In our present day, the "emerging
church" movement has arisen. This article is an attempt to introduce
Barnabas Ministry readers to this movement.
In order to understand the emerging church, one must give some thought
to the times we live in. The emerging church is an attempt to get the
church "up to date" with the times we live in. This citation from the Emergent Village
website is a good introduction to what underlies this movement:
invites you to explore this story. To come into this conversation with
us. Many thoughtful Christians agree: the modern, colonial world is
coming undone and a new postmodern, postcolonial world is emerging.
The world is changing
politically, from Cold War era to a post-communist era, from a world of
conventional and nuclear war to a world of terrorism and genocide, from
a colonial world to a post-colonial one (or perhaps to a neo-colonial
It is changing
philosophically, from modern to postmodern, from a world of absolutes
and certainty to a world of questions and searching, of challenge and
anxiety, of opportunity and danger.
It is changing socially and
economically, as a growing global economy and the rise of the internet
and other global media make the world seem smaller and more connected,
yet also more fragmented and tense.
- It is also changing spiritually as religions of the world
cope with new challenges and opportunities … religious and ethnic
strife … the loss of confidence in traditional authorities … the shift
of Christianity’s strength from the global north to the global south.
This complex and many-faceted transition calls for innovative Christian
leaders from all streams of the Christian faith around the world to
collaborate in unprecedented ways. We must imagine and pursue the
development of new ways of being followers of Jesus … new ways of doing
theology and living biblically, new understandings of mission, new ways
of expressing compassion and seeking justice, new kinds of faith
communities, new approaches to worship and service, new integrations
and conversations and convergences and dreams.
an easier way to look at the emerging church is that it is trying to
overcome the flaws in the church that are related to modernism and
modernistic approaches to faith. In that sense, the
emerging church is an attempt to position the church to address the
issues of the post-modern age. As a result, leading
advocates of this emerging approach articulate
several important values that are in stark contrast to how churches
There is a subset of the
emerging church known as the emergent church. This branch tends to be
more liberal in theology, often to the point of seriously questioning
historical elements of the Christian faith. But this does not
characterize the entire emerging church.
- Disdain for quarreling among churches
- An emphasis on experiences and feelings that are "real"
and "authentic" as opposed to traditional experiences of worship
that are confined to church settings and seem somewhat artificial or
- Questioning definitions of the faith that are grounded in
modernism, such as statements of faith and what is labeled
- Seeking new expressions of faith that are relevant to the
This emerging church movement brings something
valuable to the table- a new perspective on expressions and
faith and a sensitivity to the post-modern culture we
find ourselves in. It is always important to distinguish the gospel
from the culture, and transitions from one culture to another make this
But it is evident that these issues are also
reactionary and sometimes muddled in problems themselves:
I welcome and enjoy what the
emerging movement brings to the table. It's a stimulating,
discussion and we can benefit from it. All new generations must express
faith in their context; it is not just a privilege but a duty. More
than that, post-modernism is real and
needs to be addressed.
- Emerging writers seem to be quick to differentiate
from other Christians in instances they find objectionable or
embarrassing (e.g. television
preachers, Christians whom they term "modern"). How is this different
speaking down about the churches and approaches they dislike?
- Is it possible for something to feel right, real or
authentic, but to be false or misleading? Right and true things are
no less right and true if they don't have special feelings associated
- If propositional truth is true, it is still true and
relevant for the post-modern age
- Will new expressions of faith arising from the emergent
church be documented? (Unwritten rules are a characteristic of
and abusive churches. And once something is written down, it will
become a target for others.)
But as post-modernism is by definition a
to modernism, post-modern churches react to modern
cannot be escaped. It thus is at risk to inherent all of the problems
that previous reactions have had, most dangerously what I call "one
towards one true wayism (ironically, a very modernist tendency) in the
emerging church is illustrated towards
the end of Dan McLaren's book "The Story We Find Ourselves In."
The book climaxes with this exchange after these characters lament everything from
bad religion to damage to the environment and racism:
I resisted the urge to minimize her sadness, and instead, agreed with
her. "You're right," I said. "There's a lot of crap out there." Then I
gave her a good-natured pat on the back and said, "I guess that's why
the world needs a new breed of pastors like you and me. We'll finally
get it right." (The Story We Find Ourselves In, Brian D.
McLaren, p 189)
Am I the only
one who sees the irony here? For all its promise, the emerging church is dragging around a lot
of what it would call modernism. This is potentially another "one true
wayism" but in an infant stage.
I hope that the emerging
church continues to pursue bringing the gospel
into the post-modern age. It is an exciting process. But I'd be wary
that there is significant
potential for abuse and disillusionment in this movement, just like any