Explaining Emerging (Summary)

So I have finally finished my look into the emerging church. I’m sure there is a lot more that could be said, and a lot of other people who could have explained it much better. I notice that Scot McKnight has recently done just that in an article called the 5 streams of emerging church. His headings are Prophetic, Postmodern, Praxis-oriented (Worship, Ortho-Praxy, Missional), Post-evangelical (Post-Systematic Theology, In Versus Out), Political.

It was quite encouraging to see that I had covered much of the same ground, despite having not read any Brian MacLaren or other emerging books. All this has been picked up from reading blogs, listening to emerging sermons and the occasional visit to an emerging church meeting.

Here’s an index of my posts on this subject:


So what are my conclusions? To be honest, I will be glad to take a break from this subject for a while. Though the church is important, it is possible to be so preoccupied with ourselves that we can take our eyes off God. But despite my reservations about the emerging church, there are some lessons to be learned. Personally, I hope that, rather than evangelical churches going “emerging”, we receive their criticism where it is justified, and reform ourselves to be more faithful to Scripture.

So I will round off this series with a few things that the emerging church needs to teach us…

  • We do need to learn how to engage with our culture better so we can communicate the gospel.
  • Lack of humility and integrity from leaders is devastating to the witness of the church. We need to remember that leadership is as much about character as it is charisma (if not more so).
  • We need to recover a deeper appreciation for Scripture, that recognises its unity as a meta-narrative, rather than just a rule-book or doctrine handbook. Many charismatic churches need to get back to reading it more, rather than merely proof-texting from it.
  • We need to demonstrate a real concern for justice that is outworked in practical action, including (but not limited to) getting involved in politics
  • We need to learn to appreciate the wisdom of believers from past centuries. Though they may have got many things wrong, we should not be too proud to think that they have nothing to teach us. Charismatics in particular need to believe that the Holy Spirit really was at work before the 1900s.

… and a few things that we would do well to avoid…

  • We must not let the world dictate our agenda and morals. The gospel will always seem offensive and foolish to some, however graciously we try to present it. The emerging church is right to seek to forge good relations with secular community leaders, but we cannot compromise on truth to earn their favour.
  • Heresy is a real danger to the church. Whilst we should allow for differences of opinion over debatable matters, the New Testament is brimming with warnings of false teaching. Many emerging people congratulate each other for having “different answers” to a question, when in fact they should be lovingly challenging one another.
  • We should not give up meeting together. In some (but certainly not all) parts of the emerging movement, Christians are no longer part of any church, and those that are are meeting for worship only very rarely.
  • We should not set up a false dilemma with respect to what holiness looks like. ie. the old paradigm of sexual purity, sobriety, daily devotions etc should not be rejected to be replaced new paradigm holiness – ethical consumerism, environmentalism etc. Rather, we should recognise that holiness has both negative (sins to avoid) and positive (good works to do) aspects and pursue both with equal vigour.

8 thoughts on “Explaining Emerging (Summary)

  1. oops scub that first one!!! my gramar tut tut

    Hi Mark very interesting series..

    I left the community church 25 years ago i left pretty much backslidden and stayed that way..

    Through my life ive been influenced by the two groups..People like David Wilkerson/Art Katz’s but i’m sympathetic to people like Brennan to,so i’m spiritually schizophrenic lol..

    Because of this i don’t feel relaxed in either camps,and unfortunately tend to get a smart mouth around either,evident on Billies blog..

    But to be fair to me,on my return i feel like ive landed on mars!!everyone’s had a 180 degree turn,forums where Christians are debating the merits of dropping the F bomb in a sermon etc

    The thought stuck me how the guys like Larry Norman and that generation feel about this movement..Is it any different then the Jesus Movement?

    Its interesting that Lonnie Frisbee as been written out of Calvary and Vineyard..But Emergents like Chuck’s son have been much more sympathetic..It seems there sympathies may be writing their Doctrine??
    To be sympathetic to a persons plight, without the person plight changing are view of the Word is TOUGH


  2. BTW what do u think of this recent writting by Brian? Seems to be causing waves online..the section annoying some below..I wont copy it all due to copyright


    Can we even say something absurd? Can we say that this beautiful whole is even bigger than God, because it begins with God in all God’s infinite fullness, and then adds creation? Isn’t that the most beautiful whole imaginable?

  3. I read that article you linked… interesting, thoughtful, and well-written. I think we’ve got to be careful to stick to what is plain and “simple.” For instance, how about that the kingdom of God is simply wherever He is king. Wherever He rules, that’s His kingdom. That, of course, leads the amazing reality that He’s allowed each of us to choose whether we want to be in His kingdom or not. All we have to do is humble ourselves and become like little children. Simple, right?

  4. Mark, it’s been a great series and I for one have enjoyed reading it. Delighted you want more liturgy in your church services 🙂


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