Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Epic Remix Church

Church Field Trip #19

Our first emergent church! And possibly the only one we'll find in South Florida. Epic Remix was planted a mere 3 weeks ago. The founding pastor, Kelly Lyons, was a pastor at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for the past 13 years. They meet at the North Broward Prep School at 6:30 pm on Sunday nights. (They meet on Sunday nights out of necessity, not preference.) Kelly was raised by missionary parents in Peru, but has lived in the States for the past 17 years. Kelly draws no salary from the church and has no plans to draw a salary. Epic Remix intends to give away 75% of its income, using only 25% for in-house costs.

It would not be appropriate to state whether or not we were "greeted." Rather, we had at least 5 different people engage us in genuine conversation before the service began. Two of these people were Kelly - he doesn't like to be called "Pastor Kelly"; and Chelsea - she runs the Homeless Outreach program called Love Bags. They don't just throw stuff at the homeless, but they actually get to know them as friends. They are even housing a couple of them in their own homes. The service began about 7 minutes late, but we didn't mind because we were enjoying the conversation.

Epic Remix openly models themselves after Mars Hill Bible Church/Rob Bell and Mosaic Church/Erwin Mcmanus (both prominent "emerging churches") - though I found it curious that Kelly didn't know that there was a Mosaic in Miami. The set up was a half-circle of chairs with Kelly seated on a stool in the middle. They began the service with a New Testament reading - a woman got up and read Col. 1:19-23.

The worship time was leaderless. In other words, it was us facing the screen. Despite the fact that they supposedly have a handful of worship leaders in the congregation, Kelly wanted to experiment and try video-led worship. It was a little weird; a little uncomfortable. But it was also kind of cool. I've never been so aware of the people around me. Unfortunately, our posse of 7 (4 adults, 2 youths) seemed to be among the few in the group of 60 people that were actually excited about worshipping. It was a catch-22. The videos that they played, Hillsong, were high-energy and really enjoyable. But most of the crowd around us, including Kelly standing at the front, seemed as if they were disinterested in worshipping.

Following worship, Kelly taught on I Kings 9-11 for about 20 minutes. The title of the teaching was "Everything is Not O.K."This passage showed that Solomon was beyond wealthy, rich in wisdom, and certainly blessed by God. Despite his outward appearances of rich blessing, Solomon was actually headed down the wrong path away from God because of the influence of his many wives. Kelly correlated the experience of Solomon to our experience in modern day America. We are rich beyond our wildest dreams (compared to the rest of the world), but morally and spiritually, things are a mess. He then showed us a video by Chris Seay, called "The 8 Dollar Hot Dog." After watching the video, Kelly led us in a 20 minute session of Question and Dialogue.

Here are some excerpts from the teaching and Q&A time:

"justice and righteousness are one and the same"

"Do we live in a Kingdom of comfort? Are we oppressing others without meaning to? What if our wealth was shared in such a way that it changed the world?"

We discussed: child labor, migrant workers, undocumented workers, organ trade, where our clothing comes from, etc.

"How can we listen for the cry of others? We need to get out of our house and meet people and get to know them."

"What makes God angry today? The self-serving complacent church. The church is not an institution. We are the church."

"What am I doing with what God has given me? We need to educate ourselves about what's really going on around us. We should pray for the people who make our clothing, because they are most likely oppressed."

"Fair Trade is not the same as Free Trade."

At the end of the service, Kelly invited us to participate in the Ten-Minute Party (which was actually almost a half hour of conversation). I have to say that some of the people in the group drilled him much harder than I would have, but here are some of the statements that he made in trying to describe the vision of Epic Remix.

Are you emergent?
"We refuse every label anyone wants to give us."
(Trust me, they are emergent. As a matter of fact, that would be the classic emergent answer to the question.)

"What if church is not about us? What if church was about it's non-members? What would an upside down church look like? What if the church didn't need massive amounts of money in order to operate? Where might that money go? What could it be used for?"

"What if the people of my generation (Kelly is almost 50) let the younger generation lead? Where would they take us?"

"The Grand Story of Scripture is not about us, it is about God."

"Epic Remix wants to be a safe place for you to ask questions, even questions you're not supposed to ask."

Do you preach a watered-down Gospel? Do you replace the Gospel of sacrifice and redemption with the Social Gospel of feeding and clothing the poor and oppressed?
"Of course we preach Jesus. Of course we preach a Gospel of repentance."
(Except, like many of the churches we've been to, he didn't. I guess, at least in Kelly's case, it is somewhat purposeful. The emergent thought is that a person will be saved through the experience of going on the journey with other followers of Christ, not by being told about their sin and the sacrifice that was made on their behalf by Jesus. It is in this respect, among others, that I disagree with the popular emergent theology. While it was great hearing so many ideas that we've never heard in church before; it is unfortunate that they willingly choose to leave out the most important message of all - the Gospel.)

"I'd love to keep Epic Remix as organic as possible."

"I think that liturgy and scripture readings can be a powerful aspect of worship."

Phew! After that experience, we decided that it would be appropriate to go to the ultra-hip Starbucks (I've never been there because I don't drink coffee) to discuss our emergent experience. As an added bonus, we had taken a 20 year old de-churched college student along with us to Epic, so we had the benefit of her perspective as well. Like many college students, she hasn't been involved in the church since she was in high school.

Yes, I've heard the hype about the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks. And yes, it was, quite possibly, one of the greatest liquids that I have ever put into my mouth. And I'm saying that as a non-coffee drinker.

Follow-up: Kelly invited anyone who didn't have family in South Florida over to his house for Thanksgiving Dinner. This is a show of personal hospitality that I appreciate.

Follow-up: Kelly sent us a personal email thanking us for our visit as well as the feedback. He also invited us to come over to his house for dinner this week. Yet another show of the hospitality that Paul speaks of when listing the qualifications of an elder.


Lauren said...

Interesting review. I loved your analysis of the answer "we refuse any labels." So, emergent it is, thanks for clearing that up. One of the ironies I have seen in this whole silliness is their claim "There is too much division in the church...so lets make new labels, then we can refuse to use the new labels we created." HUH?

2 things about the 8 dollar hot dog video....
1. How does Kelly feel about the 5 dollar cup of starbucks?

2. The guy in the video says that we are all children of God. And then makes a reference to scripture, like he reads it. But in my scripture it says "Everyone WHO BELIVES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST is a child of God." 1John 5:1. So according to scripture, not everyone is a child of God just because they exist. All this "new" "emerging" "emergent" nonsense actually makes me thing of Solomon too. But when he said in Ecclesiates, "There is nothing new under the sun"

Fil said...

ill pray that God will grant you repentance...


michelle said...

who exactly are you praying for fil? thanks for this post Lew. i have really wanted to hear what this new "church" is all about and have tried to talk to someone who left Calvary to follow kelly with no response, like it's a big secret or something... I don't think there's anything wrong in wanting to help people around the world in their poverty, but if that is all you're doing and you aren't sharing the most important thing, namely Jesus Christ, then what are you saving them from? To love "the least of these" is so much more than feeding them and clothing them and giving them clean water, it is sharing the clear message of salvation through Jesus Christ... not sure why the emergent church has decided to leave that message out? To show the love of Jesus without sharing His message serves only to show how nice you are to poor people... they need to hear the gospel too...

homeschool sucks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Thanks for the well balanced review of the church I call home. It's nice to see someone who is willing to at least hear what we have to say and not simply assume all the rumors as truth.

God Bless,


Karen said...

I have to "ditto" the comments of Justin. Thanks for taking the time to check us out and for sharing your experience with others. Hope you and your posse find your way back to Epic again!

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that EPIC is an answer to my prayers. I'm excited as I think we are showing the gospel to the people that we meet, that we minister to. I like that we aren't caught up in the building fund, etc. I was able to go the first 2 wks and God really used those messages to speak to me as a believer. I'm excited to see what God does with this new church and those that attend there. I see much love shown to the lost and the hurting and if we can make a difference even to one individual, then I pray it happens!!!

God Bless!!
Jolene :)

Lon said...

very cool.. i've got no interest in starting an 'emergent' church but mosaic and mars hill have both been definitely big influences in my life.

interesting hearing what others are doing with it all...

Rev'onite said...

I can not believe it took you that long to try a pumkin spice latte.

Jason Weakley said...

I love your blog! Just wanted to recommend a really good book that focuses on the subject you touch on in this post: the Gospel of "The Way, the Truth, and the Life... no one comes to the Father except by Me."

I highly recommend "Revolution in World Missions" (I have only read the 2003 edition)

Jason said...

Your eight dollar hot video gave me some serious things to think about. A lot of the problems when governments and agencies trying to help those in need is the help never reaches them. Look at the hurricane relief for example. I found a good way to help is sponsoring a child through Compassion International. 75% of my money goes directly to my child in the form of education, heath care, food for my child Newton. Even these child sponsor programs must be looked at closely because all are not good. If more than 30% goes for administration cost stay away from them. Just think what could be done if each family that could spare $32 a month( I spent that much just in food and two beers at the last Tiger game I attended) what a change we could make.

By the way what game were you watching?

mosaic miami said...

my name is kevin and i am the pastor of mosaic miami, thanks for the shout out on the blog. emergent is an interesting word.i have yet to have anyone give me a good definition of what that means. if it means embracing a hopeful future, and contextualizing the gospel in a way that connects without erasing repentance,salvation thru Christ alone, and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit i'm down. if it means make it up as you go theology, without any center point of truth, and if it omits the call of "teshuva" return to me which is Christs summons to all humanity, then i think we have lost our way.
peace and love
kevin s
pastor mosaic miami

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