I feel bad. It’s the kind of feeling I get when I try to join a conversation already in process by interjecting a remark that turns out to be entirely inappropriate because I missed something that was said earlier. It’s embarrassing. Even worse is the feeling I get when I start asking questions to get myself caught up on the subject of the conversation and others become impatient because they’re eager to take the discussion to the next level, not waste time bringing me up to speed. Sometimes I try to to camouflage my faux pas behind a wisecrack, but more often I just shut up and listen, hoping for a few understandable crumbs to fall from the table of their esoteric dialogue. In either case it’s painfully (to me, at least) obvious that something has been going on—something essential to the conversation—that I missed, and that my attempt to fit in demonstrated that I had not first acquired the necessary background.
So what should I do now? Your conversation’s been going on for years now, and I feel left out. I’ve always considered myself someone who is deeply interested in the subject you seem to be discussing, but when you talk about it not only the vocabulary but the concepts themselves seem different and even strange. I don’t know whose fault it is, or if it’s even anyone’s fault in particular. Perhaps while you were reading Bosch and Newbigin I was reading Ladd and Eichrodt. Maybe while you were immersed in a postmodernist university setting I was navigating my way through conservative evangelical colleges. Or could it be that while you were plumbing the depths of Gadamer and Derrida, I was parsing Greek verbs?
On the other hand, maybe our backgrounds have far more in common than I realize, but it’s just that for the moment we’ve arrived at different places. Whatever the case may be, I clearly have some catching up to do. I care about the church, and I can tell you do, too. I’m intensely concerned about non-Christians, and your concern for them is obviously no less intense. So how did our ideas on how to “do church” and reach unbelievers become so different? And why are some reacting so negatively to what you’re saying and doing? And why can’t there be more dialogue between your emerging views and practices and the ones that most of us are more familiar with?
I hope I’m not interrupting what is obviously a lively conversation, but I have lots of questions and I don’t quite know which one to ask first. So I’ll start with this: I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday, bought a copy of Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, and started reading it. I showed it to my pastor and he asked to borrow it when I’m finished. Is this a good place to start learning about the Emerging Church, or should I begin somewhere else?