Darren at LivingRoom shares some thoughts provoked by a question asked at a seminar he recently attended.

“So you’ve talked a lot today about this Emerging Church thing, but you haven’t given us the model yet – tell us what the model of Emerging Church looks like?

Why is it that we get so obsessed with ‘models’?

We obsess over models when leaders of the church ask “How do I get people to buy my widget?” rather than “How do I love the way God loves and teach others to do the same?” It comes when we prefer the instant gratification of information to the slow process of wisdom.

The problem is that when it comes to Emerging Church, models sometimes have a way of working against the very core of what we’re trying to achieve…. “What is it to be church in our local context?” The answer to this question will differ depending upon the context, the group asking the question and what they see God doing around them. There is no kit Emerging Church.

Exactly! It’s interesting that the problem described here is nearly universal, shared with every human endeavor. The problem is that the problem and the perception of the problem change rapidly over time and space. A model that works here and now will most certainly not work then and there. Everyone knows that in industry, for example, you must constantly break the mold to build a widget that goes farther, gets there faster for less money and plugs in to an overseas electrical socket. The deadliest sin in business is being more concerned with the widget-building model than recognizing and meeting the dynamic needs and desires of the widget buying public. What good is a model for building widgets if no one wants or needs one?

We fail in the church for a similar reason. It is, however, important to remember that our goal has nothing to do with success in selling widgets on the open market. In fact, we were told by the boss Himself that the world will reject not only His widget but also us for peddling it. My understanding is that the job of the Church is to make disciples. We are to share the truth of Christ and then help lead those who hear along the narrow path of righteousness. We will fail to do that when we implement a model that worked in some place at some time rather than understanding the spiritual, emotional and practical needs of the people the model was meant to serve.

The lesson that I’m learning is that instead of looking for the model that will solve all our problems that we are called to be people who listen and watch and then respond to what we see and hear. We need to be observing what God is already doing – to what he might be calling us into. We need to be observers of our context, looking for the opportunities around us to connect. And we need to be willing to respond creatively to what we see and hear.

Or I could have just said that.