Thursday, December 29, 2005

Living the Faith: In Search of Christian Leadership

The emergent church movement has gotten a lot of press -- including some criticism that it does not define its theology. The emergents pride themselves on being defined not by "orthodoxy" but by "orthopraxy" (right practice), the buzzword of the day.

I am sympathetic towards the call for action. But is the emergent movement the home of a new kind of Christian? Not to pick on Brian McLaren too much in his unofficial leadership of the emergents, but I see him publishing books and going on speaking tours; from where I sit he looks very much like every other person earning a living by touring and proclaiming his own spirituality. I would not dream of denying his good motives; anyone who reads his writings will quickly recognize his kindly spirit. I was just hoping that the emergent church, with all its emphasis on living the faith, with all its well-practiced digs at those who merely study and talk, would itself do something more than study and talk about how we ought to be living.

Now if McLaren or his ilk would be the one -- some visible figure in the church needs to do this -- to go down to the Gulf Coast, possibly the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain (the ghost town formerly known as New Orleans) and the obliterated towns nearby -- and help rebuild, then he would find that he has more Christians sympathetic towards "orthopraxy" than he could count. If he were to spearhead the clearing and rebuilding efforts, coordinate the numerous volunteers already there in small groups and the more who plan to come, catalog the needs and give us a webplace to sign up, call us to use our summer vacations and come through in shifts, he would be doing a useful service. For that matter, if the Archdiocese of that heavily Roman Catholic area would do the same, or the Pope would set up an effort and issue an open call for help to the Christians of North America, he would quickly find how little our theological differences divide us in times like this. Our Christian leadership seems to accept marginalization -- and it directly hinders our effectiveness in helping people.

Some people looked at the recent disasters along the Gulf Coast and lamented the failing of government; fair enough. Many have looked at the same scene and have admitted the great worth of the religious efforts; again fair enough, we were there for the Louisianans when their government was not. But I still say the church is suffering from a mind-blowing lack of leadership at the higher levels. All it would take to accomplish so much would be one leader, someone who already has our ear, to say "Let's roll" and devote the next year of his life to the effort as a national volunteer coordinator. Is anybody out there? Does anybody have the ear of someone who could pull it off?


Susan said...

Good Post!

Call Me Ishmael said...

McLaren's most recent book has inspired several New Year's resolutions for me, which I've posted at Now if I could only remember what I did with last year's resolutions...

Weekend Fisher said...

You know, I really was hoping that the idea of "national volunteer coordinator" would take off. Hospitals have volunteer coordinators. Shelters have volunteer coordinators. It's a shame that the Gulf Coast recovery efforts don't have a volunteer coordinator.