Staying or Leaving: Baby or Bathwater?

I came across this little piece on Jonny Baker’s blog (Jonny was of the emerging church pioneers in the UK) about whether those in conversation with the emerging church should leave their current situation:

”[A]nyway following the discussion on romantic tosh and reading a recent article by theo hobson in the guardian, which shares this romantic view and seems to suggest that emerging church is about leaving the institutions as completely washed up and bankrupt, this article seems to say what i think in response (and i clearly haven’t changed my mind in the last two and a half years) – that leaving and staying can be good acts and we are better off for both. hobson is clearly only seeing one strand of what is emerging. i am both bored and frustrated with what i perceive to be a very ungenerous view of what people are doing – hobson says for example that we must simply dump all that ghastly old baggage, of bishops and buildings, rules and power, and start a new sort of Christian cultural presence. allow me to (somewhat embarrassingly) quote myself…

I am relaxed and hopeful about all of these things. Both ways, staying and leaving, can be good. Renewal comes from the edge and the centre, within and without, and if the church is emerging both ways that seems good. Let some leave and pioneer and let some people stay and pioneer. The wider mission community should certainly be able to celebrate the newness of God’s work, both in and outside of traditional structures, by crossing cultures and setting up new paradigms. It has been a privilege to work with CMS who have invested in encouraging both…

“…Church is the whole body of Christ world wide and down the ages, visible and invisible. We only really know who Jesus is as we see the many faces of Christ, the theological takes and expressions of his body around the world and down the ages [6]. It takes a whole world to understand a whole Jesus Christ [7]. Church is not just a nice idea – it is about knowing Jesus. Whichever way the emerging church plays out its mission, that connectivity into Christ’s one holy catholic and apostolic church is crucial. That does not necessarily mean institutionally, but relationally and in the spirit and heart of its leaders.

“So my take is that the emerging church in the UK is growing out of contextual mission in postmodern cultures seeking to grow indigenous expressions of church that are both related to the wider body of Christ and faithfully improvised out of the riches of the tradition within and without the traditional structures. Must we reject traditional structures to do mission well? Not necessarily, though plenty will be ditched and new things brought into play out of the tradition, and that will be fine. Are we in danger of throwing baby out with bath water? No – not in the UK. We have an amazing gift at this moment in time that I thank God for, especially when I travel to other parts of the world.”

Stay or Leave? What are your thoughts?


2 thoughts on “Staying or Leaving: Baby or Bathwater?

  1. An interesting article Jon. I struggle with this one but can certainly start to see the benefit of staying. Sometimes u have to leave, but other times there is enough worth fighting for and working towards to convince u to stay. Especially if a lot of those who feel like going stay, rather than all of these people going and leaving those who think alike to do things their own way. Change will never happen in a church if all those who start to think in a new way feel pressured to leave. Surely a community of believers can accommodate for those with differences in opinion without people judging others for these differences. Surely my differences in opinion on certain things shouldn’t make others feel the need to ostracise me, and just because I ask questions doesn’t mean I should necessarily leave. People can still be friends and work together in community for the good of the kindgom, even if they read a wide range of books and think broadly and diversely on different issues. Sorry for the rambling, but this post is particularly relevant to me at the moment 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, Belinda. Rambling’s fine! My thoughts at the moment are revolving around the idea that regardless of where you choose to go you will face problems. I think it’s more than a ‘Better the devil you know’ attitude that convinces me to hang around. With me, if I decided to leave, I’m afraid it would be to go nowhere at all. I would be hesitant to put myself in a situation that could potentially promise the same emotional roller coaster ride. It’s different for everyone. I just want to be open to growth at this time from wherever it may come and not limit myself to one dimension or perspective. (I love Rob Bell’s example here of the perception of 3D in a 2D world.)

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