Heh, this turned out to be a somewhat complex post for me because I hadn't really considered myself "emerging" before—more like hovering on the outside of the conversation and listening. But this post was one of those "take-stock" moments that made me realize I have entered into that conversation, even if it is in my small corner of the world and blogdom.
What is emerging? The best summaries I’ve found are both written by New Testament scholar and professor Scot McKnight: What is the Emerging Church? and Five Streams of the Emerging Church. Because there is a lot of misunderstanding out there about the movement, I strongly encourage you to skim through at least one of these articles before you reach a conclusion on emerging matters; McKnight (who goes to Willow Creek, hangs with folks like John Ortberg and, imho, is a trusted voice in evangelical circles) does a wonderful job of both explaining and critiquing the movement.
Basically, the term “emerging” is used to describe a very wide conversation taking place. It is not a particular theology, church, doctrine, practice or way of doing church but (using McKnight’s words) “a loose association of those who want to explore conversation about the Christian faith and the Christian mission and the Christian praxis in this world of ours, and they want to explore that conversation with freedom and impunity when it comes to doctrine.”
The conversation (again, not a theology, church, sect or group) is huge, including an incredibly wide range of people (from scholars and theologians to “people in the pew” like me), ranges over a vast subject arena and can be somewhat unsettling (particularly because of the part that has to do with examining doctrine). However, I firmly support an informed examination of our faith. An unexamined faith can be a dangerous one. We must know and own why we believe what we believe. Jesus’ Way withstands scrutiny—and by sifting today’s doctrine and practice through biblical and early church lenses, we can find where we may be getting it wrong here and now.
As for me, some of the emerging conversation doesn’t interest me. Some of it, in my opinion, is definately going in the wrong direction. Some of it, however, is hitting the nail on the head, and that’s the part that attracts me: the admission by lots of people—from evangelical leaders, church growth wizards and church planters to Christian thinkers and theologians to people like me—that the way we do church now is not producing changed lives or working with God in Kingdom-coming. The church is broken—and that’s where I’ve entered the conversation.
Among the larger voices in the conversation, I appreciate emerging thinker types like Andrew Jones and Scot McKnight (whom I really respect for his deep scholarship and orthodoxy yet incredible ability to communicate it all so simply). I’m particularly drawn to discipleship and Kingdom-praxis folks (what does this Kingdom-life look like and how do we live it) like Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Wayne Jacobsen and Jim Henderson. Which, I guess, makes me more praxis-oriented when it comes to the emerging conversation.
Anyway, thanks to David for making me examine my own part in this conversation. Blessings.
(Image: Bloch's Sermon on the Mount via Wikipedia)