“What is Emergent Christianity?”
The question came from my thirteen year-old daughter, who had seen those words on several CDs that I was transferring onto my music player. The CDs, which were loaned to me by my friend Amy Boone, featured several messages from Brian McLaren at a Zoe worship conferencence a few years ago.
It was a passing question, expressing a small degree of curiosity, asked on a lazy Sunday afternoon while she laid on a bed beside our computer desk.
“Welllll….” I began, looking up toward the ceiling, trying to gather my thoughts into a coherent description that I thought she might be able to follow.
I probably thought about it for about five or ten seconds, formulating a description of postmodern culture and then a brief discussion of the importance of being relevant in that culture. Maybe, in the end, I’ll even give her a few examples of how she is already experiencing this form of Christianity, I thought. Shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
It was, I had convinced myself, one of those important “teachable moments.” And school was about to be in session.
Then, I looked down from the ceiling, ready to dispense my parenta wisdom, only to find my daughter’s head buried in a pillow.
I could practically hear the words coming out of her mouth.
Oh, no! What have I done? I’ve asked daddy a QUESTION. Now he’s going to ANSWER. And there are going to be WORDS. Then more and more and more words until my brain turns to mush! The words will never, ever end! Please, God, can you turn back time by about thirty seconds? I’d really like to NOT ask that question.
I was merciful, however, and spared her the hellish experience of the five minute discourse that I had just planned. Instead, I put the whole thing into about two or three sentences. It went something like this:
“Our culture is undergoing some pretty radical changes. In that culture, a new way of thinking about Chrisitanity is beginning to take shape. Thats where the term Emergent Christianity comes from.”
“Thank you,” she said, “for the brief answer.”
I’m pretty sure she was sincere about the “brief” part.