The Emerging Church Part II

In this post I want to focus on the issue of "transforming secular space." This is the second characteristic of Emerging Churches as identified by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger.

According to the authors, Emerging Churches work hard to tear down the divide that has been created betweem secular and sacred; a dualism formed and shaped by modernity which contradicts the words of the psalmist: "the earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (Psalm 24:1).
Emerging Churches strive for a holistic spirituality that attempts to dismantle the various dualisms that have arisen as a result of modernisms penchant for "classification, organization, and systematization" (Gibbs and Bolger 66). An example of some of these dualisms includes the division between the natural and supernatural, public facts and private values, the body and the mind/spirit, faith and reason and of course sacred and secular spaces (67).

According to the authors there was no such thing as a separate domain for spirituality prior to the rise of modernism in the west: to quote Rob Bell "everything (was) spiritual."

The authors call this move towards eliminating secular space "sacralization, the process of making all of life sacred" (66). This will be a very difficult transition for the 21st Century Church to embrace. We have thoroughly bought into the dualism's established by modern thinking, and a tipping of those sacred cows may not be quite so easy. Sunday morning is still a "sacred" time for many Americans; however, it is increasingly less so, particularly for emerging generations. I think that in order for the Church to effectively move forward and impact these emerging - and increasingly more post-modern - generations, we are going to have to re-think our strategies; specifically with regard to the way we "do" church.

Many innovative thinkers, authors, pastors and theologians are sounding the alarm on this issue. The term "missional" has become more common as of late: a term that calls the Church to remember the missio Dei; God's purpose for His people to be people on mission: a sent people. As those that are sent into the world, we will naturally be more successful by refusing to see certain places as either sacred or secular. By seeing all of life as sacred - the earth is the Lord's - missional Christ followers can begin to live incarnationally: genuinely embodying the presence of Christ everywhere they go!

Tearing down the walls between sacred and secular spaces will not be easy, but in order to reach the world with the gospel, we must do it.


  1. This is another one of those things that sounds so spiritual at first, but something doesn't seem quite right and a little thought reveals why that is. It was the Lord himself who set up the concept of "holiness / sanctification" - which is a setting apart or separation of that which is to be regarded as the Lord's - a separation of the sacred from the secular. The Scriptures are filled with this concept from Genesis to Revelation.

    In a world that is untainted by sin and its effects, this most likely be unnecessary, but we do not live in such a world - and we will not live in such a world until the Lord returns to set up his kingdom - and I would suggest that this is at the heart of the problem - a wrong eschatalogical view, stemming from an unbiblical hermeneutic.

    In a fallen world, if everything is sacred, then nothing is sacred.

    The thinking presented here is one more example of abandoning a biblical theology for a post-modern philosophy that is distinctly dettached from God's objective revelation.

    Dave James

  2. Dave,

    Thanks for your comments.

    You make some very good points.

    I'm not sure that I agree that the heart of the problem is eschatological though. Indeed, Christ will one day return and show us what the kingdom is supposed to look like, but until that time, we live our lives as kingdom citizens by virtue of our faith in the One who has already ushered in the kingdom. In other words, living in the already-not yet kingdom that Jesus proclaimed in the Gospels.

    The kingdom is at hand, and therefore we are to live as if that statement is true. The concept of sacralization, then, becomes a very biblical hermeneutic when held up to the light of the Gospels.

    On one other note, emerging generations are growing up in a post-modern world. Although, I agree that the philosophical foundations of post-modernism are detached from God's objective revelation, I cannot deny that it is the world that we live in. The Church can no longer afford to cling to modern methods and strategies. And yet it does(and it is precisely this dogged refusal to let go of modernity and enter the post-modern age with hope as opposed to kicking and screaming that leads me to believe that an unbiblical ecclesiology is, in fact, at the heart of the problem).

    The already-not yet kingdom allows us to experience a taste of heaven on earth, and it is because of this that I think we can, and should, attempt to eliminate the walls that we have constructed that isolate us and hold us back form being the transformational force that Jesus intended His Body to be.

  3. I believe that you inadvertantly confirmed my point about the heart of the problem being eschatological - because, in fact, Jesus has not already ushered in the kingdom. The kingdom was at hand when it was offered to Israel and they were challenged to accept the Messiah as their king - but they rejected the kingdom and the Messiah.

    As a result, Daniel's 70th week is still unfulfilled and the prophecied Day of the Lord has not begun. The day of the Lord is repeatedly depicted as beginning with judgment, leading to repentance and resulting in blessing - ultimately when the Lord is universally accepted as king - at which time he will establish his kingdom on the earth. None of things have happened.

    Concerning living in a post-modern world: This has nothing to do with the objective truth of God's revelation. There have been many phases in human philosophy, of which modernity is but one. Post-moderns in the church (generally Emergents) often seek to return to an earlier phase of philosophy - one that embraced mysticism. But that is a relatively late development although it followed modernity. However, this just highlights the cyclical nature of thought and that there really is "nothing new under the sun." Post-modernism goes back in time, but fails to go back far enough, whereas modernism goes back to what seems to be clearly first-century thought / philosophy / theology - which unambiguously held to objectivity in terms of doctrine and truth in general.

    If that is the biblical position and God has revealed that this is the way we should think about Him and truth, then our responsibility as Christians is to bring the world back to that position. If not, then Christianity is shaped by the world, rather than the other way around - and that is anti-thetical to even post-modern thought.



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