Our theology of the Word leads us to study, listen and plan in community.
The Open Door has a weekly bible study called Bible Trialogue where we study the scripture that will be focused on in worship in 1 1/2 weeks. Every one is invited and everyone's voice is heard as we exegete the scripture and listen for the Word which we will proclaim in some way within our community of faith. Theology and sermon writing in the past was done by professionals in their personal studies and libraries where they could read what other professional had written in their studies. The emerging church is discovering the value of every person's voice and understanding of the Word. Under the old paradigm pastors and scholars were believed to be the only ones worthy and educated enough to read, interpret and hear the Word and expect people to listen to them. I think we've developed a very good anthropological reason for denying this kind of thinking, but I'm more excited about the theology behind what we are doing.
I have to admit here that I'm still in the process and struggle of developing my understanding of things like the purpose of ordination and the distinction between clergy and laity. Throughout church history this distinction has been evident so I'm not willing to just through it out. But I don't see much in scripture that leads us toward this kind of theology. Scripture leads me to believe that scripture and the present action of Jesus in the world is accessible to every human being. This is what the reformers pushed for. I see the move in the emerging church to be a move within reformed theology. The reformers printed bibles for all people and read scripture in native languages. Today the emerging church is moving forward with the reformers to say that every person in the community of faith has access to Jesus through scripture and can therefore speak truth in the community.
You may ask, what happens when heresy is preached by a lay person? My answer is simple, the community and the leaders discern that a word from a single person is not the truth to be understood by the community. Look at the dangerous cults that have risen over the past few decades, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and many others, they're all lead by the heresy of a single person, rarely a community. A community tends to find balance and find middle ground. The middle ground is an important road for the Emerging Church. We who place ourselves in this movement are often seeking a middle ground of communal discernment. This middle ground and this communal discernment, we believe, is the way that God most often leads our communities of faith. Theology and the Word are understood communally.
So our proclamation of the Word is developed in community. Not always, and not completely, but as much as possible. We believe our communal understanding of scripture and our communal spiritual ears are more sensitive than when we study, plan and preach in a vacuum.