in that it seemed to be more accurately a rekindling.
It didn't take too long for naysayers to arise who communicated misunderstanding and fear aimed at the simultaneous voices as if they were all part of a diabolical conspiracy. All of the sudden, some in the church were espousing an unlimited number of additional shooters in Dealy Plaza.
My greatest disappointment came from one whom I considered a pioneer in taking risks (in the late 60s and early 70s) to reach people whom conventional thinkers neglected. My own spiritual pilgrimage is linked to this break-through. He took it upon himself and his ministry to decry these voices as "heretical" (an accusation he himself endured). Those who followed this Apollos, epidemically contracted this fear and without really researching and listening to those whom were being labeled as apostate. I remember, in my last context, a few of them asking me my take hoping I would decry the "emerging" voices as being adversarial.
The fear and misunderstanding continue.
Linda Berquist and Allan Karr - in their book Church Turned Inside Out - describe this fear very accurately likening it to God's chosen people's reluctant transitioning from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Thousands of years ago, the rebellious people of Israel sent spies to probe the new territory God had prepared for them. When those secondhand sources came back with stories about giants, the Israelites kept wandering around where they had already been and eventually died without ever entering the Promised Land. Most people today live in a wilderness story, unaware of the new and different land and uncomfortable with where it my lead. We focus on giants and ignore God's promises. Why do some people believe that the emerging age mean the demise of Christianity and the rise of Eastern religions? We believe, by contrast, that the emerging era is more compatible with biblical Christianity than most people imagine.
For many years George Barna has probed and published objective data with the Western cultural expression of Christianity. Pulpiteers and Conference speakers were comfortable utilizing his data in order to sustain their paradigms. When Barna began to make conclusions and urge followers to consider the voices of those who were willing to abandon convention for the sake of successful mission, giants in the land emerged.
Barna stated the following concern in his blog from yesterday.
On a recent blog post I read (not linked intentionally), an internationally known church leader quoted a statistic (actually, misquoted it) from the Barna Group and followed it up with an inaccurate and inappropriate claim: “According to George Barna, at least 20,000 Evangelicals won’t attend an organized church, but are meeting in homes. This is a dangerous trend as these groups can become isolationist and cult-like.”
...What bothers me most is the statement that people meeting in house churches “can become isolationist and cult-like.” The critical word in this accusation is “can.” Alternatively, is it possible that house churches can become places of genuine worship and loving outreach? Is it possible that house churches can represent the kingdom of God more effectively than conventional churches? What about the possibility of a conventional church becoming “isolationist and cult-like” –- can that happen? Can the preacher in a conventional church teach heresy? Can a conventional church become so lost in its programs and routines that not a single person gets saved through that church over the course of a year (or more)?
I dread the day – which may be here – when church leaders, with good intentions, are comfortable imitating the insufferable journalistic practices of lazy or ignorant reporters who convert a single instance into a “trend.” We unjustly disparage good people by making such broad and unsupported claims. If we are supposed to be people of integrity and righteousness, our words should reflect truth and love.
I sincerely believe that it is fear that creates this paralysis. It's like the fourth watch of the night when Jesus walked out to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. They did not recognize God's Anointed moving toward them thinking he was a "spook." The gospel account states that they "cried out in fear." Jesus assured them that he was the same Lord they knew and trusted on the safe shore and commanded them not to be paralyzed with fear. But they stayed in the boat. All but one.
The incident continues with Peter's early transformation. He's the only one who is willing to try. And even though he cried out for help, he was beyond the buoyant security the others clung to. That is why he becomes our poster boy of incrementally overcoming fear and blazing a trail for subsequent followers.