Explaining Emerging (Introduction)

I have had a number of conversations with evangelical friends who ask me what the “emerging church” is, and whether I approve or disapprove of it. I always struggle to explain it in a way that properly highlights both the things that evangelicals will find attractive about the movement (or as its proponents like to call it, “the emergining conversation”), as well as explaining its points of conflict and critique of contemporary evangelicalism. So I have decided to put together some of my thoughts into a series of blog entries, going through some emerging distinctives one by one, hopefully explaining them in a way that old-school evangelicals can understand. I am by no means an expert on it, so I will also be including various links to sites where you can find out in a bit more detail what all the fuss is all about.

So lets start with a list of blogs I subscribe to whose authors may be considered in some way part of the emerging “conversation”:

  • Mark Driscoll is often listed as being “emerging”, although he doesn’t really seem to fit in with most other emerging types, as he is staunchly reformed doctrinally. However, he is passionate about being culturally relevant in a postmodern context, which is probably why he is still called “emerging”.
  • Scot McKnight is a biblical scolar who seems to be quite favourable towards the emerging movement, whilst at the same time giving some balanced critique.
  • Michael Spencer (aka The Internet Monk), is now describing himself as “post-evangelical”, and is generally positive about the emerging movement, while retaining an appreciation for evangelicals such as John Piper.
  • Billy Kennedy is pastor of Community Church, a large charismatic house church in Southampton where I live. Whilst not strictly an “emerging” church, it seems to me that he is certainly taking the church in that direction. Another local pastor is Matt Hyam of Southampton Vineyard, another local church which seems to me to have changed direction significantly in an emerging direction. I have a lot of friends at both these churches, although I rarely find the time to visit their churches.
  • I suppose I should also mention Tall Skinny Kiwi, who appears to be required reading for all emerging bloggers. I’m not a regular reader though.

4 thoughts on “Explaining Emerging (Introduction)

  1. The movement is so broad-ranging that I’m not even sure if there’s anything common to all of it, at least nothing common to all of it that isn’t true of large swaths of evangelicalism (e.g. being culturally relevant in a postmodern context is easily part of the mainstream of non-emerging full-blown evangelical groups such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Willow Creek Community Church, and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church).

    I’ve put some time into thinking through with a friend what the Emergent/ing Church/Conversation really is all about, and what we came up with (really him, but I think he’s right) is that there are really two strains, the more extreme ones that are at best flirting with outright heresy and the more moderated ones that really are just culturally-sensitive evangelicals. I posted on this a while back if you want more details.

  2. Dear Mark – I stumbled on your blog Re Ern Baxter as I was doing some research of my own. We should connect. My Father was mentored by Ern and I know lead an organization started by Ern in Canada. I was just in contact with another dear friend of Ern in Federal Way Washington this past week .His name is Jim Watt. Jim served as Ern’s Associate pastor while pastoring in Surrey BC. I would like to get a direct email for himself and I . Is this possible. Thankyou for your work and enthusiastic heart for the Kingdom of God.

    Steve Schroeder

  3. Hi Jeremy, you’re right to say the movement is broad-ranging, but in the forms I have come across it, I think there are enough common ideas to last me at least 4 or 5 posts!

    I like your idea of there being “two strains”. That is in fact why I felt the need to write something. Some of my friends have come across strain 1 and been attracted to it, while others have come across strain 2 and been shocked by it. (In fact, maybe I should adopt an E1 and E2 terminology like Andew Walker does with restorationism – R1 and R2). However, even granting your two strains suggestion, there is a spectrum (e.g. there are plenty of people in between Driscoll and MacLaren).

    Anyway, glad you’re reading this, as in my next post I will (probably foolishly) make some comments on philosphy, so you can set me straight if I’m too far off the mark 😉

  4. Pingback: Explaining Emerging (Summary) « wordandspirit

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