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Why I am Not Part of the Emerging Church – Part 1.

October 13, 2006

There are no complete or concise definitions of the group that is being called the “Emerging Church”. There are many who associate with the phrase however, and through their writings, a few consistencies are clear about them. Let me summarize – but in summarizing, I want to stress that there will be many who will consider themselves part of the emerging church who don’t believe all of these things. The Emerging Church has not completely gelled into a structure or belief system yet that can be agreed upon by more than just a handful of people. But here is what I think they believe and practice.

1. Proponents of the emerging church embrace the reality of postmodernism and seek to deconstruct and reconstruct Christianity in order to meaningfully engage with Western society which is pre-dominantly post-Christian. That sounds pretty confusing, and it can be if you don’t know what post-modernism is. The modernist movement began in the Enlightenment and continued until the late Twentieth century. Since that time, postmodernism has become the dominant societal belief in the West.

2. The emerging church does not like to become part of structures (since they are primarily a deconstructionist movement) and uses networks to communicate within instead. They reject hierarchical systems per se, though they see value in mentoring, strong leadership and interconnectedness.

3. The postmodern way of looking at anything is to see many sides to certain absolute questions and to answer them with a dialogue instead of a systematic belief or theological approach. Therefore, it is not so much “what” an emerging church person believes but “why” they came to believe it. Therefore, you can have Christians with greatly divergent belief systems who are both part of the emerging movement. They reject foundationalism as a way of approaching Truth, and believe that no one can understand or completely articulate absolute truth. It is only in dialogue that we find a way to make absolute truth a part of our daily life.

4. The emerging church is missional in focus. They believe in living a life instead of preaching it. Their favorite quotation is “Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words”. They do not believe in “us” vs. “them”. As a result, there are many within the emerging church movement that struggle with traditional concepts of heaven and hell, proclamational evangelism and missions work.

5. They focus on things that traditional evangelicalism ‘seems’ to ignore: Social justice, helping the poor and despised, having a globalist point of view, seeing the “good” in God’s creation, environmentalism and women and children’s rights. As you look at that, you may conclude that this lines up fairly well with left-of-center politics, and you’d be right.

Have I done justice to the EmergingChurch movement? Not at all. If you want to know more about the movement, or in particular its proponents, I advise these web sites that I have spent more than two years reading:

www.brianmclaren.net
www.theooze.com
www.internetmonk.com
www.opensourcetheology.com

There are many, many others. The Emerging Church counts blogs are their primary source of interaction and information. Once you start to get into these websites you will launch yourself into the fascinating and sometimes confusing world of the Emerging Church.

Many people just assume I am part of the Emerging Church for a number of reasons. First, because I espouse several beliefs that line up with left-of-center politics, they assume this makes me at least sympathetic with the Emerging Church movement. Second, many of the people who have shaped my practice of Christianity over the years are now part of the Emerging Church movement, and friends of mine assumed that my journey would take me to the same groups and conclusions. Specific to this are my associations with the cell church/home church movement and the Releasing God’s People movements. Third, I believe in full interaction with the dominant culture and do not believe that proclamational evangelism as it is often done in Evangelical churches is effective. Fourth, I am suspect of the mega-church phenomenon, as are most leaders in the Emerging Church.

The problem is, that even though I believe these things in common with the Emerging Church, my differences with them are absolutely definable and significant. To this end, I am a firm believer that the Emerging Church is a rest stop for God’s people, not an end. I think it has been valuable to discuss the issues they bring up, but not the conclusions they draw. I think we will see a Church emerge in the next 20 years which will address postmodernism more fairly and accurately, that is missional in approach.

However, I don’t think today’s Emerging Church is it.

Why?

That is what I will take at least a half dozen postings this week and next to explore.

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3 comments

  1. Oooo, oooo, post quick… I am very interested in your new thread! I’m in need of some brain/ spirit excercise. I’ve been getting a little flabby lately;-)


  2. To the uninitiated, this sounds like a “movement” that:

    (1) desires the approval of modern world more than that of God;

    (2) ultimately wants to re-create christianity in an image that will please the modern secular world — thus the “struggle with traditional concepts of heaven and hell, proclamational evangelism and missions” (all things the world frowns on)

    (3) wants to dialogue (do nothing) about spiritual truth but act on worldly values

    I am going to be real brutal here and maybe I will be proven wrong, but this emerging church doesnt sound like christianity at all, it sounds like a sell out;

    any church that has its main goals as “dialogue” among people rather union with God, any group that judges itself by social results, rather than spiritual results, any group that fails to understand (indeed doesnt even want to openly discuss it) that christianity begins and ends with relationship with christ;

    such a group is just another social club trying to change the world by doing more,except this one believes that God is on their side because of their good works and “tolerance”, (and not on the side of those intolerant others) and that the world will love them too because they dont say bad words like heavan and hell and sin and jesus christ is the only way

    Is this really the way to serve God? Make him into our image of a good person?


  3. Dave: You’ve got it. You haven’t been as strong as some have been (I will mention them later in this series). Many people have said that the new Emerging church is only the latest iteration of the old Liberal church.



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