Thinking through Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Moody, 2008
In the Second Introduction, and especially on pp. 27,28, the “ordinary” author refers to “experience” in a few different ways. He seems to be poking fun at the “emergent” quest for creating the optimal “experience” for Christians. This is very much a seeker-sensitive quest as well. It is just that the emergents are tending toward an experience that is less glitzy and production-oriented, and more mystical. But, my goal is not to critique the book, or even the emergents. It is to critique myself and our own church(es). We also have a worship experience.
Jonathan Edwards and others in his age talked about “experimental religion.” He was certainly not talking about a pragmatic approach to church where we keep throwing things at the wall to see what sticks, trying to find what works to make people happy and get more people to come. He was talking about the actual application of spiritual truth to life. I think when he says “experimental,” we would say “practical.” So let me combine these thoughts. What we deeply need is “experimental experience.” That is, the transforming truth incarnated by believers, who are not much like the people they used to be.
But that is not what either “experimental” or “experience” mean in our present situation. We experiment with formats and programs and approaches, trying to create the experience that will prove to be satisfying and rewarding. But here is the point – the experiment is God’s experiment, and we are the lab rats. It is not up to us to combine the chemicals. That is God’s job. The explosive results are not designed by the leadership team, but are to be seen in our lives. And the experience is not really about how we feel, or what we enjoy. The experience is a family of confessing believers who are in the process of being truly transformed, being brought into fellowship with God and with one another in ways that are not always pleasant or pleasurable. The point is not, how do I feel in the car on the way home from church, but, was God glorified?
So where, and how, is God glorified? In the worship of His people. But what does this mean? It involves Scripture, but the presence of a Bible in the lap of every attendee does not, in itself, glorify God. It involves music, but, whether hymn or chorus, piano or guitar, glorifying God can be present or absent with either. It certainly involves people, but a collection of bodies does not make a temple for God’s Spirit, and there can be more glorification taking place with four spiritual old ladies then with four hundred emotionally charged young adults.
Do we truly love God? Is that love exhibited in a sincere hearing of His Word? Does the hearing of His Word result in concrete obedience, in both attitude and action? Is the hold of the world, the flesh, and the devil on our lives being progressively weakened and crucified? Is the name of Christ regularly on our lips, both in private and public? Do our families see the change?
If so, God is being glorified. And His experiment is working out in our experience. And if not, then we ought to try something different.