As I have been considering the lack of Spirit within the Emerging Church conversation, I have taken some time to check out some of the Emerging websites that I used to frequent and I have noticed something really interesting: there’s absolutely nothing going on. One of the sites hasn’t had a new post since at least the beginning of November. And that site used to be pretty cool and had a lot of interesting stuff on it, but if you look back over the archived homepages, you find less and less content until today when…well…there’s nothing new.
I think this is symptomatic of the greater issue within the movement of the lack of the Holy Spirit playing an active role. But I’ve noticed the same trend, in a generalized sense, within the Christian community as a whole. It seems the edginess of Gospel presentation is just gone.
Of course, this is not a new problem. A.W. Tozer was battling a similar problem in his day when he wrote,
A doctrine has practical value only as far as it is prominent in our thoughts and makes a difference in our lives. By this test the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as held by evangelical Christians today has almost no practical value at all. In most Christian churches the Spirit is quite entirely overlooked. Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone. Brief reference is made to Him in the Doxology and the Benediction. Further than that He might as well not exist. So completely do we ignore Him that it is only by courtesy that we can be called Trinitarian.
Not to harp on Tozer, but it is like we are scared of the Spirit’s influence on the Church. He shares an illustration about how, when he was growing up, they had a corn field and there happened to be a lot of crows. They went out and shot one of the crows and hung it out in the middle of the field by its feet in the hopes that the other crows would see it and say amongst themselves, “There’s a great corn field, but see that crow? Don’t go there or you’ll end up like him.” Satan does the same thing. He takes some religious fanatic doing things in the name of the Spirit that he shouldn’t be doing, holds them up before all the other Christians and we say to ourselves, “We’d better not go over there, into that Holy Spirit stuff, or we’ll end up like him.”
It concerns me greatly because, while there are plenty of individual churches who are truly Spirit-filled and moving forward at His direction, the Christian Church as a whole…well…isn’t. For the most part, we are more concerned about how we look or reaching a certain demographic or just doing whatever works at the expense of what may be right that we have forced the Spirit out of the picture. It’s not just the Emerging Church that isn’t doing anything or going anywhere. It isn’t just the Emerging Church that has traded truth for relativism. It’s not just the Emerging Church who has chosen political affiliation over Gospel unity.
As a result, division has occurred within the Church. And the blame cannot all be laid on the “Emergents.” While they spent a lot of time saying, “You did such and such,” the Orthodox among us did the same toward them, making the rift wider and showing more clearly that the Spirit has been out of the picture for a long time.
I guess it really is “only by courtesy that we can be called Trinitarian.”