Emergent Church – Does anyone care?

I really resonate with Jared’s post – Emerging Boredom. I have lost a lot of enthusiasm for what has variously been known as the emerging movement, emergent, emerging church – whatever terminology you wish to use. I have tangibly seen this transition in my annual goals which included reading books and visits to churches who would claim to be doing church in a new way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am passionate about renewal within The United Methodist Church and within the church universal. However, I have lost interest in particular authors and the emergent, emerging, emersion “brand”. This has partially been influenced by my friend, Ben, but I have also seen the development within myself over the past 18 months. I am more excited about solid leadership and renewal of the fervor and discipline of early Methodism within the denomination and throughout the state of Kansas (my particular context).

What do you think?

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17 thoughts on “Emergent Church – Does anyone care?

  1. Are there particular reasons why you find yourself moving away from the Emergent Church? I’m curious because I’ve felt the same movement in my own interest and haven’t yet found the words to express why.

  2. Hey, new theme! Thought I was in the wrong place for a minute. 🙂

    I hear you Andrew. I’m getting a little emergent-fatigue myself, and I can’t put my finger on the exact reason. When you call it a “brand,” I think you may be on to something. Perhaps emergent has the potential for being a consumer repackaging. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the contextual nature of emergent, but right now I resonate more with folks who are talking about the “missional Church,” ala Alan Hirsch.

    On the other hand, what stops the UMC from being a “brand?” Perhaps the key there is your comment referring to the early tradition and discipline of Methodists. I do think we have “missional DNA” at the heart of our denomination, so perhaps the key is recovering that. Kevin Watson will have the answer I’m sure!

  3. new theme.. getting crazy on us andrew?

    i don’t look at it as more of a boredom of emergent/emerging/etc. yes, the people masses have stepped away as there was no definition and to say you were “emergent” put you in a camp (a modern reaction) with people you didn’t necessarily agree with. so you get a lot of “i am not emergent” stuff.

    what i see more is that people are pulling in the emergent perspectives, challenges, new monastic principles, etc as part of their own church body. let’s be honest, much of the theology, especially the framework of grace, promoted by the emerging church was right along the lines of the wesleyan framework of grace. so it isn’t that we adopted emergent, we just said, “this stuff sounds familiar” and we have come back to some of more of our roots that we have forgotten about.

    i still participate in the emerging conversation, i don’t mind being called emergent. though i do rather the term monastic. which i wrote about back in ’04.

  4. One of the reasons I’ve gotten really bored with Rob Bell has nothing to do with him, but rather the amount of clout that is attached to him, and the amount of market over-saturation he has. I had friends in college with bumper stickers that said ‘Rob Bell is my Rabbi.’

    Puke.

    It also seems that Mr. McClaren is a speaker at every single arts and worship and ‘insert title here’ conference. Boring. Writing books entitled “Everything Must Change” smacks of a marketing ploy, since everything must change except for promulgating ideas through print… lol.

    now where are my candles…?

  5. /goes out to his car with a paint scraper

    Man….there are bumper stickers like that?!? How terrible!

    /cough

    I think you hit the nail on the head for me, it’s beginning to smack of “sell-out” huh? it was a little suspicious as Rob became a less and less frequent speaker at his own church…

    Nevermind that “Sex God” was like episode 1 of the Star Wars trilogy that was “Velvet Elvis” (in terms of ideas and skillful writing). Not that I think “Velvet” was the pinnacle of all human literature either, but I certainly enjoyed it more.

  6. Ben – You raise a great question. I think that the distance I have experienced has come out of both an apathy – lack of reading, interest and application to my current setting – as well as some questions about the ecclesiology of some authors.

    Matt – I hope that you enjoy the new theme. I just thought that it was time for a change. I certainly feel the same “attraction” for the missional church – but have just experienced this by reputation, and not particularly by reading. Do you have other resources to recommend other than Hirsch? I am curious… And yes, Kevin will have the answer 🙂

    gavoweb – You articulated well, what I think I was trying to say in the original post – a reminder of getting back to roots. Now I do think that I would have trouble with being called “rooty”…

    deviantmonk – Did you mention candles? I think that is key to any renewal movement within the church. /removes tongue from cheek. I think you are right on with the assessment of Bell and McLaren.

    Ben – I have yet to read Velvet Elvis, but appreciate the trilogy / episode one comparison 🙂

  7. I won’t load you down since I’ve already helped incite a “wish-listing” frenzy in you! 🙂 You may want to check out Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America edited by Darrell L. Guder. It’s not as “catchy” as Hirsch, but still very good and foundational to the missional movement.

  8. I think that my thing is that I’m sick of the word, “emerging.” It’s not even what much of it stands for, it’s just the whole hype around it…interesting since much of what emerging is against is hype. I still think that churches should strive to be authentic, that leadership should be vulnerable, that there should be an emphasis on living in community within the church as well as outside the walls. Plus…I like candles. But yeah…done with “emerging.”

  9. Andrew: I’ve been thinking a lot about this since first reading your post, because I’m actually not bored at all. Maybe it takes longer for things to find their way to New England, or maybe I’m just slow on the uptake — but it seems to me this is at the heart of what the emerging “conversation” is all about… It’s not about adopting a “brand” or opening an emerging franchise. It’s not about Rob Bell. It’s not about hype or technique or worship style, and it’s certainly not about candles. It’s about forming authentic communities within particular contexts and keeping a missional perspective. I’m not bored with the conversation, but I also don’t feel the need to use the “emerging” label all the time either. That anti-label, post-institutional approach seems pretty emerging to me.

  10. Matt – Thanks for the tip. I read Guder’s book in seminary and agree that it is excellent.

    Janelle – Thanks for your thoughts around churches – authenticity, vulnerability, communal living. Great stuff.

    Allen – I do not think that you are slow on the uptake and I would assert that cultural trends are slower to get to Kansas. I have wondered if the transition to a postmodern mindset started on the coasts and is filtering to the center of the country. I have found other cultural trends to move in this way – particularly when visiting my wife’s family in North Carolina.

    I think that you are right on with the contextual communities living out of a missional mindset. Maybe I am just tired of people talking about being “emergent” and not living as a disciple of Jesus Christ sent out to the community of which she or he is a part.

    I appreciate your corrective. It makes me think a bit harder about this original post. Thank you for helping shape my thinking.

  11. Thanks, Andrew – I agree with what you said. Yes, the danger is that when something becomes “trendy” and everyone jumps on the bandwagon, then it becomes more mainstream and loses its original edginess. My sense is this may be happening with the use of the label “emergent,” which, as you suggest, doesn’t always translate into faithful discipleship but becomes more about toting a trendy brand. Still, I think the conversation is very pertinent, and I’m still finding a lot of value in reading and learning that comes from the Emergent community. Particularly, I have just finished Tim Keel’s “Intuitive Leadership,” and I think what he has to say is really, really important.

    Like you, I feel a deep passion around the renewal of the mainline church, and especially The United Methodist Church, which is my spiritual home. I feel pretty strongly that if the church of Jesus Christ is going to engage contemporary society in ways that have any relevance to younger generations who live and breathe postmodernity – and to a large extent, The United Methodist Church is missing this boat – then it’s important (for me, at least) to stay in the conversation.

  12. Allen – I do not want you to think that I am unconcerned about reaching future generations, or renewal within the UMC – both things about which I am very passionate. I think that you helped name it a bit more accurately for me in the response to the “emergent” label. I have tended to lean more toward the emerging movement within Christianity, but that does not always make sense to people in conversation (not that emergent necessarily does, but it does have more broader exposure).

    I am looking forward to reading Intuitive Leadership and have received several good recommendations as well as your good words about it.

    How do you think the United Methodist Church might best engage postmodernity? Do you think that it is something that can be done as a denomination? Or is it for something for local congregations? My initial reaction is perhaps both, but weighted toward the local congregation.

    What do you think?

  13. Interesting questions, Andrew. It seems to me our entire denomination needs to take up this question and find ways to restructure ourselves if we’re going to poise ourselves to engage those with a postmodern mindset. Like all things, it’s got to be fully embedded in the lives of local congregations if it’s going to have any impact, though — especially given the anti-hierarchy, anti-institutional bias of postmodern thinkers. Do you ever wonder, as I do, whether the UMC can make the shift?

    I certainly wasn’t questioning your passion around renewing the denomination or engaging younger generations. I know those are pretty solid concerns of yours. Mine, too.

    Let’s keep the conversation going. It’s great to have colleagues like you.

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  15. I’d agree with much of what has been posted. The emerging movement has become “Emerging Evangelical Conservative Version 2.0,” true. It is sad to see the movement being high-jacked as a commodity and a look-good garment (instead of a mind-heart-lifestyle).

    But, I also have had a fear that as this movement does gain acceptance (isn’t that the reason we’ve written books, blogs, etc.!?!), the more rebellious and independent thinkers will want to leave…instead of keeping to our path.

    The Post-Modern shift in theology is NOT fad. It is here to stay. Call it what you will. Disregard your local Christian (trinket) bookstore at your discretion; however, we can’t give up on this shift. Emerging, Missional, Organic, whatever is not boring…and to become apathetic to the changes that must be made will be a death-nell to an already dying US church.

  16. Allen – Thanks, it is great to have colleagues like you as well. Agreed – Let’s keep the conversation going. I do wonder whether the denomination will be / is able to make the shift. I go back and forth between thinking that the UMC is best positioned among mainline denominations to make the shift and then wonder whether we will be able to do so as a community of faith. I do think that individual communities of faith are making the shift and leading the way for the rest of us.

    Mark – I agree, the post-modern shift is here to stay, both in theology and in culture. You make an interesting assertion about the edgier thinkers continuing to move away from the mainstream. Do you think that this is / will be true?

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