The Emerging Church

As I merge onto the information super-highway, my inaugural post will deal with something that has captured my attention since I first became aware of it: the emerging (or emergent) church. This is fairly recent movement that lays claim to reforming the church. Some of its adherents prefer to call it a “conversation.” It is going strong in the UK, Australia, and the US in addition to some growth in Brazil and Canada. Even a mind as keen and insightful as D.A. Carson observes it is a movement devoid of any real moorings or direction. He says: “I should stress that not only is the movement amorphorous; but its boundaries are ill-defined” (D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, 12). Perhaps this is intentional.

Brian McLaren, one of the fathers of this young movement, wrote a book entitled A Generous Orthodoxy. The subtitle: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN. What? Albert Mohler has provided an excellent analysis of the contents of the book ( The title of the book is undoubtedly intentionally evocative. It is also characteristic of the movement McLaren has nurtured. This movement is in part comprised of people who have been disenfranchised by conservative evangelical and sometimes fundamental churches. Don’t get me wrong, some of their criticisms should be given thoughtful consideration. Some conservative churches, including Baptist churches, have too often majored on the minors. I have spent some time in these kind of churches. I know from whence they come. However, does this require throwing out orthodoxy because of poor praxis?

Their “conversations” often take place in “cohorts” or the communal gatherings where a free exchange of ideas occurs. In these settings, authenticity trumps absolutes – as if one had to be pitted against the other (cf. Mike Yaconelli, ed., Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic). As a GenX pastor, I am not afraid to rethink ministry methods. However, the faith that has been once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is not up for discussion. It is what it is. We recently had a visitor pass through our young church plant. We ended up asking him to leave and never come back because of his desire to teach a false gospel. Not very “conversant” was it? I admit, it was a bit on the seeker insensitive side but then again, so was the Apostle Paul when it came to the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). We find ourselves in pretty good company.
As young a pastor who unapologetically adheres to the articles of faith that have defined the church for centuries, I grieve over my fellow GenX brothers. They have allowed themselves to be swept up by post-modernism and carried off into the abyss of a conversation that has a plethora of meanings and therefore no meaning at all. My fear is that God and the gospel has been lost and will never again be found in the emerging church movement. They are reforming the church into doctrinal oblivion. David Wells rightly observes that the reality of God “rests uneasily in the modern evangelical psyche” (Wells, No Place for Truth, 296). So it does in the emergent church.


2 thoughts on “The Emerging Church

  1. For many years the term,” They major on the minors”, has been tossed at those not in agreement with the speaker or writer. Many strong doctrinal positions has been poo-pooed by this kind of statement. What seems minor to some my be major to others. Truth will always be truth no matter how someone feels about it
    Sorry to sound so negitive. We prayed for you at devotions this morning.
    May God bless and protect you on your deputation trail
    Alden Wightman

  2. Hi Alden,
    Thanks for the reply. We appreciate the prayers on our behalf. They mean the world to us.
    What I had in view when I made the statement are issues that are inordinately magnified in churches. The emerging church proponents often come out of conservative, fundamentalist churches. So some of their reaction is based on an approach to ministry that majors on dress (e.g. pants on women), Bible versions (e.g., KJO), or the whole “you must look and act like a Christian” (whatever this means) to be one of us. So, when these issues define ministries, it gives the impression that how you dress and what version of the Bible you carry are badges of Christianity. This is what I mean when I say some ministries major on the minors. At the end of the day Christianity is about a Person, Jesus Christ. Issues come and go, the gospel is eternal (Revelation 14:6). This is why it is right for us to be an evangelical (i.e. gospel proclaiming) based church, not issues based. I recently came across a quote by Tozer that, I believe, supports my assertion:

    Sometimes evangelical Christians seem to be fuzzy and uncertain about the nature of God and His purposes in creation and redemtpion. In such instances, the preachers often are to blame. There are still preachers and teachers who say that Christ died so we would not drink and not smoke and not go to the theater.
    No wonder people are confused! No wonder they fall into the habit of backsliding when such things are held up as the reason for salvation (Tozer, Whatever Happended to Worship, 11)

    I trust that the Lord is blessing your ministry in St. Cloud, FL. Thanks again for checking in.
    Your Brother in Christ,

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