Update: April 2010. Well this post kicked off quite a bit of discussion and even today that discussion continues. As you read it, please note that I am saying [probably not as clearly as i intended] that i observed the movement to have matured in 2009, and is no longer a "radical and controversial movement, a trend evident in the vast majority of the groups I examined. This is very different from being "dead". A follow up post called "10 Emerging Church Models that will no longer upset your grandfather" shares a little bit of what I was seeing and may help to clarify where I was coming from. As will this post on the international, global, multicultural nature of the movement.
Original Post: 2009 marks a turning point for the emerging church. Its difficult to make broad statements about a movement that hit each country at different times, in successive waves, and at different paces. But as someone who jumped into this funky controversial experimental movement in 1985 (if it could be called a movement back then) and has ridden the wave all the way through nearly 50 countries and many ups and downs, joys and sorrows, rewards and sacrifices, here is my take. For what its worth . .
In my opinion, 2009 marks the year when the emerging church suddenly and decisively ceased to be a radical and controversial movement in global Christianity. In many places around the world, the movement has already been either adopted, adapted, or made redundant through the traditional church catching up or duplicating EC efforts. In some countries there have been strategic partnerships during 2009 or a significant rethinking process that has led to a new level of maturity, a sense of completion, or an re-evaluation of original vision and current practices.
In 2009, the emerging church either grew up, stopped being offensive, switched gear from experimental to normal, became the new mainstream, or a bit of each.
During 2009, I can think of 5 or 6 countries where some of the top "emerging church" leaders have been brought on staff to more traditional churches or denominations or mission agencies where it is hoped they will bring new perspective to the traditional streams of Christianity. There are now Bible colleges that offer a degree in the emerging church. I know because I have taught classes at them.
History will most likely mark 2009 as the point of transition and maturation for the emerging church movement. However, various streams within the movement will continue on for many years to come. For example, the biggest global emerging church event on the calender for 2010 will take place in Brazil and be attended mostly by Latin Americans. I have been asked to speak there and if I do, I will not be telling them that their movement is over because it is far from it.
A harder question to ask, and it will be asked as church historians begin to write a decent history of this movement (which no one has yet managed to do), will be regarding the date it all started.
1994 has already been suggested as the start date for this movement. This seems to make sense to a lot of Americans but not other countries. Its true that the trickle became a stream around that time but there was a lot of action in the 80's that led directly to the movement. I go for an earlier date.
1989 is the biggest contender for this date of commencement. At the frustratingly fickle "emerging church" article on Wikipedia, which is currently going through an English mood swing, 1989 is the year of choice. And it is likely that 1989 will stick. In 1989, says Wikipedia, New Zealand baptist Mark Pierson started Parallel Universe with his mate Mike Riddel and the two of them inspired emerging church leaders and alt. worship gatherings around the world from that point on. Which actually is true and both Mike and Mark have been an inspiration to me also. But, as much as I would like a New Zealander to be the founder of the movement, and despite the roundness of the 20 year period from 1989, there are many who will argue for an earlier date.
The first mention of online community appears in 1985. John Wimber rocked the English in Sheffield in 1985 at an event which inspired the Nairn Street Community to start the Nine O'Clock Service some months later. In 1985, Sanctuary launched out as a movement for metalheads and punks. By 1986, the leaders of Matthews Party in California were being criticized for church in a pub and were told that "church should not be a party!" In 1986, a group gathered at Dieter and Val Zander's house that became New Song. In 1988, two guys at school with me (Mutlnomah) had already started a skate church in Portland Oregon. I had already started my first house church in 1985, at the obnoxious age of 21, and by 1989 had started a coffee-shop type church service. Also in 1989 I met up with Dave Andrews in Australia who, inspired by the Christian ashrams in India, already had a network of over 30 houses in a new kind of dispersed community in Brisbane called The Waiter's Union. And some will quickly add Late Late Service in Glasgow and we could go on and on with mid and late 80's emerging churches.
But every movement is preceded with experiments and early examples. And every movement has streams that continue unabated for years afterwards. Such it will be with the EC. But in the meantime, there is room for a lot more stories to fill the pages of the emerging church history if we are to decide on a date.
A quick story to gain some perspective. Sorry this post is going on so long.
Pastor Bob Beeman, who I spent a few days with this month, told me that 1985 was the year that Sanctuary took off. There were so many goths, metalheads, and punks coming to Jesus in Redondo Beach, California, that they decided to start their own discipleship ministry. Bob is working on a video that will be released in 2010 to celebrate 25 years of the movement. At their peak in the 1990's, Sanctuary had 36 parishs ("house churches" Pastor Bob called them) but there came a time when they decide to close them all down (except San Diego with Dave Hart) because the traditional churches were no longer rejecting metalheads and punks. God used the Sanctuary churches for a period of time in which they were needed to preserve wine in new wineskins, and God is using them powerfully today around the world in an advisory role. In many ways, I see the story of Sanctuary as a mirror image of the wider emerging church movement. And 2009 was the year when many emerging church steams realized they had to make that shift.
How about you? Can you add to my list of emerging church models in the 1980's? How would you date it?
What sounds better to you – Emerging Church 1989 to 1999? or Emerging Church 1985 – 2010?
Previously on TSK: Defining the Emerging Church, 2004
People (naming no names! 😉 ) have been anouncing the death of the emerging church to the blogosphere for several years! Tbh if the “emerging church” was simply another genre then good riddance if it is more of a dynamic that becomes an agent for change to more creative, missional contextual & narrative grasp of Christianity one that is flexible, global and local then giving it dates seems irrelevant and a somewhat linear mode of thought don’t you think?
That’s why I’m post-emerging now. 🙂
I’m only just catching up … so don’t announce it’s death just yet 😉
But surely it’s far too soon to be putting any dates on this movement – both start and finish. It’s also too soon to be writing its’ history.
One question – could EC be just pre-reform movement before the larger scale reform happens? A bit like Tyndale et al before the 16th century reformation?
Well, i kinda think, in the late 70’s as in 78-79 – remember Sandy and Owen Brock were doing intentional community/ missional stuff … and performing the whole “Servant” shin dig!- just a thought there. hmmmmmmmmmmm
putting dates on it may indeed be premature (Dyfed) and irrelevant (Mark) but the inner historian in me continues to think that way. my biggest concern is that all the stories (like yours) get told before someone closes the back cover on this story.
And Marc, it might sound easy for you as a Dutchman to say you are post-emergent but the people who are announcing the death or “demise” [a big article comes out next month using this word] of the EC do not even include the contribution of the Dutch in this movement and Connect Europe network is lucky to get a mention.
Which of course it should.
Hey. What about Phyllis Tickle and her desire to place the Emergent/ing Church within a Great Emergence. So, can we place the movement’s beginnings even earlier? 1940’s? Taize Community etc?
Interesting, but I think a distinction should be made between emerging church and alternative church.
Pastor Bob and Sanctuary was an alternative church, meaning traditional message given an untraditional wrapping.
Emerging church is much more about the theology, and the wrapping, the style of emerging church people, can sometimes be more traditional. Make sense?
Stian, Sub Church, Norway.
Hi Stian. You may not remember but I preached in your church in Oslo many years ago.
I hear what you are saying but I still believe the emerging church started in the counterculture with alternatives. I also believe its more than wrapping but something that starts with a missional approach to culture and a willingness to sacrifice whatever needs to go for the sake of what God wants to achieve.
1940’s, Tripp, I see as another period of innovation and new forms. That decade gave birth to church in a pub, house church and virtual church through radio. I see 3 distinct periods of church innovation since the 40’s:
1945 – 1967
1968 – 1984
1985 – (2010?)
the main difference between the last two periods is that they had innovation in evangelistic forms but stopped short of calling them church.
The Emergent conversation is coming to an end because people eventually get tired of just talking.
Andrew – What is truly exciting is seeing how the science of emerging is starting to seep into traditional churches. I never thought the US Episcopal church would ever hire someone to help guide new forms of church but they brought Tom Brackett on board. I love Jonny Baker’s description of “loyal radicals,” as those who have their feet on both traditional and new forms of church.
Another interesting book to read as a companion to Phyllis Tickle’s book is Harvey Cox’s “The future of faith.” He defines our current era as “the age of the spirit,” which he traces back to the ’60s when in a post-death of God movement people began searching for God and not alliance to a denomination. Even Rick Warren assess this as this reformation as being based not on creeds but deeds.
What died back in 2007 was the US led CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) branding of Emergent Church ™ followed in 2008 by the death of New Monasticism ™
– I predict that 2010 will be the demise of power progressive ™ as people grow tired of advocacy that looks more like backing Obama than following Jesus. You still have a few publishers/agents pushing this product but I’m seeing people like Shane Claiborne moving beyond the branding. (Shane is cutting back on his speaking engagements in 2010 to focus on his community – a trend you spotted Andrew in 2008 that I found to be true in my research as well. Shane co-authored a new book with John Perkins called “Follow Me to Freedom” that looks fascinating.)
What’s ironic is now that emerging is moving into the mainstream, the provocateurs seem to be pushing the envelope for shock value is advocating a post-Jesus (and in some cases a post-God), a trend I don’t see picking up beyond the postevangelical halls of academia – much of what crosses my desk reminds me of the controversies involving Bishop Pike in the late 1960s (a precursor to Spong & Co.). In his book “The Twilight of Atheism” Alister McGrath does an excellent job of proclaiming the death of God movement dead when the Berlin Wall fell back in 1988. So why relive history instead of moving forward?
Oh – and the late 1970s to 1980s was the implosion of the charismatic movement within the Episcopal church which later took a turn to the political right but it was pretty potent esp. when you add movements like Cursillo into the mix. I am also seeing mainline church revival through bodies like Alpha (though these models often don’t move beyond basic bible studies) not to mention the models being developed by Karen Ward/COTA and how she’s been the spark to start some truly amazing church plants like The Crossing in Boston (Stephanie Spellers’ book “Radical Hospitality” is a real eye opener in contemplating just how exclusive we can be even though we think we’re not.)
thanks becky. I had a guy at one of our events in Prague who did an alternative mass in california in 1969 as an Episcopal priest. He called it “Circus Mass” and it sounded incredible.
I’ve been collecting stories for Emergent Village about communities and folks who continue to stumble upon and be changed by the ideas of the Emerging Church Movement. I myself stumbled across these ideas a couple of years ago, and saw in them something that God had been working in my life for some time.
The Emerging Church is NOT dead, nor has it been coopted into the mainstream. I have some familiarity with mainline churches that have flirted with emergent ideas, but they haven’t really internalized the ideas or they’d look totally different now. From what understanding I have of the definition of the emerging church, to suggest that it could be co-opted into large mainstream churches is to completely redefine it… which I hope you’re not trying to do.
The fact that mainline churches are attempting to understand the Emerging Church does not mean it has mainstreamed. The fact that a Very Big Conference is happening somewhere in the world doesn’t mean that that place has suddenly become The Center of that Movement. And the fact that people who were once at the heart of something aren’t as impressed by it anymore certainly doesn’t mean that it doesn’t continue to completely change people’s lives.
I can’t help but be personally offended by the suggestion that a movement that to me (and hundreds of folks I know of or know personally) is very VERY much alive and a part of my life is dead because folks who have a large blog following and have been closely identified with the movement believe it to be so. To claim something like this is at best historically inaccurate and at worst extremely arrogant.
Amy – thanks for pushing back.
Please don’t hear me say that the movement is dead because I did not say that, i dont believe that and I am actually very much involved still, going country to country, in helping this movement along from a controversial radical movement to what it is becoming today – less radical and non-offensive but actually larger in scope and impact than it has ever been.
a little bit like the charismatic movement which, although over as a radical movement, still impacts the way we do church.
your comment about the mainline church is not uncommon among Americans, many of whom seem to rule out the idea that emerging church models and ethos could co-exist with traditional denominations and mission agencies. but it has been my experience and the result of my research that the traditional mainline churches and older organizations (i have worked alongside the Baptists and Anglicans throughout these years) have blessed, paid for, promoted, encouraged, guided and helped to lead the emerging church movement
i am sorry if the romantic story of a few disgruntled pastors who started a “protest” movement (D.A. Carson’s word) is not the kind of story that you would expect but the fact is, and i would be “historically inaccurate and at worst extremely arrogant” if i denied this, the older church has been with us, holding our hands, the entire time.
case in point: the highest ranking emerging church website in the world (emergingchurch.info) is hosted by a 210 year old Anglican mission organization called Church Mission Society.
If you want to pursue this more, my next post on this subject will be on the Baptists and the emerging church movement. Look for it this week. Love to have your comment.
I appreciate your rich, historical perspective on so much that has happened in the past and trying to piece it all together. I think much of the history you describe is so unfamiliar to me and to many of us that it seems irrelevant – like, What does that have to do with ME and MY involvement in this thing called “emerging church”? But obviously it is relevant, it’s the back-story that has led up to what we may know of today from whichever stream of emerging/emergent church we may be familiar with.
I was personally a part of an “alternative church” plant of the Evangelical Free Church back in the mid-1990s in Minneapolis, called Uptown Community Church. It started off with a very “house church”-ish feel to it (meeting in different people’s apartments in the Uptown arts district of the city), but it quickly morphed into a traditional church model. What was very traditional theologically became very traditional ecclesiologically as well, and, honestly, many of us (myself included) “checked out,” because it wasn’t the “radical” thing that we’d hoped it would be. (It wasn’t until 1999 that I became connected to what would later become Emergent Village – the stream of emerging church I’ve found myself in for the past 10 years.)
Anyway, the piece I’m most curious for you to expand on is what you are calling a “controversial radical movement.” You say emerging church WAS this, in the way that the charismatic movement WAS this. I think I understand what you mean, but I guess it leaves me wondering: If this is true, is that good? Or, rather, what needs to happen to make the movement “radical” again? Have we lost something that needs to be regained? Or is this just the natural process that all things must go through?
I’d like to believe that many things are just below the surface (“under the radar,” as Amy put it), and that we’ll be seeing much more “emerge” yet in the coming year(s) …
Hi Steve. Thanks. By radical and controversial I mean that When we started these house churches and Celtic monastic communities and rave based worship and when we stopped Sunday services in order to have a daily rhythm of christian spirituality, we were harshly criticized for being rebellious. That has all changed. Most new church plants today look like what we were doing 2 decades ago and they are no longer considered radical
now I hope we are doing other things that are radical and deeply prophetic and actually I think we are – but those things are different and perhaps not immediately coonected with what is now assumed as EC
If I am not mistaken, the main point you are getting at is this statement: “In my opinion, 2009 marks the year when the emerging church suddenly and decisively ceased to be a radical and controversial movement in global Christianity.”
I understand from reading your post that from a global standpoint that has become essentially true. I know that for my own friends in the UK (I am in the US) that is mainly true. But here in the US, especially where I live in an area of SoCal that is extremely Conservative, I find that EC is very much controversial still, and that the theologies and practices of EC are still seen as radical by many where I live.
Sadly, it is still a fact that people around my town are so afraid of being ostracized, that if they are EC in their thinking they don’t admit it publicly. I seem to be the only one around here who blatantly associates with EC – and I have felt the sting of such association from others who very much see it as controversial.
And as far as radical is concerned, I struggle to find acceptance from other Christians around here because of my radical pursuit of people on the outskirts of the Kingdom of God who have been basically shunned by the rest of God’s people.
So basically, I understand your sentiment that EC is becoming a non-controversial, non-radical, hence more mainstream movement as it has matured and been accepted by many around the world. But for the US, particularly certain areas of it like mine, that just isn’t true. Why does it matter enough to peeps like me and Amy (my friend above) to tell you we think you’re mistaken? For me, at least, it is because it insinuates that our work is coming to a close … when in fact it has only just begun. There is still so very much to do! We have so very far to go still.
Let us celebrate the instances in which EC has become a blessed and accepted part of the greater Bride of Christ, but let us not forget that for many of us, EC has only just scratched the surface of what the local Bride must be.
We are going through the “Beware the Emerging Church” phase in my denomination at the moment (Evangelical Mennonite).
I wrote a couple of posts last week in an attempt to try to get them current on what’s happening. One is called “What is the Emerging Church?” and will not be of much interest to most of you.
The other may be of more interest. It supports Andrew’s idea in basically saying that once something has emerged, let’s cease to call it “emerging”. That post is titled “Emerging – The Alternative Music of the Modern Church” an can be found here —> http://bit.ly/8XipiB
I’d say in a lot of parts of the world we’ve got to the point where new things happening in the Church are not news any more. But what about South Korea? The place in the world where a passionate but fairly western-style Christianity has flourished the most, and their decline is maybe a generation behind the US. I’m guessing they are experiencing the various emerging trends later, and hopefully learning from those who’ve gone before.
I’d be inclined to keep the dates reasonably wide and the focus global. But this is really a tough historical call which may not be possible at this stage. For me, it is determined by the degree to which EC is completely distinct from 3rd-wave Charismatic and Church-Growth phenomena. It’s a bit like trying to work out whether 17th century Pietism is a post-Reformation phenomenon or completely new. There’s seldom a complete distinction: after all, the Holy Spirit did things before, during, and will afterwards!
Andrew, I’ve posted a response on my blog. The bottom line is, I think you’re far too early to start predicting the demise of the ECM (and so is the forthcoming article that you mention).
Hmmm. Here’s my comment without the missing HTML:
I’ve posted a response on my blog:
In short, I think that both you and the forthcoming article you mention are premature.
I don’t think there was anything sudden or decisive in 2009. All what you note really means is that denominations are increasingly interested in the ideas and ways of being church that have been part of the ECM.
That’s not a death. And there are plenty of efforts outside the denominations, and no big trend to move everything inside denominations of which I am aware.
Dating a movement of ideas and the spirit is always iffy. I was part of a group that tried to start a church using many of the concepts that later became associated with the ECM earlier than most anyone would date the ECM. We did very loosely connect them with a denominational tradition, and it may have been new in that tradition, but we borrowed from other places.
I think most of what became associated with the ECM was floating around before that. It just began to crystalize into a network of conversation and experiments with something of its own identity.
The ECM has never become institutionalized, and that some have gone into venerable institutions doesn’t really change that. The perspectives represented by the ECM are percolating through in a lot of ways and places, which is what should happen with such a movement. It may be becoming less identifiable as a separate movement, but this is something gradual not something sudden and decisive. And it’s not a bad thing. The ECM has contributed and continues to contribute to the renewal of the church.
Bill, the word “death” keeps appearing in these comments but you will not find it in my post because i am not seeing death but rather fulfillment and adoption.
Nothing decisive in 2009? What about the closure of Forge in Australia this year?
I agree that the ECM will continue to contribute to the renewal of the church but not in the same “radical and controversial” manner of the past.
Tony – thanks for a worthy and well thought-out come back. I should probably write a separate post to respond to it – it deserves it. great to spar with you again.
I appreciate your perspective, Andrew. I always have (especially your keeping the North American conversation honest). But I have to disagree here — and I am sure my own location has something to do with it.
These sort of pronouncements have become fashionable in some of the circles I run in, but eulogizing just doesn’t seem very congruent with my own observations and the various conversations of which I am a part. In fact, if anything it seems that interest is growing. I have seen several new pockets arise just in the last year or so.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less what labels “die” or lose their currency. As far as I am concerned the core ethos and that drives the movement will always present itself in new and exciting forms. The conversation will continue — whether we call it emerging, emergent, emergence or nothing at all — it always has.
I have created a post in response to this and to Tony Jones’ response to it, at my blog:
I really appreciate this comment thread. I posted on the age of the EM in this post a while back. It might be worth adding it to the fray.
I just want to add something to the conversation about the mainline and the EM. The movement may be concurrent with the Great Emergence (ala Tickle and per Cox’s thinking) within the main line and not simply to spite it.
I remember as I traveled through the conversation 10 years ago hearing your name. I remember it being attached to the “super friends.” I kept wondering when this thing I happened on and seemed to move with the journey I was on had an “organizing head.” It seemed so odd to have the “supposed” leaders or gurus that loomed over something so organic for myself. I read much of things back then and up to now. I have always seen you as kind of the curve in the conversation, along with Spencer. Where others were ready to toss this conversation into the main stream you (with some others) tended to pull above it.
I left the conversation for about two years. Understandably, my view of the conversation or has many of you call it “EC” is very much from those of us who gathered at TheOOZE, which I think is the most experimental at its time. When I decided to return I was shocked at the different labels and in some ways, the domestication of it. More churches have sprung up, hyphenations are big and I feel like the hippy who is like, “WTF?” I wonder, if you are like me in this. Its an oddity. The conversation,about the time 1994 mark you quote, was the biggest moments I can remember. I know that a lot of those voices are now very much in evangelical churches and doing something I thought I would never see them do. They are about the collective we spoke against, we challenged and pulled for something more from.
I feel like I’m rambling here, but I’m speaking from a place that does get what you are trying to say. I have no books or some great backing. I’m still organic to this conversation, as much as possible. I don’t look to Tickle to tell me about the great emergence, not that I have tried. I heard her speak recently and she said that the EC needs to answer one question, “what is the church.” My first thought was, “we already had this conversation. where have you been?” I don’t mean that rude, but as someone who was deeply involved at TheOOZE in its hay day we answered this in the all ways. I have nothing to gain in hoping that EC is dead or a live. However, what I pray to see is that the journey continues. That the push and pull remains. Instead of being wrapped in some deep theology that there is thought happening and change truly happening. That it isn’t isolated in certain areas of coolness in the emergence conversation, but to be organic in its nature.
Is “EC” dead? It is dead from its origins, the one I remember, but it does have a chance to renew and to take on new glasses that bring in a new perspective.
Last thought, I have said this before, there seems to be a different view of this for those of us who were on different sides of the conversation. I have found it interesting as I have spoken and been around more who have been involved with the label of Emergent (example: Emergent Village). I have had this discussion with many and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who sees this other wise I would think I was insane.
Just a ramble from an old timer OOZIAN trying to find some place that their voice some how fits.
hahaha. oh that tony jones. and your pithy response are quite awesome.
the emperor has no clothes my friend. and there is no spoon.
Andrew…this is a bit off-topic, but I’m very curious about your thoughts: how does liberationist thought in the Americas play into “emergence?”
I think there are a number of sociological impulses that converge in what is called the “emerging church.” In the broadest and most compelling way of seeing Emergence, we see a deconstruction/reconstruction pattern philosophically, theologically, ecclesiologically, and politically. Of course, there is overlap.
There is certainly a strong trend of folks who have deconstructed/reconstructed in liberationist ways (new monasticism, discipleship communities, a resurgence of Catholic Workers, post-colonialistic ecclesiologies, etc.) In all of these conversations, I feel that theologies of liberation and radical political shifts haven’t gotten their due.
Great conversation here, I am always amazed at how many different perspectives there are, and how valuable it is to listen and learn for all (especially the ones that are most unlike my own…)
Here is something I wrote a month ago and posted on my Facebook notes. It might help us move forward as we look at a new year, decade, day…
A friend of mine asked me to write up an interactive experience for a church leaders meeting, designed to explore the topic of “Emerging Church”. Here is one idea – let me know what you think.
We forget how long 3 years is…
THREE YEARS AGO
1. There were no iPhones.
2. Just One-Third of U.S. Adults Would Vote for Barack Obama if He Was the Democratic Nominee for President.
3. The Dow Jones was at an all time high above 14,000.
So how has the emerging church conversation changed?
1. Systematic Theology is taking a back seat to APP’s (applications of kingdom living).
2. Dobson retires with hardly a mention and the old rants of “them vs us” are no longer valued (see young leaders like Shane Claiborne and Andrew Marin – TheOOZE.TV).
3. The illusion of christian comfort is bankrupt and the innovation of the gospel to love our neighbor has inspired a whole new generation.
To look back at the last 10, 3, 1 year(s) of the emerging church would miss the point. It is the awakened masses, the unorganized ethos, the realization that if the Church is to survive we no longer ask for permission, we embrace heresy (unorthodox ways) as the path forward, and do what needs to be done – no matter the cost (vocation, structure or dogma).
If you are looking for an exercise for a group and individuals – I would simply ask 3 questions.
1. What was the dream that energized you to serve in ministry (not a profession)?
2. What diverted your hope of living out the gospel in that dream?
3. Where do you see that spark alive in your church today – no matter how unlikely it may seem? (Think of the larger expression of Church than the 4 walls…).
Then have groups of no more than 3, for no less than 5 minutes each person (15 mins total) share what happened when they reflected on their past and looked into our future…
Andrew I wrote on this a few months ago, I posted here http://thehopefulskeptic.com/blog/?p=54 also it might be worth picking up my book, The Hopeful Skeptic, if you don want emergent dreams to die.
Whew… this why I’ve tried not to become too involved in the quasi-institution (or national/international scene) that has always been part of what emergent church is as a larger movement of people. I guess I’m partly selfish of my time and also, this kind of involvement always give me opportunity to read the subsequent posts and comments of those who hate and revile emergent for whatever reason. This post has a lot of derisive, judgmental bloggers and commentators “dancing on the coffin” as it were, if it actually is, or might be.
I’m not totally sure how, why or if I should respond, but some neurons have been firing since reading this post and Tony’s response, and Amy and Steve’s contributions…
Kinda firstly, I’m thinking that I’ve never considered my journey with emergent to have been simply an alternative methodology or even contained in “innovation.” There’s definitely been some serious attempts at innovating some methodology, but also some sincerely frightening theological and hermeneutical shifts. We’ve struggled with value sets and world views, not just finding the best local prices on candles and bulk coffee. If we’re going to make such a strong tie to innovation as identifying of emergent, then don’t stop the history lesson! Just running backwards in time to find people pushing envelopes and trying out unacceptable meeting spaces/places will be a long term endeavor. I guess the biggest thing within me that pushes back at the emphasis on identifying emergent with innovation is the authentic practice of desegregated diversity. That’s rarely been a tension with which many in Christendom have wanted to put much effort. Thank God that some of God’s people are trying, because some of God’s people need a corner of the kingdom where they can participate. Note my inferred emphasis is on *some.* The number two push back comes with the strong use of the word “relevant,” mostly by the naughty, derisive commentators around the blog-o-pond. Relevance is a two-edged sword that I’ve personally never held to be a core value of emergent… I’ve read too much Nouwen along the way to make that mistake.
Now secondly… ee gad… an intro and a conclusion and this could be a sermon! The other synaptic snack I’ve been enjoying is a reminder that I too casually talk about the “emergent church” when I’m really talking about my participation with, and my experience of, and my localized expression of, and my hopes and dreams for a small slice of what is intentionally itself just a small slice of, off-shoot of, branch of or genus of, the tribe we call Christianity. How nice to be reminded that “we are not alone,” with we being the royal plural for *me.*
Sorry, I don’t have snappy conclusion to wrap it all up… just totally ran out of energy and inspiration. (Which I do believe in, even if I’m a out-dated, half-dead, subsumed emergent.)
Still smiling, and still emerging!
Happy New Year to you and yours, Andrew. I agree that by 2009 we can now see the extent to which these ideas have taken root, but I’d argue that’s precisely why we aren’t remotely near the end. I’ve posted my thoughts at length at http://danielleshroyer.com/ . These musings have been brewing in my head over the past year as well, so I hope you take them as my thoughts more than direct criticism of yours. Cheers!
Did you happen to read this from Christianity Today? One of their top changes in Christianity over the past decade:
It says: “The speed with which the emerging church movement has dissipated, or lost momentum. At the beginning of the decade, ’emerging’ was a huge buzzword. It peaked in 2002 or 2003; in the time since then, it has become a stigma or albatross that people don’t want to associate with. You don’t hear anyone talking about the emerging church any more.”
It is interesting as I personally rarely use the term anymore. I am doing an “emerging church” retrospective at Wheaton next month and do sometimes use it more historically than anything now. But overall I don’t use the term.
I am finding too, that when you talk to college students, most have no idea what the term means. They were only 14 or 15 years old when things were at its height of awareness in the evangelical church. It seems mainly (at least in my experience lately) known by those in their late 20’s to 40’s now – mainly seminary students and church leaders, and not a discussion in the undergraduate level or mainstream college age or even post-college graduates.
However, the terms may be losing significance, I don’t think the mission of the emerging church has died. I hope and know it still lives on, but terminology seems to be changed or not known. I think the emerging church discussion brought a lot of great things to the evangelical church at large. An awareness of a more holistic gospel. A refocus on theology as being important for all types of leaders. A rethinking of some of our ecclesiology for a mission focus.
I am sad the momentum ended for the most part due to the theological diversity that developed and created stereotypes (some true, some not). But we all continue on mission and how we believe God has us directed. I am so glad it all happened – as it was life-saving really for me in terms of church and ministry. But I do agree, it seems we have moved into the next era of things.
For those that say it was just a trend, I really don’t think they understand it. It was far more then something trendy, it was (and is) truly a signifcant shift in how we view church, mission, forced us to think deeper about what we believe or don’t, caused tension, caused friendships. Many of us are in different worlds now – theologically, and circles we now partner with to where our focus is. But I thank God it happened and don’t think it is ‘dead’ in terms of influence – but the emerging terminology may not be useful anymore and I don’t hear it in conversations that I am in or amongst younger people in particular.
OK. I typed fast, so maybe didn’t make sense on some of this. But I always love your reflections on the emerging church. Happy new year!
I would hope that any God-given movement of the Church would change after some period of time. Both of my parents were involved in the ‘Jesus Movement’ of the 60’s and 70’s in Berkeley/SF. My mother (who is very much a follower of Christ this day) explains it something like this: –We were all young teenagers and 20-somethings who were a part of this amazing thing God was doing, and then we all got married, had children, got real jobs, among other responsibilities. Although the original intentions/beliefs behind our movement were still there, our lives changed, the world around us changed, etc.—
I’m not saying the ’emergent’ movement (or whatever name it’s called) was a teenage/20something only thing. – What I am saying is that we are all changing & the world is changing around us AGAIN. Let’s give ourselves another opportunity to listen to God & reinvent what was reinvented only a few short years ago.
I hope that makes sense. I appreciate the post & all the comments thus far! -ms
Good morning everyone. thanks for comments.
a new post from me today regarding 10 types of emerging church streams that i dont get as much criticism for anymore and it might clear things up a little on what i was trying to say.
a few responses from me
Dan – I did not see the CT article until you mentioned it but i dont agree that the movement has lost momentum and i see 2007 as the peak of word usage on the net – the demise of the label should not be confused with the movement itself.
Nick – i read your piece a long time ago and appreciated it but it only deals with Emergent Village – which is only one of the 50 or so emerging church movements I looked at to come up with my conclusion.
But even Emergent Village experienced some maturity during 2009, including being added to the American Handbook of Denominations.
Spencer, thanks. i feel that healing coming on.
Mark – the conversation about postcolonialism adn liberation theologies related to mission is something that has been strongly debated in missiology circles since the 70’s and although i have enjoyed being in some of those discussions, i dont relate them directly to the emerging church movement which picked up the topics and ran with them much later.
others – thank you all. hope you track with me on the next few posts on this topic
Can we work with Harvey Cox and others and not speak of the church emerging but the Holy Spirit blowing where it will? Is this an Age of the Spirit? Perhaps. What we may need is a wider perspective and see the EM as part of the Age. That way it can have an end, or change on its own without it being a crisis.
I know Andrew has commented elsewhere that the rumblings for what later became classified as ’emerging/emergent church’ began back in the ’60s.
Tripp – I’m working on a reflection of Cox’s book for Generate Magazine with David Ramos and Brian McLaren – I agree with you that he presents a very holistic way of looking at our current landscape.
Michelle – my dad was peripherally involved in the Jesus People movement – he was a priest/sociologist professor and was studying what attracted people to what were seen as fringe groups. When I look back at his research I can see how fresh and exciting these new discoveries were but how over time ’70s styled folks masses seemed stuck in a time warp as the spirit had moved on. Yes we can wax nostalgia (I confess to having a a few Larry Norman MP3s in my music collection) but Jesus didn’t let Peter and John hang on the mountain post-Transfiguration enjoying the spiritual high but pushed them to keep following him. I find myself drawn to ministries like Metro Hope Church, a Harlem based church that brings together Latino, Asian, Caucasian and African American Charismatics not to mention what’s transpiring in the Global South and signs of hope in the Middle East. So where else is Jesus pushing us today?
Yep the emerging church has emerged and we`re all saying “so what”. Let’s get onto the “third way” now. Jim Belcher calls it deep church – fits in well with your “deep ecclesiology” post you did Andrew, – oh about a year or two ago, was it?
I only heard the term “emerging church” for the first time four years ago, but from what you say it sounds as if it was around for a lot longer, even if people weren’t calling it that. We were plugging house church in the 1970s, based on a model developed in the 1950s, to give just one example. We were doing “church as a party” in 1969 (see Notes from underground: Psychedelic Christian Worship — thecages). But we didn’t call it “emerging church”.
May I add a couple of quotes from the “history” book of the UK House Church Movement by leaders reflecting in July 1987.
John Noble: “The question the so-called house churches have to ask is whether we are part of the rocket, or whether we are a fuel tank. A fuel tank helps the rocket to get into orbit but then ceases to have any relevance.”
David Matthew: “We never set out to be a permanent feature of the landscape, and we have no vested interest in maintaining the House Church movement. If it has peaked (and I don’t know that it has) and God is doing something fresh, our heart is, let’s get into the fresh thing that God is doing; and if we need to give the House Church thing a decent burial, let’s do it”.
I think Andrew is right in focussing on “fulfilment” and “adoption”. I don’t think it matters when, or in what order where.
Restoring the Kingdom, Andrew Walker, 1987. pp 326-327.
haven’t really read all the posts in detail but surely all churches must be emerging, which is why I think the terminology is probably wrong! I also think the ‘fresh expression’ isn’t the best term either…
I think a lot of churches in England (from my experience) haven’t even caught up with what is happening in other ‘traditions’ be that ’emerging’ or ‘traditional’ so for many it is only starting to become known. I teach students (up to 25 per year) who are all christians and every year most of them have never heard of emerging or fresh expressions.
Just wondering if the whole emergent church movement is centred in the Western mindset. After reading all of the blogs above I couldn’t help but think there has been a little bit of selfish pride coming through. (Not the original blog). Has there been any record from Africa, China, India or is it a non event there as they are already where the West was not?
hi ray. this post might help answer your question