Emerging Church: Does The Hat Still Fit?

I ask this every year. This year, MOST people in my world say that the label “emerging church” or “emergent church” does not define or describe the kinds of ministries they are doing. That also means that many books on the subject do not speak for these people and most of the criticism misses its target. Not only that, but using the term is problematic for some Seminaries and ministries. What do you think? Is the term helpful to you or a hindrance?

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

62 Comments

  • I think the terms are becoming negatively loaded in a number of circles. Certainly Ken Silva and his posse are doing what they can to make both ’emerging’ and ’emergent’ terms that are universally derogative.

  • Its a hindrance, but I still use it. Just like “evangelical” is a hindrance, even though I still use that word as well.
    My big beef with the term is that people INSIST on trying to make it into a monolithic term, so that they can analyze and attack the movement. I’m left with two options: 1) distance myself from that newly centralizing definition or 2) embrace the term and keep fighting for a diverse understanding of the term. I’ve opted for #2.

  • I think its difficult to try and categorise anything as broad as this current wave of rethinking – perhaps emerging is still useful in some circles,as it helps people get a handle, or somewhere to start. But truth is most of us squirm at being so ‘neatly’ defined.
    ps. believe you met my mate Gareth at the fusion thing – he was the bald welsh guy there to talk mission with Rich and Roger.

  • Even though some people would find it easy to call the church I started an “emerging church” I don’t believe it’s every really been a helpful phrase. I wrote about this back in March in a post called M-R Ducks.

  • I think it has run it’s course. It’s as damaged as the evangelical here in the US and I don’t think there is any way to redeem it now.
    I always thought it was to be a transitory tag anyway…

  • This is an interesting question. Up until about a year ago, my wife and I had no idea what the emerging church or emerging movement was. All we knew was what we felt God was calling us to, and that it looked different than what we were seeing everywhere else (At least here on the US east coast in the middle of Maine!). The other thing we found was that there were very few (if any) people around us who identified with us in this regard. We kept asking ourselves “Are we the only ones? Why can’t we find anyone else who thinks this way? Who can we talk to about these issues?”.
    Then as I started to do a little more digging online I discovered this thing called the emerging church. The more I read, the more I identified with some of the people involved, and some of what was being said… but not everything, and that is where I see the problem with the label. Emerging church means so many things to so many different people. It’s very easy identify with it in one moment and and criticize it the next because it is so diverse.
    For me, the label has helped because now I know that I am not alone in my thinking, and that I more-or-less fit under it somewhere. At least now I know where to look for kindered sprits online, now if only I could find more of them around here in my own backyard 🙂
    Andrew, the next time you are here in the US, you should consider coming to meet some of us here in Maine. We would love to have you (and your family of course) sleep on our couch!

  • It depends – it works if you’re trying to find or attract like minded emergent type people. I wouldn’t say it’s a hindrance, not for us, cuz we’re not trying to make nice with emergent critics 🙂
    we use missional or emerging-missional to describe Revolution (our community) and ourselves as individuals.

  • In my neck of the woods — South of Houston, Texas, USA — and the “non-emergents” I have interaction with is is a hindrance as they seem to all have access to the random quotes from books by Carson, MacArthur, etc. used to “proof text” that emergent means heretic. I visited a mid-sized non-denom. church last week and the pastor took a week off from his usual verse by verse exegesis to deliver a word of warning titled “An Emergent Danger.” Listen at
    http://www.ltlministries.org/pod/podcastCCH.xml
    Nov. 27, 2007 issue. Bear in mind that as he rants about the pagan roots of labyrinths, centering prayer, etc. there are four lighted Christmas trees on the platform around him. I don’t have a prob. with the trees but it seemed a bit hypocritical to warn about pagan roots with them all around him.

  • oh, and ftr, I think emerging or emergent is more a philosophy or an approach to thinking about Christianity than it is a definable movement – so to say “emergent church” seems sort of off to me anyway.

  • to be honest, i find it a complete hindrance, and totally confusing term, when applied as a label.
    from my observation of the term, it seems helpful when applied as a verb, ie in it’s simplest, literal meaning, something is emerging out of something else. (or some one, as in birth..)
    when i first saw a fairly ‘mainstream’ church bill itself as ’emergent’ i became hopelessy jaded against the term as a label, as yet another ‘cool’ word to add to our ways of dividing ourselves.
    any term can be usefuk in this regard, as a distinction, and we sure have this compulsion to distinguish ourselves and our thought patterns from one another… and truly how can we do this in an information society, rife with tags and meta-tags, labels, classifications, categories, cliques, sub-cultures, etc..
    mm.. i guess in the end it’s no worse than any other label…
    but as far as telling me anything meaningful about a group of god’s children who hang out together? zippo. zilch, nada. sorry.
    i might expect a few more candles though.. oh wait, no, that was ‘alternative worship’.. sorry =D

  • I really think its fun when we try to make up the words to describe things…and I think often in history the “titles” given to movements that stick where at first the derogatory ones.
    In one case, “emergent” is simply a marketing tool here in the US. I don’t think it can really apply to alot of the generic evangelical churches that simply have none or loose denominational affiliation.
    We can throw out a bunch of other words that can describe the same things (missional…various “post” prefixes), but I think that it would be silly to waste time trying to define something that is still going on.
    I also think that many people using the term don’t understand the history of the movement and often make two main mistakes.
    1. That it is primarily (and first) an evangelical movement in the US
    2. That the body “in charge” is Emergent Village.
    But I can think of some other great words that simply become irrelevant (there is one right there) and I get tired of using them, but I am learning to just deal with it.

  • Depends on who you are talking to. Most of my friends don’t really know enough about what a Christian is to worry to much about groups/types of churches.
    Most of the Christians don’t hang around long enough to find out what I think.

  • i am still okay with it. but when it comes to worship stuff, i generally use the alt worship terminology. if i am telling someone who doesn’t know about emergent i will tussle between emerging and emergent in a very sarcastic way. which is probably due to the non-defining practice of emerging leaders.

  • Hi Andrew –
    I think about this quite often being caught up in things and being labelled things in overgeneralized ways.
    I am at a point where I am going to be rarely, if ever, even using the terms “emerging” or “emergent” in reference to describing church anymore or using those words in anything I do if at all possible. It is hard, because I have writings that use that term heavily and in the title. But I am going to stop using the terms as often as I am able to, as they almost don’t mean anything anymore and the names now invoke such an immediate “do you believe this or that theologically” and there is so much confusion, that I personally want to not get caught up in, if at all possible.
    I will use the term “emerging” as a term describing future or rising culture (the emerging culture) or future generations (emerging generations). But the whole emerging church and in the world I am in, the terms emergent church quite honestly is getting in the way of the mission since the words are so controvercial. I just heard from a pastor I know that actually had to write a paper for a church he applying to – where he had to define what “emerging church” meant, as to make sure he was in alignment with the church theologically. Seems so silly and so far astray from what our hearts were all at when we first got into the adventure 10-12 years ago.
    So those are some quick thoughts. I just want to be part of the “church”. I just want to be part of the church in its variety of expressions and forms that may all be different – but have a passion for truth, a passion for the mission and evangelism and are not afraid to rethink what we are doing and structures for the sake of furthering the gospel.
    Missional is a word that is attractive to me, but that also is now often (in what I have heard) being described as “house churches” (missional communities) and I am hesitant to use that too much yet. But time will tell.

  • I think that the term is useful as an instantly recognisable idea of a bottom-up, evolving, organic faith. Take one step further and define it and you’ve lost me… and lost the point. I agree that it is the word ’emerging’ that is important. ‘Church’ is loaded with a lot of baggage and assumptions.

  • Hi Andrew,
    For the possible edification of your emerging/Emergent conversation/church readers, I seriously don’t have a posse.
    Um, it would seem that nobody really wants to claim me bro. 🙂

  • I have never been keen the whole emerging church conversation. Even though I know there are different streams of emerging not all bad, not all good, I still think it is a distraction to what really counts; seeking God with all your heart and being led by him.
    The whole conversation started with genuine intent but I think it has become corrupted in many different ways over the past years. We certainly shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water but I do think we need face up to a more invading question the needed to be asked “what fruit have we seen from this label?”

  • andrew,
    thanks for asking the question. I go back and forth. the emergent thread of the emerging church seems to have most of the emerging famous and so it draws most of the attention and most of the criticism. This frustrates someone like me because I definitely consider myself emerging but haven’t resonated as much with the emergent side of the conversation, though I have friends there. And I have gotten publicly criticized by those who consider me emergent and don’t seem to be saavy to the distinction. In fact, it seems to me that most outside of the conversation aren’t saavy as to the distinction. Because of this, I’m wondering if we non-emergent emergers should just call ourselves missional and be done with it. On the other side, I’m deeply grateful for what I’ve learned as a result of being a participant in the emerging church conversation. Anyway, I’m just being honest about the dissonance I feel about this. I don’t today have a settled answer to your question.
    But, thankfully, it’s a *relatively* unimportant discussion (I’m not saying it can’t be discussed profitably). In the final analysis, what matters is if we are Christian or not.

  • Most Christians I know have not really heard of Emergent.
    Those doing ‘simple church’ seem to not being connected with the label, because it does not describe who they are.
    myself like what Brian McLaren says about an ’emerging conversation’. Because in the end, that seems to be all it really is at this stage.

  • Hi old mate!
    I am still alive out here and reading 🙂
    I have almost jetisoned the term except for the fact that it is so much a part of popular parlance.
    I choose to speak of ‘missional incarnational’ communities. A bit of a mouthful, but simply put it is ‘going out – going deep’ and I believe that captures the essence of the our movement here in Oz.
    I can’t always bat for the ’emerging church’ but I can for the MIC!

  • What a wonderful question!
    Why don’t we hear Calvinists asking this? Or Lutherans, or Wesleyans, or Presbyterians, or Baptists, or Charismatics. Every stream of ecclesial thought should be continually returning to a deconstruction. Refreshing.
    In my experience, I’m having fun with the tags right now. But I do fear that as more lines are drawn to separate what is emerging from what is christian that it could start to keep me from finding work… and really that is what this is all about. 🙂

  • hi everyone. I just woke up and all these comments were here. i will read them soon and respond. just wantedyou to know that i wasnt snobbing anyone.

  • I think the term “emerging church” is not very helpful. It is so amorphous and variously defined that it carries no consistent meaning – therefore it is not helpful for use in conversation beyond certain groups who have shared definitions of the term. For these reasons, I have stopped using the term. And I don’t think we need to find a new term either.
    With that being said, we still can speak of Emergent Village. This is an actual organization that exists.

  • I have never found the language particularly helpful.
    1/ To define everything that’s going on under the banner of “emerging church” has the unfortunate side effect of overemphasizing the importance eccleciology … and underemphasizing the importance of rethinking our christologies, eschatologies, pneumatologies and all the other ologies. And don’t get me started on praxixs. Church needs to be rethought, sure, but as Brian has said, everything must change.
    And besides, with so many non-Christians pro-Jesus but anti-church, why make church talk the prime focal point?
    2/ The “emergent” vs “emerging” confusion is really frustrating for me as an Aussie since the main expression of emerging church in Australia is Forge, not emergent village. I feel like banging my head against a brick wall everytime some local pastor conflates the two since his only knowledge comes through Carson. That goes a long way toward explaining why “missional” is a preferred term by many Aussies, and becoming moreso.
    Yet, despite the frustration, without a mutually agreed alternative to both “emerging” and “emergent” to offer up to search engines its hard to find people without using it occasionally. I expect we must endure the confusion for a while yet.

  • I have never found the language particularly helpful.
    1/ To define everything that’s going on under the banner of “emerging church” has the unfortunate side effect of overemphasizing the importance eccleciology … and underemphasizing the importance of rethinking our christologies, eschatologies, pneumatologies and all the other ologies. And don’t get me started on praxixs. Church needs to be rethought, sure, but as Brian has said, everything must change.
    And besides, with so many non-Christians pro-Jesus but anti-church, why make church talk the prime focal point?
    2/ The “emergent” vs “emerging” confusion is really frustrating for me as an Aussie since the main expression of emerging church in Australia is Forge, not emergent village. I feel like banging my head against a brick wall everytime some local pastor conflates the two since his only knowledge comes through Carson. That goes a long way toward explaining why “missional” is a preferred term by many Aussies, and becoming moreso.
    Yet, despite the frustration, without a mutually agreed alternative to both “emerging” and “emergent” to offer up to search engines its hard to find people without using it occasionally. I expect we must endure the confusion for a while yet.

  • Hmmm…what to call me…how to label me… Hey don’t try and box ME in with some label like “Emergent” or any other kind of restrictive, oppressive terms like “misisonal” or “incarnational” (isn’t that a flower…?).
    In fact, I’m going to be consistent here and stop calling myself a HUMAN BEING b/c, well, that seems like *such* a stereotype. Really folks, I just don’t want to be limited to being one species and written off as a mere mortal, bipedal humanoid homo homo sapiens when I am in fact an immortal. But…then if I call myself an “immortal” that *also* defines me and I neither do I want to be boxed in my by infiniteness. What a confusing conumdrum. Well, all things considered…just call me:

  • Thanks for asking this question peridocially, Andrew. It’s an important one to face up to our language usage every so often. Plus gives me a chance to work on my annual comedy rant on the subject …
    [Sidenote: Speaking of comedy, here would be a good time for a relevant quote from my favorite philosopher, okay … so it’s Dana Carvey … what said, “To label me is to ignore me.”]
    Okay, so here goes.
    I’m a linguistic by training. I care about language. And bad usage of language gets me riled up. Sorry …
    Okay. Apologized in advance. But since you asked about “emerging church” …
    “Emerging” is perhaps a category of church types that are supposedly or actually “edgy.” But I don’t think it’s accurate when used to describe a methodological model. About the only time an “emerging church” makes sense these days is when *Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door, and emerge the people.*
    Not meant to be mean-spirited there, but just to point out that we all tend to be careless about our use of terms (even me sometimes!). And one has to wonder if we use “emerging” to give ourselves The Cool Factor For Attractional Purposes, kind of like spiritual musk or something. [Same goes for “missional” slathered on top of the same old missionary programs; oxymoronics in action or inaction.] [Sorry, that was getting mean-spirited …] [But if it walks like a duck …]
    If we are going to talk about what kind of church-gathering-organization-institutional-noninstitutional type we are, then I only find it helpful to use the word “emerging” as an adjective for the cultural context/setting, not for the model. In other words, “We have a house church in an emerging culture,” meaning something like, “We hold gatherings at a home, and the neighborhood consists of people from post-Christendom/Bohemian Mix/retro-pagan/spiritual-embracer-type backgrounds.” And if we don’t know what “emerging culture” means, don’t use the term.
    [I use “emerging culture” to refer to the holistic paradigm and related cultures that have been on their way into the ascendancy of civilizations globally for the last 30 or 40 years. And if that’s accurate, it means that traditional and pragmatic paradigms (in terms used by Robert Webber in his book, *The Younger Evangelicals*) of the modernity period are the opposite of emerging, meaning they are in decline, deflating.] [But then, like, who’d ever want to describe themselves as starting a “deflating church” or engaging in the “deflating conversation” – it just ain’t got that attractional sex appeal!] [Sidenote: Sorry Brian, but in my opinion, “emerging conversation” doesn’t float a boat in the neo-linguistic tides, even when the coracle is “auf Deutsch.”]
    As for “emerging” being scary to some seminaries and ministries … well … I just hope they get it about the critical importance missiologically of cultural contextualization without syncretization. But I have my doubts, although I hold on to some small measure of hope that this will change when it becomes obvious in 25 years or so that the traditional and pragmatic paradigm ways of doing things have ground to a halt with no way to recover from the massive holistic changes in global cultures. By then, I suspect I will truly have “emerged” in the only way that is important, which is stepping beyond this temporal life into eternity. But hey! Don’t rush me! No need to emerge sooner than I want to, eh?

  • i find it useful if a church is willing to accept this moniker. in our neck of the woods, south florida, there isn’t a single church that is willing to accept the designation as an emerging/emergent church.
    bummer.
    maybe i should move.

  • I find the term a hindrance. I do not see how Brian McLaren’s preferred “emerging conversation” is any better. Conversation implies listening, and I haven’t found many willing to do that, at least not actively.
    I wish I could find a better term. I would write a book, fund both our ministries, and be invited to speak in a lot of places which would lead to another book, etc., etc.
    A word needs to be both descriptive and one that communicates to a wide audience. I do not find “emerging church”, “emergent church”, or even “missional church” such terms. Maybe the old New Testament word ‘church’ is still good?
    I had a mentor who was an associate of a very well received global evangelist. In the days when the term ‘born again’ was beginning to be used politically, this particular evangelist said, “I’m going to have to stop using the term ‘born again’ in my sermons. People are misunderstanding it.” To which my friend said, “No. Don’t give up a good biblical term, but fill it full of meaning so they will understand it.” Perhaps this is what we need to do with the term “church”.

  • nice one ted – “born again” got messed up.
    i am not really looking for a new term. i was doing this stuff 20 years and ago and i was doing this stuff 10 years ago (when the “emerging” label came into play) and i hope i will still be following Jesus in this way over the next decade and beyond.
    Let someone else name it. We should just be getting on with it.
    Sounds like it really is time to move on . . . which is a pity in some ways because there is a lot of interest in the word right now.
    but i have found very few people in the christian world who actually researched the idea of “emergent theory” in biology or economics and made connections to ministry. Rather, it became a label with a short shelf life like all the other labels.
    i still like the idea of “missionary” and “missional” though.

  • Correct me if i’m wrong- please… but if my memory serves me – even before the term “christian” was used to describe Paul… by King Aggripa, – “we” where known as the followers of “THE WAY”.-
    just wondering-
    Sometimes i thing instead of emerging… SPINNING might be more accurate, in that we’re stuck on that Potter’s wheel and hopefully His hand is on us.
    xo K8

  • I wrote about this a while ago on my blog: Why Must There Be A Label?
    I really can’t label myself as “emergent”, just as I can’t label myself as “evangelical”, “pentecostal” or anything else. I don’t understand either why people have this fixation with labeling others. Can’t I just be me? Can’t you just be you? Why isn’t that OK?

  • In the city where we are ministering/planting the term was actually a hindrance. It was actually shutting down conversations before they even began in our early months. Our philosophy of ministry could easily be labeled emerging, but we intentionally chose to prioritize conversation rather than a label, be it Evangelical or Emerging. So we rarely identify with the term. We rarely identify with the term Evangelical. We usually follow questions concerning such labels with a friendly, “Well, it depends upon what you mean by them!”
    These labels seem to only lead to an echo chamber of sorts consisting of a bunch of Christian arguments, debates, and mud slinging. We would much rather spend our time, energy, and resources talking to friends and neighbors who do not belong to a church or call themselves Christian. Interestingly enough, these folks wouldn’t give us a flat dime for our labels.

  • Isn’t this all to do with controlling things and – above all – making money? By starting an organization, inventing your own term, you gather supporters, who of course then give you cash because they share your vision. Am I too cynical, or isn’t that how even the tall skinny operates? Something about who throws the first stones might have some relevance here? And of course the opponents of emerging etc are doing exactly the same.

  • Hi Mini Mouse
    you said . .
    “By starting an organization, inventing your own term, you gather supporters, who of course then give you cash because they share your vision. Am I too cynical, or isn’t that how even the tall skinny operates?”
    I think you are being too cynical about the organisations i work for (do you know them?) and the Boaz Project that has, for the past 8 years, avoided becoming an organization, or a network, or even having a visible web presence but preferring instead to stay in the background and support what was emerging.
    besides that, we are talking about getting out from under the term at the precise time the MSM has taken an interest in it, escaping the limelight rather than embracing it.
    am i being too subjective here?

  • I don’t think people in the general community give a rats arse what we call ourselves.
    I think the term is unhelpful in Christian circles because defining it is like trying to nail a jellyfish to the wall.
    and ’emergent conversation” sounds like an excuse for another latte to me…. 🙂

  • Imagine the energy the first people who believed Jesus Christ was God must have expended on just what to call themselves. Do you suppose they asked Jesus himself? Maybe there was a vote held and people could choose between Christ-follower, Christian or “Them”. Of course, we all know that ‘Christian’ was the big winner.
    Two thousand years of using the same term is apparently the limit. This is definitely a conundrum of the first order.

  • Melody, yes, THAT many people pay attention to Ken and his posse (just ask him!).
    Does this make them ‘relevant’? I’m not sure what you mean.
    Ken has a passion for mocking anyone who has so much as glanced at a picture of Doug Pagitt or Tony Jones on the internet and is the leading offender when it comes to using “Emergent” and “Emerging” as universally derogative terms.
    So… relevant – yes, in that he attracts a lot of attention (just ask him!) but – no, in that he’s only interested in tearing down everything that doesn’t jive with John MacArthur.

  • I think “emerging” has just about worn out its label (maybe another year?), but a label is important. My suggestion: keep it around, but let those who would rightfully pass as emerging choose not to identify with it, so that they can bypass unneeded and unlooked-for criticism and get on with doing Kingdom stuff.
    I’ve interacted with people who have known me as “emerging” and immediately they’ve written me off, where we could actually have a good conversation. Now instead of having a good talk, I spend the time trying to make some space to show I’m not as bad as they actually think I am.
    So those who want to play emerging apologetics and stick up for the good that this conversation is bringing onto the table – excellent, we need people like that. But for those who are planting/running emerging churches: unless they actually want to constantly respond to criticism, let them just get on with doing what they’re doing.

  • In many ways I think that the labels for emergent or emerging are being dissected as more people are aware of these emerging forms of church. As the interest grows, they will continue to be dissected, analyzed and emergent or emerging will lose its uncertainty. People will suck the mystery and the unity of it by figuring out who is in and who is not. This is already happening/happened. If you read this person or listen to their talks then you are out of this camp or you are dangerous. I am not saying we don’t need to approach each author, emerging church, leader…etc. without a critical lens. (not criticizing-but rather we should wrestle and try to digest what each person is contributing) Rather I mean that emergent has brought together Christ followers from many different streams of denominations and tore down many walls that have existed for too long. I fear though soon that because of the need to label to a fault, that there will be a loss of unity in unneeded ways. I don’t know if the movement can survive with these labels forever. I think those outside of the emerging-emergent-whatever have chopping at the tree…trying to get it down so they can analyze it.

  • Either we have arrived or we are emerging.
    I have not arrived.
    I am still emerging.
    My community has not arrived.
    My communal life is still emerging.
    To stop emerging is to stop growing.
    To stop growing is to die.
    We are an eternal creation.

  • I think it is a great term. There are probably too many people using it, but the more intentional the converstaion becomes, the less people will use it. I would guess there are about 50% who simply want a new face on the same old same old. As those people stop using the term for themselves, it will be less ambigious.
    The need to create labels will exist as long as people attempt to define the boundaries of their faith community by the commonality in their metaphysical beliefs and theological doctrines. I doubt that will ever stop.

  • Sigh…
    Gee, postmodern folks don’t like labels and are ready to jump ship on this one too now. Who would’ve thunk it?
    I’m sorry, but this whole question is just way too predictable and really seems rather besides the point. Who cares what we call it? It is what it is. Let’s not be so commitment-phobic that we have to keep changing the words we use to describe it every few years. It just gets confusing and frankly makes us seem as wishy-washy as our critics want to claim that we are.

  • mike – its a bit deeper than that and its not besides the point for me – as one who raises funding for emerging church movements and who has been instructing denominations and mission agencies to focus time people and money into ministry in the emerging culture.
    i appreciate the feedback but for me, and for my family who have given up their home in America to live overseas and give their childhood to this mission for God,
    a lot more is at stake than meets the eye – not just for us but for the people we support and the people behind the scenes.

  • Well, I don’t know your personal issues regarding the word Andrew. But I was under the impression that you were asking the question a little more broadly (not just in regards to your situation), so I was speaking to the fact that this question is being asked at all, not to your personal reasons for asking it.
    So speaking more broadly, it just seems too annoyingly predictable that eventually “emerging” folk are going to want to ditch that label too. Annoying because, as my wife pointed out on her blog, it seems like a function of a “hipper-than-thou”, “too trendy to be trendy” mentality that emergents often get accused of. And what’s more, as she also points out, it’s a rejection of community. It’s a way of saying to those who currently identify with that label, “we are different and better than you so therefore we don’t want to be associated with you.” It’s just one more expression of a Modern individualism that refuses to commit to any kind of long-term communal identity.

  • actually, mike, you are right to say that i asked ‘broadly’ because i did. but beneath that was some deep questions i am asking myself
    part of it was spurred on by a conversation with an American Seminary president a few months ago who told me that he needed more resources on missional church but when the word “emerging” appears on the resources, then he has to explain to his board that the material is NOT heretical, no matter what Don Carson said.
    he said it would be easier for him to avoid the word.
    and there are movements under that term that hate the term and the descriptions out there do not describe them
    . . . or me . . .
    so i am asking again for practical reasons.
    but thanks for coming back to me on this.
    as for stickibility, i actually like having a term that makes google searching easy and gives us a constant stream of criticism – constructive and other – but the problem is that most of the criticism is misdirected

  • All, I repeat ALL movements eventually experience a left/right split. The left/right, Missional/Emergent divide is beginning to show more and more starkly all the time.
    Don’t get me wrong- I don’t think it’s necessarily a positive thing, but it is positively neccessary (unavoidable).
    Some people got into the emerging conversation to try to get past consumer church back towards the Gospel, while still wanting to contextualize said Gospel.
    Those folks will neccesarily find themselves at odds with those who lean more towards universalistism and a, err… more “flexible” understanding of the Scriptures as regards certain hot-button issues.
    It’s just a human thing, this left/right divide. It happens. It’s happening.
    On a certain level, we “need” labels. For instance, there are real substantive differences between Muslims and Christians. Makes it hard to even BEGIN a conversation with someone and work towards common ground if we’re not able to name our differences via the short-hand of labels. The same is true in the sub-sets of the Christian chuch.
    Labels help me getto kow you better and faster. Sure- they have a HUGE downside as well. But let’s not miss the fact that they can be useful.
    -Bob
    Gospel-embracing, beer-drinking, missional/incarnational leaning, women-in-leadership-supporting, Jesus-loving Pastor of a church-in-a-pub. (See- know you know a lot about me! 🙂

  • Is there a divide between “missional” and “emergent”? I hadn’t thought that was where the main disagreements lie. Frankly I don’t know how you have one without the other. Emergent theology necessarily leads into missional praxis. I don’t know any emergent folk who would want to give up the missional aspect. Are there people who just want to be “missional” but not “emergent”? That’s dangerous IMHO. I don’t think you can really have much missional praxis without the underlying theology of people like Newbign or Bosch or Wright, etc. undergirding it. Without that, “missional” is just one more term that’s going to be co-opted by those who just want to slap a trendy label on the same old thing they’ve always been doing.
    IMHO, it’s all a package deal. Two sides of the same coin. I’m missional because I’m emerging. Being emerging means being missional. It’s all the same thing.

  • Andrew, I do see how the negative connotations our critics have given to “emerging” would be a problem for people like your friend. But I don’t see what good it’ll do to just change labels. Whatever else we start using instead of “emerging” will just end up being the new target eventually as soon as our critics catch on. If we all just start using “missional” then pretty soon Carson or whoever will be writing books against being missional. There’s no escaping it. I’m find sticking with what we’ve got –
    though I do agree with Brian that “emerging conversation” is a better way to talk about it. I like what he has said about it being the conversation that is emerging all around the edges of the circle, among all the different pieces of the Christian family, and not just as one more narrow slice of the pie. But even still, I think “emerging” is still a good word for it, and I’m still happy to own it personally.

  • thanks mike – thats really helpful and i agree\
    brian also talked about “church emerging” rather than “emerging church” and that also is helpful
    and “missional” is already being either slammed or applied too broadly so that it loses its meaning.

  • andrew – interesting you should mention bio/eco connection (or lack there of), since that’s exactly one of the things that got me curious about this whole “emerging church” thing in the first place, which after a relatively short time gave me Emergent Village, and thus this blog post. I wondered if emerging was just catchy PR/advert. language (as some responses here suggest it’s become), or whether it originated in a more “literal” connection. It’s interesting to read the comments of so many who are clearly “in” the “movement”, especially as someone (Mennonite from Canada) who’s involvemeent is curiosity at this point.

  • the mennonites have such a rich history in this sort of ministry – you should be very proud to be associated with them, and what they are doing today.
    i guess the word “emergent” turned up and described what we were doing, and related it to other fields of emergent research and practice. the word still has great meaning in biology (ants, bees) and other areas but many Christians have not read emergent theory at all and think its a brand name. makes it hard to communicate.

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