Irritable Depressed Excited Anxious Exalted hopes Negative emotions Anger Unrealistic dreams Irrational mood swings What does this short list describe? The answer; the list is taken from an article on emotional changes and feelings that an expectant mother experiences! It is also a descriptive list of what the mainline (Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) churches are going though in American society during the second decade of the 21st century. (I am indebted to Dr. Kenda Dean for this insight.) We are depressed and excited, anxious and hopeful; we are experiencing irrational mood swings. Over Easter we had a joyous visit with our son and daughter-in-law. They are expecting their first child in early August. Our conversation was filled with hope and laughter; with recounting of incidents and growth pains from their childhood, and some sharing of anxieties and fears. Their child-to-be is eagerly sought and joyously wanted. Expectant emotions are a healthy part of the process and yet they do constitute their own struggle and trial. The same is true for the church, especially The United Methodist Church. Over the past few years I have come to believe deeply that God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is giving birth to a new or renewed church in the North American mission field. Phyllis Tickle builds her marvelous book, The Great Emergence, on an insight from Bishop Mark Dyer. Bishop Dyer famously observed "that the only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale" (Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, p. 16). Tickle goes on to note that by rummage sale she (and by inference Bishop Dyer) mean that the "empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity" are shattered so that "renewal and new growth can occur. She writes of three very positive outcomes which emerge from the expectant emotions and birth pains of transformed Christian witness.
- A new, more vital form of Christianity does emerge.
- The organized expression of Christianity (translate as church form and culture) is reconstituted "into a pure and less ossified expression of its former self."
- The faith has spread into new "geographic and demographic areas." -(the above points are either a quote or close paraphrase taken from The Great Emergence, p. 17)