“Thank you for calling Pizza Shack, home of the Shack-a-Lackin’ Fat-Lover’s Extra-Greasy Giant Pizza Pie for only $19.99 delivered, this is Gigi, can I get your phone number please?”
Every time I hear one of these exhausting phone greetings I wonder how fast that must get old to people like Gigi. My guess is, by the fourth time or so.
I’m starting to feel the same way when people call The Core an “ Emerging Church ”. Granted, I don’t really blame them… we have a lot in common with that movement. And if it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck… well, you know. But really we don’t necessarily have any more in common with self-described Emerging Churches than we have in common with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, or any random non-denominational church.
What I usually say is that we draw some degree of information and inspiration from the Emerging Church Movement, but the word “emerging” is far too broad and vague to be very helpful in understanding The Core (or any given church, for that matter.) Then I go on to explain about the word “Emergent” and how it is different. Namely, because it is not a simple adjective; it represents a proper nomenclature, being shorthand for “ Emergent Village .” The EV is a specific organization, with which we have made no effort to identify. This is not to be judgmental of them; it’s just that no real relationship exists between us.
So in other words, it is accurate to say that The Core has some emerging qualities. It is inaccurate to say that The Core is an “emerging church” and especially inaccurate to say that The Core is an “emergent church”.
But all this leaves me feeling a bit empty… as if I’ve appropriately said what we aren’t, but not what we are.
So I thought about how we could positively define ourselves, in a simple and clear way. Ultimately I settled on two words that seem to characterize us: Missional and Relational. I would feel safe to say that The Core is a Missional-Relational Fellowship. I know these are not very unique words, but I believe they are clear in their meanings.
We are Missional because we emphasize that every Christ-follower is called in one way or another to help make disciples in the context of his or her own mission field. This results in a much more active and interactive faith that understands that “belief” is not mere intellectual assent to a code of orthodoxy, but to “be” and “live” like Christ Himself.
We are Relational because we emphasize that relationships are the be-all, end-all of human life and God’s redemptive plan—first to enable and cultivate our relationship with Him, and secondly to do so in our relationships with each other. Ultimately, the value of every thought, word or deed is dependent upon its contribution to these relationships.
We are a Fellowship because it’s better than saying we’re “a church”. I believe that to speak of “The Church” in singular, local terms is to risk compartmentalization of the Universal Body of Christ, which can result in competitiveness and cliquishness. That’s why I prefer the word “fellowship” to define The Core as a local manifestation of the global Body of Christ, and fundamentally as a group of people, rather than an institution, building, or establishment. However, just because we don’t prefer to say we’re “a church” doesn’t mean we are less than, or more than that. We are not simply a ministry, a charity, a para-church organization.
By writing this, I would like to encourage other believers and groups who share these sentiments to use the phrase “Missional-Relational” because it really says something about who we are. “Emerging” is like the terms “Modern”, “Post-Modern”, “Contemporary” and so on, in that it is not descriptive. It is based on time-frames and contrasts. In other words, once the “Emerging Church Movement” becomes more established, it is no longer emerging. But names stick, even after they have become incorrect. So why not strive to describe ourselves by actually describing ourselves?
[Here I must note that we don’t want to obsess over describing ourselves. That’s far too narcissistic to be useful to the Kingdom of God . The reason I bring all this up is because of the prevalence of the word “Emerging” and how such a broad brush is really beginning to paint everyone the same color who has a new idea. Let’s keep all this in its proper perspective, but if we’re going to use labels (and there’s no getting around it) let’s strive to be as clear and accurate as possible.]
Within the Emerging Church Movement, I see plenty of people like us, who would be well-described as Missional-Relational. So perhaps we should call it the “Missional-Relational Movement”.
Who’s with me? (I see that hand, thank you…)