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Underneath the Cosmetics

Before asking how church should look, let's make sure we're clear what the church is for.

I'm often asked by pastors, as I was recently, "Should our church adopt a more emergent approach?" Often the assumption is that adding certain forms (candles, incense, a particular style of music) will make a church "emergent." But I want to reply: "What would it profit to gain the cosmetics of an emerging church and lose the deeper opportunity?"

As churches seek reinvigoration, many are finding inspiration from emerging/missional approaches (the plural is important). But many focus on the forms and miss the foundational issues. The deeper opportunity is more than rethinking how church should "look" or be "done." It's the chance to ask what the church is for.

Most of us have our "theologically correct" answer. The church's purpose is worship, or evangelism, or making disciples, or some combination. But deeper than our conscious answers are our unspoken, unexamined, perhaps even unconscious beliefs—four of which are especially powerful these days:

The church exists to …

  1. Provide a civil religion for the state
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