Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is the Emerging Church? Part 1

What is the Emerging Church?

It seems that this question is on everyone’s minds these days. Some people are leaving the conversation and defining themselves over/against the term. Some people are saying let’s get rid of the term all together. And some people are breaking the term in to a myriad of camps, primarily along the same old lines of conservative and liberal. I think it’s time to raise the bar on who and what the Emergent Church is, who and what it is not, and to be unapologetic about it.

I mentioned some of this in an earlier post but I’d like to expand on it in a series of posts starting with:

First, the Emerging Church is about churches. It’s not about a brand, it’s not about an organization, it’s not about cohorts and it’s not about a series of blogs. Ultimately the Emerging Church is not about conversation, it’s about churches. Obviously, we can and should have conversations about the Emerging Church – I love my Cohort, I enjoy conferences, and I like to blog and read blogs – but ultimately the strength of the movement is not in any of these things. It is in churches that have the courage to take what they gain from the conversation and put feet on it.

I say all that because my sense is that people who are jumping ship, feeling the need to distance themselves, arguing over categories and terms, and answering interviewers questions with, “my concern about the Emerging Church is…” are not people who are actually living out this thing that is Emergent in a local community. They are bloggers and professors and mega-church associates.

Maybe I’m wrong about this (I probably am) but it seems to me that those of us who are busy with the work of trying to flesh this stuff out in a local community don’t care that much about what it’s called or who doesn't like us or what every bodies “concerns” are. Believe me, if I was still trying to please my old friend and mentor Mark Driscoll I wouldn’t be a stay at home dad, I wouldn’t be reading Jack Kaputo and Walter Brueggemann, I wouldn’t be planting a church with no money and I sure as heck wouldn’t be a graduate from Wesley Seminary!

Now again, I believe in the conversation. And I believe in continuing to have conversations with people who disagree with me (I have a coffee date with a conservative Evangelical on Thursday). But I guess what I would like to see is for our conversations to revolve around and celebrate the ways in which they are being fleshed out in local communities – to me, that is the future of the Emerging Church.

So in attempt to help facilitate that conversation (snicker at self) I will be offering 3 “marks” of an emerging church over the next week or so. I’m nothing close to an expert on this topic (is there one?) so I would love to hear about ways in which I am wrong or better, what I have left out.


  1. Thank you for this. I was feeling a little bit behind because I wasn't up with all of the blogs, books, and hot topics around Emerging Ministry, But the point is to talk so that we can better live out our call (not just bicker more). Too often the church spends too much time talking and not enough time doing. I know I'm at fault in this realm also.

  2. The Net is very confusing to me as a Christian but my local church here in Denver has helped me immensely. As you put it "actually living out this thing that is Emergent in a local community." Thanks


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