A few days ago, I received an email inviting me to attend a conference in Seattle called “Inhabit Conference” at the end of April. The Conference is being hosted by Mars Hill Graduate School and being sponsored by “Parish Collective,” Mars Hill Graduate School”, and “Transform.” The Theme is “The West Coast Gathering for the growing transition toward rooted Practice – Presence – and Place.” Since I am not part of the emergent/emerging missional movement I really didn’t know what the code words Practice, Presence, and Place meant so I took the time to do some research and see if I could glean some meaning.. The best explanation I could find was on their Facebook page; “the Inhabit Conference brings together innovative missional practitioners from across the West Coast to empower, encourage, and engage each other around the common theme of inhabiting a particular place.” With that in mind, and upon some further research, the organization, “Parish Place” one of the sponsors, seems to really see the missional directive in that same kind of language. Michael Frost of Paris Collective puts it this way;
“God’s reign and rule is not only over individuals and their lives, it’s actually over the planet, it’s over human society, it over everything, God’s reign is complete, utter, and total, even though it is perceived kinda partially and mysteriously. Well then the mission of God’s church is to alert people to God’s reign over the planet, over the environment, over human relationships. So for me the mission of the church, I think, is identifying the way God’s reign or rule is unfolding in their neighborhood and that’s always pursued in the context of place. It’s perceived in the restoration of relationships, in the presentation of beauty, and in the expression of justice. And all of those things are always expressed locally in a sense of place. So rather than church membership being the primary goal of mission, the primary goal of mission needs to unfold or uncover that ways in which God reign is being expressed in the place in which we currently find ourselves.”
This very much is the thrust of the emergent/emerging movement. It is to de-emphasize and in some cases eliminate personal evangelism and the importance of regeneration to the new imperatives of community, healing of relationships, and social justice, of course, “in place”. This emphasis ignores the fact that it is the fallen condition man that is at the root of the very things they wish to restore and the obvious need for personal God generated regeneration. “Inhabit Conference” is also ignoring the clear mandate given to the church to make disciples. It is not the mission of the church to be and ecological or social justice agency, especially apart from the mandate of personal evangelism and discipleship. The mission of the church is a strong Biblical Christ-centered, gospel message that brings unregenerate man into a saving relationship with Christ and that sees transformational living defined by the holy character of the God who redeemed us.
The online “Inhabit Conference” flier goes on to say; “Parishioners, Missiologists, Urban Planners, Doulas, New Monastics, Micro-Entrepreneurs, Permaculturists, Church Planters, Agrarians, Locality Gurus, Liturgists, Artisans, Practical Theologians, Relational Counselors, Master Gardeners, Community Cultivators, Everyday Mystics… the list keeps growing. They’re all coming to Inhabit…” What an eclectic group supposedly gathered around the commonality of Christianity. It’s beginning to sound like a Christian “Farmers’ Market!
But just in case you haven’t been convinced yet the flier goes on:
- Over 40 place practitioners and missional innovators who will be at the conference
- A Hybrid Conference schedule including multiple participatory environments
- Dozens of missional communities representing West Coast neighborhoods
- Upcoming events and projects from our growing list of sponsors and micro-sponsors
- Details regarding the top secret After-Party (we haven’t planned it yet)
The speakers and facilitators are a group of 33 , including environmentalist and social justice speakers, emergent /missional, and social justice authors and speakers representing a number of other emergent groups and societies. . The conference also features Spencer Burke of OOZE.com a website dedicated decidedly to the left in the emergent movement, Karen Ward, and Episcopal Priest, Tom and Christine Sine, Tom is the author of the controversial book “Mustard Seed Conspiracy,” Mark Van Steenwyk, co-founder of Missio-Dei (Mark is currently working as a contributing editor on a book project Recipes for the Beloved Community that seeks to draw together wisdom from the Catholic Worker tradition, New Monasticism, and other radical communities with a similar vision.), Samir Selmanovic, an ordained Seventh-Day Adventist, Phil Shepherd, advertized as; “neo-restoration theologian, queer inclusive, outlaw preacher, friend of emergent, third cousin of Johnny Cash”, Tad Monroe, who is the pastor of Urban Grace in Tacoma and has “a deep love for Catholic spirituality”, and of course the “Poet in residence”, Micah Bournes.
You might think that my tone is a bit sarcastic and it is. Can you blame me? (I suppose some will)
So, what is the point of all this? Certainly “Inhabit Conference” is only a blip on the theological Conference schedule. But once a respected evangelical association of churches that professes a Biblical view of the Scriptures and the full sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross recommends the “Inhabit Conference,” we now move to another Biblical principle, ecclesiastical separation. And the passage that most appropriately applies here is 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. (NKJV)
14Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”
- Michael Holtzinger