I was recently asked to share my assessment of the Emerging Church. I have written before on what I see as some of the excesses and pitfalls, but since there is some interest, I thought I would share this short-list of the good and bad.
The Emerging Church movement is broad and no one person or group really speaks for “all” of the emerging churches. Here are a few general observations based on my own reading and experience. Feel free to add some of your own ‘good’, ‘bad’, and “ugly” to the list.
- An emphasis on understanding the culture of the day.
- A recognition of the cultural shift from modern to post-modern philosophy that has an intense influence on the coming generations and in our urban communities.
- A willingness to try different methods/approaches to reaching the lost and living as a church.
The photo above shows what happened in Florida when a giant python tried to swallow an alligator. Too much to swallow, the alligator split the snake in half while trying to break free and both animals died. This is what happens when we try to consume too much of a good thing. This is the danger of the emergent movement.
- Too much emphasis on cultural relevance which has resulted in the loss of a clear Gospel message.
- An emphasis on being culturally “hip” that has led to a rejection of meaningful traditions and practices that are unique to the church (ie a rejection in some groups of water baptism and communion as a culturally irrelevant and religious ritual).
- An unwillingness to stand firm on the uniqueness of Christ.
- A de-emphasis on the local church as a necessary part of the Christian life.
- An unwillingness of those outside the movement to engage in meaningful discussion.
- A “guilt by association” mentality that has conflated the Organic Church movement with the Emerging Church movement. Yes, there is some crossover, but the two are quite distinct.
Where to start
Here is my recommendation for authors and books related to the Emerging Church movement.
Authors who reflect the “Good”
- NT Wright in his book, “Simply Christian” This book does not deal with the topic of Emergent Church directly, but I do think Wright reflects a good approach to engaging the culture without compromising the core of our Faith and doctrine.
- Dan Kimball’s book, “The Emerging Church” should provide some good insight to the practices of Emergent that I think are helpful
Authors who reflect the “Bad”
- Brian McLaren in his book “Generous Orthodoxy“
- Rob Bell in his book, “Velvet Elvis” & “Love Wins“… which arguable has moved Bell from the Bad to the Ugly.
Authors who reflect the “Ugly”
- Can’t think of any books that reflect this viewpoint, but there are plenty of blogs out there if you just Google “Emerging Church” and Evil you will find them.