Chris Monroe (the senior pastor)
chick to read Benjy Oliver's responses
1. how would you define the postmodern/emerging conversation?
Inexperienced, yet transformative. I see a both-and reality here. In using the word, inexperienced, I'm referring to a number of things. First of all, it's difficult to find thought-leaders who are fully trustworthy concerning things postmodern since the paradigm is still unfolding. Secondly, the emerging conversation is riddled with zealous pioneers who lack experience and maturity. This often leads to a kind of "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" -- an untempered desire to not only get rid of all things "modern church-related," but to get rid of the modern church itself. I am certainly not the first to observe a subtle arrogance that's often part of the postmodern perspective. Despite this, the postmodern/emerging conversation has continued to be refreshingly transformative. By transformative, I mean to say that the conversation is forcing believers and leaders to reject outdated, faulty, and even injurious ways of "doing church" and instead, reconnect in a fresh way with what it means to truly be a follower of Christ. The conversation is helping us to strip away the "church stuff" we've created, so we can get down to the "God stuff" we long for.
2. what do you see as the major differences between the "modern and emerging churches?
Although such a distinction is a bit of an over-generalization, I certainly see some differences. "Modern" churches -- those birthed and still operating in ways consistent with modernity (e.g. out-of-balanced focus on "the individual", pursuit of truth as empirical and discernable) are just beginning to acknowledge the realities of our post-Christian, post-modern culture. However, their responses to this vary significantly. Some see the paradigm of postmodernism as a new enemy of the faith, and have taken up an aggressively defensive posture. Other church leaders, while aware of the cultural changes, have chosen to adopt a "wait-and-see" approach, not wanting to overreact to what might only be a short-lived "fad." Still other groups and denominations have not only accepted that postmodernism is here to stay, but have been encouraging their congregations to start strategizing the birthing of new expressions of "church," recognizing that unless this is done, entire generations may end up being lost to Christ. I consider myself blessed to be part of this latter group of "modern" churches, although it must be said that churches continuing to operate under modernity will remain vitally important in sharing Christ (some statisticians insist that 70% of Boomers, 30% of Gen-X'rs, and perhaps 20% of Millennials will remain "modern" in their perceptions and worldview).
The "Emerging" Church, on the other hand, is free from many of the trappings that have prevented much of the modern church from becoming truly missional so as to effectively engage the present culture. Truth is seen not only has propositional and knowable, but as mysterious and experiential. Relevancy is important, but the slick consumeristic methods of their predecessors are definitely out. And although emerging churches continue to struggle with the curse of individualism (https://florafox.com/ru/novosibirsk-67), they remain committed to rediscovering and practicing a community-focused Christianity. In part, it is this commitment to community that is changing the orientation of their worship gatherings -- no longer following the Bibliocentric model (e.g. sermon is central) that was common in the modern church, but rather moving back to a previous (and historically more prevalent) Christocentric model, where the community of faith gathers around the Eucharist and pursues an experience of Jesus together. This is also a reflection of the ancient-future "feel" of many emerging churches, where hi-tech multi-media technology and art are frequently blended with the use of ancient common prayers, creeds, and icons.
3. as a senior pastor, what do you see as the greatest tension with a "church [with]in a church?"
It's the tension that revolves around the common use of the facilities. Emerging church work is often "messy" -- messy not only in terms of reaching messy people (i.e. irreverent and problem-laden), but literally being messy (e.g. wax and soda stains, broken and damaged equipment and furniture, facilities not restored to "normal").
4. over time, would you support a move to allow paradox to "go it on it's own?"
Absolutely. But as its own community of faith, it would first need to grow holistically to a place of health that could facilitate such a move. This would certainly include additional leadership development and greater financial stability.
5. why paradox? (not the name, but the concept)
Because postmodern thinking often resonates with a both-and way of perceiving truth. This, combined with the fact that the Christian faith consists of many tensions and is by nature paradoxical, led us to quickly consider the name, Paradox, a perfect fit for who we wanted to be and what we wanted to be about.
6. do you see tension between the "older" members and those seeking God in new and different way? and could you explain?
Actually, no -- and for a couple of reasons. First of all, our older members are genuinely thrilled that Paradox is able to lead people into a relationship with Christ -- people who would otherwise nothing to do with "church." And because secondly, although at a slower pace, I have been introducing similar components into the corporate worship times of the sponsoring congregation -- components that have been amazingly well received (e.g. use of ancient common prayers, creeds, art, and multi-sensory experiences).
7. what do you see as the future for paradox?
I see Paradox as a trailblazing congregation. Although they will continue making mistakes, the lessons learned from these mistakes (along with the many successes) will increasingly become a valuable resource for other emerging churches. At the same time, more and more of residents within our city who have stayed away from traditional churches will come to trust Paradox and will be drawn into its community. And finally, I believe that in less than five years, Paradox will likely give birth to a new emerging church itself.