We heard Bruce give a talk at Greenbelt last year on Forest Church. It really caught our imagination as our community has been exploring how to connect with Jesus through creation. Bruce has gone way deeper into this than anyone else we’ve come across, and written a rather interesting book on it as well. So we thought an interview might be in order.
There’s a lot of emerging church stuff going on, but this is about as ‘emerging’ as it gets, as it has pretty much nothing to do with what we often associate with traditional forms of church (buildings, sermons, songs, ministers, etc). And it’s emerging in the sense that it’s still taking shape as an expression of what it means to follow Jesus in it’s particular context.
And you can tell it’s an emerging church because it’s already starting to receive criticism (one reviewer wondering whether Bruce is a pagan). This always seems to be the case when followers of Jesus try something new. In my mind, our emerging community (Garden-City) is in many ways quite conventional, but we’ve already been dismissed by a number of local minsters (I even tried to assure one minister by telling him I was part of the Methodist Church, to which he replied ‘the Methodists wouldn’t have anything to do with this!’).
I find it interesting though that the Bible is full of references to connecting with God through nature (the Psalms being the obvious example), and Jesus seems just as comfortable revealing God through nature references as he is with revealing him through the Bible. And while Garden-City might not be traditional in a Christendom sense, it draws inspiration from the shared life and participatory nature of the New Testament church.
So I wonder whether this defensive reaction to new forms of church reveals that some people are putting their faith in ‘church’ (as they understand it) rather than in their relationship with Jesus? I don’t wish to be judgemental, but if we’re genuinely trying to follow Jesus than shouldn’t we be encouraging anyone we see who is trying to do the same, even if it’s in a way we’re perhaps not familiar with?