Friday, January 11, 2013

The Night Before: Reflections on Emergence Christianity

by Ben Howard

I'll be honest. I'm nervous.

I rolled into Memphis around 8:30 tonight. It's been a long day and it was a long drive. I may have taken a nap in a truck stop parking lot on the way. It's raining and I'm on the 14th (read: 13th) floor of the downtown Holiday Inn (Select!). There's a beautiful view of...the street and the sign of the Peabody Hotel.

I'm in Memphis for an event called Emergence Christianity. It's going to be awesome. I'm excited, but I'm also nervous.

You see, a lot of the people at this event wrote books, made podcasts, and preached sermons that have helped develop my theology, my view of Christianity. They've helped flavor my writing and build my faith.

Thing is...I've never met them. To me, right now, their names are symbolic of a set of ideals and not necessarily a flesh and blood human. Is that kind of view problematic? Certainly, but like I said at the top, I'm being honest. I'm sure I'll try to make the conversion from symbol to person, but that conversion can be troublesome at times. So I'm nervous.

Nor have I met the scores of like-minded friends who are joining them this weekend in Memphis. I feel like a little kid who's accidentally stumbled into Progressive Jesus Summer Camp. I'm shy and I want everyone to like me and I don't want anyone to think I'm weird. Ahh! So I'm nervous.

Intellectually, I know that this view of the situation really isn't true. The reality is far more mature and adult. It'll all be fine and wonderful and everybody will have a great time. I'm sure there are tons of people here who don't really know anyone and maybe they're just as nervous as I am. We'll all get to meet people who are doing awesome things.

But right now, in my hotel room, the night before we begin, I feel like a nervous kid.

I'm not writing this as some type of diary entry. No, there is an actual point to this.

When I was about to start my senior year of college I moved in about a week before classes started. In the downtime before things got busy I went and had coffee with one of the older professors. He was wise and kind and we spent a long time talking. Near the end of the conversation, I leaned in and asked him a question that had been on my mind, “Does anybody ever figure out what they're doing? Or is everybody just making it up as they go along?”

He looked down, smiled and told me that he looked forward to finally figuring it out someday.

So, what's the point? Nobody figures it out.

What do I have to say on the eve of Emergence Christianity? We're all nervous. We're all vulnerable. That's a given. Now comes the fun part.


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