Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Emerging Church: What is it?

A rather inauspicious beginning this is to a season of searching "under the pews" of world religions, but the question keeps coming my way, and it is obviously hot in many Christian circles.  So, my friends have pushed the topic forward.

I have been called emergent/emerging by some people.  In fact, professor Adonis Vidu from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary sends students of his class, which looks at the emerging movement to visit our church as an illustration of emergence.  (Please note:  I have purposely used all the cognates of "emerge" here.)

I am not sure I am one.  I really think I am just a dude trying to follow Jesus, and succeeding and failing at any given moment.  Somehow I ended up as a professional follower.  Okay, not all that professional, because I really don't get paid enough to be a real pro. :-)

The movement has obviously garnered some criticism.  So it is worth discussing whether this is warranted or not.  Check out this super radically critical study series, which you can buy - if you are into this kind of stuff.  Be sure to click on the video and watch it!

So first comes the question:  How do you define emergent?  Is it a church, or something other?

Later today and tomorrow I will be adding short video shots of some of the people from the Northshore of Boston.  They come from a variety of backgrounds and have been involved in a Northshore Emergent Cohort.  I did not want the theologians of the movement to define it, because they are invested in such a way as to define what they would like it to be.  These were people who have been a part of it as followers, those who don't really know what it is, and those who are just trying to figure out how they fit in with God and life.  They are mostly regular people, some students of theology, some pastors, not all carrying the moniker of "emergent."

But first let's banter this about.  The definition may vary according to where you may live.  The UK variation appears to be different from the US variation I am familiar with.  Nonetheless, we will start here.  What do you think Emergent is?  Is it good for Christianity?  or is it heretical and a satanic bane to healthy church life like the video on the link above appears to suggest?


cern said...

Ok, well in the wider Christian community I'm not sure if my understanding of 'the' emergent church would be of any great interest. But from what I've seen of people who have been identified as 'emerging church/ emergent church', I understand it to be a very varied entity... and rightly so. It appears to me to be a movement to explore what it really means to be a Christians, taking early church accounts as a starting point at least in part to avoid being tied down by all the dogmatic tradition that has become glued to Christianity and painted as if it has always been there or was always meant to be there. The emerging/emergent churches try to facilitate this exploration for those who gather with them without dictating to them. So if someone within such a church begins to discover that one/some of those traditions that have become glued to Christianity is/are actually useful then that isn't a problem. That tradition wouldn't be employed for the sake of tradition, but for its usefulness. :)

So emerging/emergent church, for me suggests a group of people who are seeking the core of their christian faith. :)



Anonymous said...

Emergent seems to have many flavors, all the way from reactionary to truly wanting to find a new, outside the traditional box, expression for living out the Kingdom of God. Since I have been rejected by the establishment I perfer the latter. If the Lord Jesus is truly kept at the center of however you are living it out it is worth looking at, but there are "different strokes for different folks."
G. Rudesill

Pastor Phil said...


Your observations on Christianity as an outside observer continue to be enlightening. It is good to know how we look to those who are peering in through the stained glass.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi George,

It is good to connect with you again. Of course, being rejected can bring about becoming reactionary and/or revolutionary - which may not be all that bad.

James said...

IMHO, The problem with tradition addressing emergences is that those who are "emerging" do not actually actually know what they believe (as an organization) and do not have something by which they define themselves. Emergent and non-emergent peoples have to get past a discussion of what emergence even IS and what it BELIEVES before it's merits can be discussed. I think that the problem is that tradition is trying to regard the emergent movement as an emerging denomination. The problem, I think, is that emergence is para-denominational. In other words, I think emergent peoples as a whole share this one commonality: They believe that good or bad, there is something that can be learned from every denomination and tradition of christianity. There is an element of reactionary truth to each successive moment and denomination and perhaps if we can learn their mistakes, and their successes, we can keep from repeating the mistakes. In that sense, I think beyond this, it is impossible to define what the emergent church believes.