Emerging Church Retreat?

Kester asked me to read his post yesterday called Has What Emerged Retreated? Returning to the Institutions, and give some comment.

– In a nutshell, yes, I agree. Perhaps more so in UK have emerging
church leaders either sought ordination and full-time jobs in older
ministries or been snapped up by those agencies. In the USA, many
leaders from the movement back in the 80's and 90's are still growing
and giving shape to the ministries that they have been leading all this
time. Although in the USA, there is a tendency to play down the
organizational connections rather than claim them as a sign of
authenticity, as in the UK. This has led to the idea that EC and trad.
church were incompatible – a problem that books like Deep Church have
tried to address – when in fact the majority of the movement has been
both conversational and collaborative with the older movements in ways
that most people are not aware of.

– All this is a sign of
growing up and maturing, as I noted in the beginning of the year when I
said that the emerging
church movement grew up in 2009
and is no longer a radical and
controversial movement, something that I fleshed out a little with 10
Types of Emerging Churches that will no longer upset your grandfather.

Kester's observation of emerging phenomena paralleled by the
'rumspringa' [Part
] is similar to what I have referred to as coming "full circle",
although the return to the mainstream is usually accompanied by a
changed mindset about church and hopefully a deeper ecclesiology.

Maybe the emerging church HAS INDEED retreated a little over the past 2
years but, actually, the global recession and changes in the mission
landscape have forced even the most conservative and traditional
denominations and Western mission agencies to retreat in some manner or
at least pause and reevaluate. In fact, having just circled Europe in
our truck and talked to missionaries all over, I sense that the retreat
was stronger for the traditional mission groups than the younger and in
some places, the only new mission efforts into pioneer areas seem to be
coming from what we used to call emerging churches. And in the case of
certain young 'emerging' groups, the push into North Africa and the
Middle East DESPITE the lack of resources is unparalleled.

Just some thoughts. Good post, Kester, and good observations as usual.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Andrew,
    I don’t think it has retreated. But I do think the conversation has had its desired outcome as a catalyst. To think about the Church beyond the walls, religion or human control – back to the people, tribe, work of the Spirit. Here is a little piece I posted on Facebook and TheOOZE.com. Does this resonate with you?
    “One of the difficulties I think we will encounter in this conversation is – we have lived with the illusion of the “Emerging Church”. Just like those who are defending the “Modern Church” today against the coming heresy…
    I do not think there is a modern church, emerging church or whatever comes after that. What we are trying to “Brand” or label is a transitory state the Church goes through all the time. It has just been fashionable (and maybe profitable for publishers and critics alike) to name it.
    In reality I think we will look back at this period in time and see it is the IMPACT of the “Emerging/Postmodern” time/technology/theology/etc. that has had a great effect on the Church. Just like there were “Emerging Businesses” that came out of the transitions of the ’80″s, it would be hard to imagine working without a computer or the internet. It has become business as usual.
    Rather than looking for what we disagree on – perhaps we can find ways to hear each other, learn from each other, challenge each other, and join each other in the way of Jesus.
    I know I have had my fair share of heretical moments and I live by the motto “If I am not a little embarrassed about what I said yesterday, then I probably didn’t learn anything today”.
    But it is also important to hear the words of Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident” .
    Someday those who are defending the church today will realize that it was the loss of modernity that they were grieving. And those who are so eager to be the torch bearers for the emerging church will be left with a new institution to feed. But for some, the Church will always be the Church and she will continue to surprise us…”


  • Todd Welling says:

    A trully inspiring read; since relocating to NZ it has continued to stun us on the continued up-shoot of denominations…. aren’t we all fighting the same fight… signing from the same hymn sheet?
    If you love NZ, then please support our fledgling gift store, for really funky kiwiana at http://www.noozealand.co.nz. Thank-you, God Bless.

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