Last night I went with a few other folks from Woodside to the "Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin' Gospel Revival!" at the Kay Spiritual Life Center at American University. It was set up like an old time revival, but we got to hear three leaders in the Emerging Church movement, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones and Mark Scandrette, speak about their ideas for the future of Christianity.
As I understand it, folks in this Emergent movement seek to emphasize the personal story of Christianity over the doctrine and dogma of the church. Doug Pagitt (dressed as 19th Century Gospel revivalist "Big Brother" Duke Arnold) began last night by telling us that "there are 1,972 first names in the Bible. And do you know why that is? Because you can't tell the story of God with out telling the stories of the people who participate with God." What they seem to be saying is that of us has an experience of the holy that is unique and valid, and that experience is just as valid as what the church teaches about God. And in fact, the church could learn a lot from the way in which people (especially those who are outside the church) experience God.
Tony Jones showed a video interview with his friend "Trucker Frank", a man who had "been excommunicated from a Christian book store, cheated on by his wife and who had tried to commit suicide." Yet, Trucker Frank had some very powerful insights about faith and seemed to know and follow Jesus in an authentic and honest way.
The other thing about this "new" movement in Christianity is that it emphasizes the practice of faith. Following Jesus is a grand experiment, said Mark Schandrette, and sometimes we do OK, and other times we fail. But it's a life we live. Being a Christian isn't sitting in church for an hour a week. Schandrette shared a story about reaching out to a man called "The Emperor," who lived in a bus and struggled with mental illness and had been ostracized by his family and friends. The Emperor wasn't an easy person to love, but Mark kept trying, even when the Emperor rejected his friendship, and eventually he realized that he "feels more alive when he pushes his own limits and relies on a love that is greater than his own."
I am glad I went to this Rollin' Revival last night--and I want to thank Susan, Delores and Matt for joining me. It gave me a lot to think about and re-energized me!