A conversation began like this: (these are not quotes--I am paraphrasing)
In response to a book by Scot McKnight., wherein he describes a "new" way to "do church"--inviting people to belong before they believe. (Which then another peer added, in my hearing only, "Why do I keep hearing people say we DO church?" I responded, "I am not sure--we ARE the Church". That made me pause as the conversation continued.)
Professor: "IF the emergent, emerging church movement is interested in bringing people to belonging BEFORE believing, why do they have such a problem with Christendom, which did the exact same thing?"
(Many leaders in the emergent church movement are anti-Christendom in their articulation of the church mission; thus the professor was asking why emerging leaders were identifying this as a new concept, when it wasn't new at all.)
Me: "People's perceptions of Christendom are usually focused on the more negative events associated with Christendom--slaughtering muslims in the name of Christ, for example. When people hear Christendom it is a negative term..."
Another Student: "But that is what many folks in the emergent church ARE trying to do, return to the early Church fathers and writings, in order to re-align the Church with the early Church"
Another Student: "I mean, if people's perceptions of the term Christendom is negative. Isn't it appropriate to articulate our Christian view in a way that does not bring of negative associations?"
Indeed, the questions continued. Terminology such as "in" and "out" floated around the room, settling none to easily for many of the hearers, who demanded a definition of "in" or "out" in the context of Church. How do we know who is "in" or "out"? What would Jesus say about those who were "in" and "out"? Should we demarcate groups of people in such a manner at all? If the gospel is about transforming people into followers of Christ through God's Holy Spirit, then that is our call, our mission. How then can we determine if people are "followers of Christ" or "not"? These are the conversations occurring in seminary classrooms, and this class was no different.