Emerging Church

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Contents

Introduction

The "emerging Church" developed in the late 20th Century into the 21st Century as a conversation in Western Europe, North America, and the South Pacific concerned with the deconstruction and reconstruction of protestant Christianity. Its development stemmed from a mix of a lack of growth in protestant churches, particularly amongst generation x; concern over how the Church would adopt to postmodernity; opposition to fundamentalist doctrines and practices in the modern church; a neglect of ancient Christian tradition and practices; the need for an ecumenical, catholic Church; and increasing suspicion of the missiology of the market-driven, mega-church, and institutionalized Christianity. By 2005, the emerging Church was also occurring to some extent in Asia, Africa, and South America. Some ecclesial scholars, thinkers, and practitioners affirmed the conversation had become a movement. Since there was no central leadership and no communal doctrines or order, the emerging Church as a movement was highly debated. Opponents of "movement" argued the emerging church was still a gathering in conversation. Template:Ref

Background

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Conversation or Movement

With the global expansion of the emerging Church and its influence, some ecclesial scholars, thinkers and practitioners concluded the conversation had become a movement while still others debated it was still a conversation. Often skeptics, like D.A. Carson, Author and Critic of the emerging Church,Template:Ref as well as its supporters referred to the occurrence as a genuine movement.Template:Ref However, many within the emerging Church defended its existence as nothing more than a conversation.

Dr. Paul Pierson, dean emeritus of Fuller's School of World Mission, suggested that Christian movements have some of the following summarized characteristics which may have supported the emerging church as a movement: 1) Movements always begin on the periphery of the institutional church; 2) Motivated by a transforming experience of God by an individual or group; 3) High importance on prayer, study, and mutual encouragement; 4) Less institutional; 5) Theological reflection and discovery; 6) Countercultural; 7) Opposed by the dominant culture and Church; 8) Flexible structures emerge; 9) Recontextualization of the Christian message; 10) Concern for the marginalized; and 11) Matures towards social transformation.Template:Ref It was uncertain which criteria, if any, the emerging church collectively satisfied to be labeled a movement.

Furthermore, a religious movement was often defined by sociologists as a comparatively organized effort by a group of people to instigate or avert transformation in religious institutions or in religious life.Template:Ref Opponents of the emerging church as a movement argued that the emerging church jointly lacked organization, leadership, and a common purpose to be a valid religious movement.

Distinguishing Characteristics

Though expressions of the emerging Church varied according to cultural context, tradition, and school of thought, the global occurrence of the emerging Church shared some distinguishing characteristics, including a common language unique to the emerging Church, creative expression, decentralized leadership, holistic worship expression, fluency in new media, sensitivity to postmodernity, organizational simplicity, missional-mindedness, an ecumenical commitment, and the value for social justice.Template:Ref

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Theological Developments

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Missiology

At the turn of the century, the emerging Church arguably did not have a common missiology. Perhaps, proliferated by the missiological works of Roxburgh, Bosch, Newbigin, Hunsberger, and the Gospel and Our Culture Network (GOCN), the emerging Church had discovered grounds for a renewed missional theology. As a result of insufficient theological depth on how churches perceive their identity and then how churches associate with their cultural context, Hunsberger addressed Newbigin’s ideology of churches becoming domesticated by culture instead of occupying a domestic missiology that confronts culture.Template:Ref Theological depth and cultural context were essential questions surfacing in the missiological inquiries of the emerging Church. Guder, addressed the core of missional perspective being concerned with the Kingdom of God.Template:Ref Modern missiology often focused upon building the Church collectively or adding to the numbers of individual churches, thus focusing on building bigger and better churches which produced religious goods and services for consumption.Template:Ref The emerging Church sought to understand and renew the mission of Christ in its postmodern context. Chris Seay, emerging church pastor, defended, “It should be clear we are championing the gospel and missional values, not what (some) describe as ‘ministry intentionally influenced by postmodern theory.’”Template:Ref Guder suggested there are three major distinctions concerned with surfacing missiology:

  • The church as a body of people sent on a mission in contrast to the church as an entity located in a building or in an institutional organization
  • The church as a community of gathered people brought together by a common calling and vocation (sent people)
  • A shift from ecclesial centric view of mission (mission is about building a church) to an emphasis on the mission of God (mission is about the Kingdom or reign of God)Template:Ref

References

1. Template:Note Burke, Spencer, et. al. "Our Response to Critics of Emergent" Emergent-US: The Blog, June 2, 2005; Carson, D.A. Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005; Gibbs, Eddie & Ryan Bolger. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Manuscript). Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005; Jones, Andrew. "Emerging Church Definition 1.0." TallSkinnyKiwi.com: The Blog, February 2, 2004; O'Keefe, John "Church XP, The Upgrade" Ginkworld.net: 2005, Parts 1-6; Kimball, Dan. The Emerging Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 2003; McLaren, Brian D. A New Kind of Christian: A Tale of Two Friends on a Spiritual Journey. Jossey-Bass, 2001; Webber, Robert E. Ancient Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.

2. Template:Note Carson, Becoming Conversant.

3. Template:Note Eddie & Ryan Bolger. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Manuscript).

4. Template:Note Jones, Andrew. "Are We a Movement?" TallSkinnyKiwi.com: The Blog, June 8, 2005, quoting an email to Ryan Bolger, Ph.D. from Dr. Paul Pierson on behalf of Jones.

5. Template:Note Bainbridge, William S. The Sociology of Religious Movements. New York, NY: Routledge, 1997, 3.

6. Template:Note Jones, Andrew. "What is Emergent?" TallSkinnyKiwi.com: The Blog, January 4, 2005.

7. Template:Note Hunsberger, George R., and Craig Van Gelder. The Church between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996, 1.

8. Template:Note Guder, Missional Church, 89, quoting Norman Perrin, Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus. New York: Harper & Row, 1967, 54.

9. Template:Note Clapp, Rodney. A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996, 75-83.

10. Template:Note Seay, Chris. "Is Pomo Nomo?" Christianity Today, February 20, 2003.

11. Template:Note Guder, Missional Church, 77-83.

Reading List

See Also

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