Should We Be Emerging? Praxis Oriented: Worship

“Praxis” is the technical term for how we actually live our theology. We could say “practice” just as well. “Orthopraxy” is to praxis as “orthodoxy” is to doctrine. It’s what we consider standard, proper practice.

McKnight writes,

At its core, the emerging movement is an attempt to fashion a new ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). Its distinctive emphases can be seen in its worship, its concern with orthopraxy, and its missional orientation.


Some emerging Christians see churches with pulpits in the center of a hall-like room with hard, wooden pews lined up in neat rows, and they wonder if there is another way to express—theologically, aesthetically, and anthropologically—what we do when we gather. They ask these sorts of questions: Is the sermon the most important thing on Sunday morning? If we sat in a circle would we foster a different theology and praxis? If we lit incense, would we practice our prayers differently? If we put the preacher on the same level as the congregation, would we create a clearer sense of the priesthood of all believers? If we acted out what we believe, would we encounter more emphatically the Incarnation?

In my church, we have the good fortune to meet in a gym (a gym with Corinthian columns and a barrel ceiling). We can arrange our chairs as we see fit, and lately we’ve begun meeting in a 270 degree arc, with the pulpit only 6 inches off the floor in the midst of the chairs. I had no idea that we were being “emerging”! 

We’ve also offered some seeker services experimentally on Wednesday nights. We tried many of the techniques of emerging churches, with prayer stations and such, and it worked quite well. Well, actually, as a seeker service it was a failure — but the members loved it. Well, not all the members, but nearly all the members age 40 or younger and lots of those older.

We terminated the effort, however, because it failed at bringing in visitors, because the staff struggled to prepare the event at a high enough quality to be consistently effective, and because we found we could incorporate some of the elements into our Sunday morning service — by greatly upgrading our praise team, rearranging the room into a 270 degree arc, and adding more visual elements to the overheads. 

Now, most within our church would love to have the Wednesday night program back, but we found it only works at all when done very well indeed, and we never were able to do it well enough often enough to justify the effort. It’s just a matter of what you want your staff to do, and other churches may well have the staff time to commit to it.

The point, however, is that many church members have a hunger for a more experiential worship. Our members are sick and tired of going through the motions. They want a transforming experience — not just a great sermon, or a great song service, but a great worship.

And I realize that many of my readers will not understand what I’m struggling to say. I didn’t understand what people were asking for until I experienced it for myself. Which explains a lot. You see, there is much about God and his church that cannot be contained in words or propositions. Some things are experiential, not propositional. God can be like that, you know.

The classic book is Dan Kimball’s The Emerging Church. This is such a great book that I gave my copy to our missionary to Romania. He was looking for methods that would work in that culture to appeal to the needs of the members to feel God’s presence in worship.

In Churches of Christ, it’s important to realize that what many members are looking for is not instrumental music so much as spiritual experience. Instruments can help (or not help). But the worship that will appeal to the young is about feelings and experience, and there are many ways that this can happen.

Notice further than many churches have had great success by returning to ancient, Christian practices. Rather than insisting on our traditional practices — based largely on 19th Century frontier revivalism — some churches have been effective with a more formal liturgy, with responsive readings, with more time dedicated to prayer or communion — or even by meeting at homes. 

The goal isn’t to be emerging or anti-traditional. Or more traditional. You see, the goal isn’t to be different. Or instrumental. Or cutting edge. It’s to help our members truly worship. And if this doesn’t make sense to you, sit a few younger members down and ask them about it.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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3 Responses to Should We Be Emerging? Praxis Oriented: Worship

  1. Kent Benfer says:

    Also, it is not being done to just sell out for entertainment. The next time I hear that I am going to throw up. Conservatives chalk up anything new to entertainment and selling out. It's deeper than that.

  2. DK says:

    The Bible never told us to seek after experience. The Bible (the Word of God) tells us to seek HIM (Jesus).

    Too many people today are being sucked up into the false doctrine of the emergent/emerging church. They say, "Let's re-think Christianity and make it more relevant for the 21st century." What a statement! Christianity has worked for over 2000 years. It is relevant for all generations.

    According to Jude, we are to contend for THE FAITH. There is only ONE faith, not many faiths. The word of God is the truth. We do not have to re-invent the word of God or Jesus. True salvation comes from Jesus Christ. The word of God reveals Jesus Christ to us.

    The message of Jesus Christ is the message we need to hear today. We don't need to hear Brian McLaren's message, or Rick Warren's message, or Dan Kimball's message. The teachings of these men do not line up with Scripture. Jesus warned us of false teachers in the Last Days. He warned us about those who would come teaching another gospel. The message these men teach is a social message. "Let's save the planet and let lost souls go to hell." "Let's save the earth – mother earth." Jesus warned against worshipping the creation instead of worshipping Him.

    May the Lord open our eyes to see the truth in His word. May we not be so easily deceived by doctrines of men and doctrines of demons.

    People are lost and in need of the Savior – Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ loves all people and has made a way for them to be saved and receive forgiveness of sin. He created us with purpose. He made a way for our relationship with Him to be restored. Accept Jesus Christ today and allow Him to make your life a life worth living.

  3. Jay Guin says:


    I agree with much that you say. Disagree with some.

    Yes, there is only one faith — faith in Jesus. "Faith" in the NT refers to faith in Jesus, not a system of theology. Yes, people are lost and need a Savior. But I've said nothing that contradicts that.

    Now, it's just not persuasive to argue that the error of, say, Rick Warren proves these to be the last days. There have been times when far, far greater error was taught and practiced — the Inquisition, the Crusades, and slavery would be good examples.

    And it's simply not true that McLaren, Warren, or Kimball deny the importance of evangelism. I'm confident that very few Churches of Christ have baptized as many as Saddleback! Or planted as many churches. Or sent as many missionaries. Your accusations against these men are indefensible.

    (I have never understood why so many of my brothers in the Churches feel that they have license to assert such flagrant untruths about others. When did bearing false witness get excused when used to argue doctrine?)

    And not a one teaches worship of the creation. All teach care for the creation — which is one of the things God commanded of Adam.

    (Gen 2:15) The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

    And consider these verses —

    (Lev 18:28) "And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you."

    (Num 35:34) "Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell, for I, the LORD, dwell among the Israelites.'"

    (Deu 20:19) When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees of the field people, that you should besiege them?

    (Isa 5:8-10) Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. 9 The LORD Almighty has declared in my hearing: "Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. 10 A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a homer of seed only an ephah of grain."

    (Rev 11:18) "The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great– and for destroying those who destroy the earth."

    Yes, we shouldn't worship the creation, but we are most definitely instructed to care for and not waste it.

    That doesn't mean we have to agree with every claim made by every environmentalist. Personally, I favor drilling in ANWR. I'm good with offshore drilling . I favor nuclear power. Of course, I also favor strict regulation of all these practices.

    But even though I disagree with good people about the best way to care for the earth, I see creation-care as part of our duties as Christians.

    If for no other reason, we have to care about the environment because we are commanded to love others, including those of future generations.

    I'm 54. I'm old enough to remember when we had rivers catch fire! I was in St. Louis when the air was so polluted that I couldn't see the ground from a 5th story window! We were shameful, horrible stewards of the land.

    But today love for God's creation has become so politicized — and the church has been so influenced by the political parties — that we see care for the environment as a partisan issue, not a God issue. We've let the culture define our values — putting us very far from God. We need to repent.

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