Good stuff here. This came out in yesterday’s paper. For my own statement of why I am willing to call myself emergent, go HERE.
Emergent church tour to roll into Bend
By Alandra Johnson / The Bulletin
Published: June 17. 2008 4:00AM PST
Three of the biggest names in the emergent church movement will be heading to Bend for an inventive show next week. Rather than simply reading from their new books and answering questions, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette will transport the audience back 100 years. The Church Basement Roadshow, as the trio have dubbed the tour, includes revival-style music, costumes and characters, all based on events that transpired in 1908. The tour rolls into Bend on June 24 at the First Presbyterian Church (see “If you go” Page E6).
Jones said the idea is to bring the feel of tent revivals that took place a century ago, but infuse the event with their own message of hope and rethinking of Christianity.
Emerging Christianity is based on making religion more inclusive, with more input and integration between churchgoers and clergy, and with greater emphasis on Jesus’ life and teachings and less judgement about the way people behave.
Pagitt, Scandrette and Jones wanted to tour together to promote their new books (Jones’ “The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier,” Pagitt’s “A Christianity Worth Believing” and Scandrette’s “Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus”).
But they wanted their tour to be something different.
“Who wants to go and listen to three authors read books?” said Jones. A friend offered to lend them a RV that runs on biodiesel and they began to brainstorm.
The trio researched 1908 and discovered that traveling preacher Billy Sunday, with his white seersucker suits and rhetorical schtick, was the most recognized person in the U.S. The more they learned, the more they thought: “Well, this would be fun.” Their tour will include preaching, singing and old-time costumes that recall the passion, cadence and rhythm of the tent revivals. Another inspiration is a quote from Thomas Edison from 1908, in which he said, “Anything, everything is possible.”
Jones thinks people today don’t have that same kind of optimism and hope.
While they will talk about some serious issues, Jones says the tour is supposed to be fun.
“We don’t take ourselves so seriously. We’re kind of goofballs,” said Jones. “We’re earnest, but also pretty ironic.”
This shows, too, in the basement tour idea. While Billy Graham fills stadiums, the three authors think it’s funny they will be filling church basements.
That said, the message is serious. Jones, Pagitt and Scandrette are all pretty tough on traditional clergy and the traditional idea of church. They see themselves as an alternative to the conservative Christian movement.
Jones believes something in Christianity is shifting.
“I think that we’re on the cusp of the next great reformation in the church.”
He sees great energy behind the effort as well as significant opposition to it, from those who support more traditional church models.
The First Presbyterian Church in Bend, which is hosting and sponsoring the event, is working to develop its own emergent church identity.
Bob Pearson, a member of the church, calls it a movement of the spirit that is “calling Christians into a new direction.”
Nate Bettger works for the church on the Connection Communities project. They have started several new events to highlight the emerging Christianity focus, including a monthly meeting at a local brewery. The meeting, dubbed the Shepherd and Knucklehead, includes people listening to music or stories and pondering one question for the evening, maybe “What is hope?” or “What does it mean to belong?” or “Who is in control, God, government, parents? And does it matter?”
Pearson describes it as the kind of experience one might have had as a college student, but that in regular lives people “don’t have the chance to just talk about questions of life.”
“A lot of churches, you can’t ask questions and that’s a big problem for young people,” said the 60-year-old Pearson.
Bettger says sees his mission as simple: “All I’m here to do is show people God loves them.”
They hope this loose structure and open acceptance will attract people who have fallen away from the church.
Critics refer to this kind of Christianity as moral relativism, but Bettger disagrees with this assessment.
“I look at Jesus and I don’t see moral relativism. He’s not judging people, I see him loving them.”
Bettger’s goal is to try to adhere to the teachings of Jesus, which he sees as being a peacemaker.
The Church Basement Roadshow will not be an outreach event for the church, but it will be a time for people to come in and check out some of the ideas behind the emergent church movement.
People can “get a sense of what the dialogue is like,” said Pearson.
Bettger hopes that those attending the roadshow will have a “great opportunity to feel a part of something bigger; an opportunity to feel connected.”
Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2008