Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What on Earth is The Emergent Church?!

"In a variety of voices, this group of friends is attempting to sing a song a together."--Tony Jones on The Emerging Church.

What is the Emerging Church?
I've heard this question asked rather frequently as of late. No matter how I try to explain it, I feel like I haven't quite satisfied the inquiry. Part of the reason is because The Emergent Church is so diverse that I never feel like a flat two to three sentence definition suffices. Another reason is because I usually feel a bit on the defensive since I find that people who do not even know what the emerging church "is" are wary of it, have already formed some negative preconceived notions, and are sometimes flat out against it. Since the Emerging Church is diverse and more of an ongoing conversation or movement than a denomination of "the church," people have a hard time pinning it down. However, I came across this post from Mike Clawson over at Emerging Pensees that sums up the history, evolution, various contributors, and main streams of thought of what is known as "The Emerging Church." He also does a superb job of defining some of the "key terms" and principles of Emergent thought.

Here is a more indepth article by Scot McKnight, a professor of religious studies at North Park Theological Seminary, that dismantles some of the prevailing stereotypes levied against Emergents and examines five streams within emerging faith: prophetic, postmodern, praxis-oriented (how faith is lived out), post-evangelical, and political.

Any thoughts? Emergent folks, do you feel this is an accurate summary of The Emerging Church? Traditional folks, does this give you a better understanding of what the Emerging Church is?

And just for laughs, here's a little cartoon dealing with stereotypes....


Terry said...

Although I have heard the words "Emerging Church", I've never ben quite sure what it is myself. Sounds like a hodge podge of Christians who maybe don't agree on everything, but are committed to unity for the sake of the gospel and a search for truth. Am I on the right track? If so, that's not a bad thing as long as they agree on the basic tenets of the gospel and the Christian faith: the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, the resurection, salvation by grace through faith, etc. In the end isn't that what matters most?

Ramblin' Red said...

Love the cartoon, lol.

I'm not "schooled" in the Emergent discourse, but it sounds like me from what you describe.

Your post about the Pearls' book a few posts back hit me - as the whole "women's role" is a fresh topic on my mind. I've never read the Pearls' stuff, so can't fairly discern, but I know many Christian friends who have been sexually abused in their pasts that really struggle with the Pearls' views.

jeremy myers said...

great post. Lots of people lump all people less conservative than them into the "emergent" crowd without really knowing anything about it. I look forward to reading the links you have provided.

Also, that comic strip from ASBO Jesus hit so close to home... thanks.

Tia Lynn said...

I have now read a good number of books from the more prominent voices of the "emerging church": Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Tony Jones, Doug Pagit, Scot McKnight, and The Emergent Manifesto of Hope, which features articles from like 18 different emergent folks.

Terry, I would say your description is pretty accurate as far as the central truths of christianity are concerned. There's more to the emerging church than unity, but that is a huge part of it.

Good input everyone! Thanks!

Tonya said...

here is a sermon clip by the pastor at Mars Hill. It explains the emergent movement in 4 "lanes". I found it to be helpful in understanding why the emergent movement sounds great at times and really bothers me at other times. I get lanes 1,2, and 3 and can agree with most of their ideas. Lane 4 is the one that throws me right off the emergent bandwagon. I couldn't find a way to copy the actual sermon, but it is on this page right now. If it moved, look for "emerging church" (topic #2, I think) under "religion saves and nine other misconceptions". I came across it by accident and thought you might find it interesting since you have been studying this.


Tia Lynn said...

Thanks Tonya! I'll listen to it! Mars Hill? Like as in Rob Bell?