i know the topic of the emergent church has been discussed ad nauseum, and yet i have some thoughts.
since my new (old) car came equipped only with a tape deck, i've been forced to listen to the radio if i feel the need to listen to something other than the noise my kids make. here in south florida the musical pickings are slim, so i've been listening to christian talk radio. some of it is admittedly cheesy, but there are interesting discussions that dampen the effect of the uncoolness. the other day several pastors were discussing the emergent church. i didn't get to hear the whole thing, but i did hear a quote that got me thinking. on the subject of the ecclectic use of symbolism in the emergent church one pastor stated that some people feel that christians don't use enough symbolism, or that we don't really care all that much about visual representation of the things we hold dear.
so i started thinking. last fall i did a study on the tabernacle, and afterwards i read into the designing and building of solomon's temple. symbolism abounds for those of you who don't know. cherubim above the seat of God, brass to symbolise judgement, gold to signify royalty, etc. i started to compare that environment, the specifications of which were given by God to His people, to the appearance of the modern-day church. i don't know about the more old-fashioned church buildings, because i haven't really been in many, so i'll use the typical Calvary Chapel as an example. warehouses decorated with fake plants. sterile greeting desks. white walls with perhaps another neutral color (for "contrast"). not an environment to inspire a person, that's for sure. certainly nothing to indicate the grandeur of the God we worship. it is, in a word, boring.
but then, who ever said the building the church meets in is supposed to be lavish, or interesting, or high tech? it's a building.
as opposed to the tabernacle, the "meeting place" where the select few were allowed to be in the presence of God, the church building is just a building. God doesn't dwell there behind any curtains. nowhere in the new testament is there a plan or layout given as to what the buildings we meet in are to look like. we have no ark of the covenant, no altars, no symbols but those we invent. rather we are the tabernacle, the temple, the place where God Most High dwells. the new testament gives us pretty clear directions as to what purpose the new temple serves, how it should act, what it should look like.
which leaves me with the feeling that perhaps the focus of many emergent churches has gotten somewhat off-track. yes, we are to "be all things to all men," but i don't believe that means that we need to employ so many different props in an attempt to relate to post-modern culture. the gospel has been and will be relavent to all men no matter what time or culture they live in. so why the need to excite people? the gospel is revolutionary without props or symbolism. it's mystical without the need for candlelight or incense. it's irritating foolishness to some, and life to others. it needs no spicing up. no dumbing-down. people don't need to come to an exciting place that appeals to their senses and emotions, they need to come to Christ.
feelings are important, but we aren't to be ruled by them. we should worship God because of who He is, not because of how warm and fuzzy we feel when we sing our favorite song to some nice candlelight while glancing around at all the pretty icons. but i do need to put a disclaimer here: i don't think candlelight or symbols or paintings of biblical events are inherently bad. in fact, i like them. i enjoy having communion with my husband by candlelight. it's more the emphasis on using a sensory experience to relate to people that bothers me, because it's so easy for a new or shallow christian to get caught up in emotion and lose their focus on what really matters.
anyway, those are my thoughts. i am admittedly not an emergent church expert, so try not to get too mad at me if you are.