Obituary: The Emerging Church (1994-2009)

For those of you who want to criticize the tone of this post, please make sure you read my previous posts on the emerging church. One is listed at the bottom. Take this post in the spirit is was intended and lighten up.

Today, at 12:32pm, while most of you were having lunch, the Emerging Church was taken off of  life support.emergingheadstone

The Emerging Church was not around long enough to be declared alive, so the announcement of its death comes with an apathetic “ho-hum” for many of you. But it is true. Stop the “What is the Emerging Church?” seminars. Edit the “Beware of Brian McLaren Sermons.” And don’t even entertain starting an Emerging blog. As far as I can see, the Emerging Church is dead at 15.

It got some cries out, made some very good points, called for changed, and then died. Its leaders are disappearing or have disassociated themselves from the movement. Publishers won’t even entertain books with this title. Those, like myself, who were very well acquainted with the “movement” get nauseous when the topic is even brought up. In fact, I am nauseous now.

Did this even last as long as the “Jesus Freaks”?

Supposing I am right, let me conduct a funeral. Please, step up to the mic and tell of your association with the movement. No takers. Ok, let me. Better—I will give an autopsy. As a sympathizer of the “movement” I feel I am quite qualified to do so.

Why did the emerging church die?

1. Lack of Tact Theory: I remember learning in seminary that when one pastor replaces another, the new pastor must be very careful not to attempt change too quickly. One thing at a time. Work with wisdom. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Don’t come in and beat up the old way of doing things thinking that your passion and belief in the necessity of change with be shared by others. It won’t. In fact, your demand for change will solidify people in their own places. You will be politely asked to leave. The emerging church lacked tact. It never gained the ear of the home base. Movements such as this need to be changed from the inside out, not the outside in. That is unless you are willing to go all the way and break completely from the home base (e.g. the Reformation).

2. The Offense Theory. The coup did not work. The elephant in the room (the Emerging Church) was forced out. They assumed that Evangelicals would listen and exit the building with them. But what happened was not unlike a disrespectful teenager who thought that he suddenly had it all figured out through a series of unadulterated epiphanies. He tugged on the shirt of his parents letting them know how much more he knew than them and he was blown off because of arrogance. “Tsk, tsk” was the reply, “I remember when I thought I knew it all.” While the Emerging Church, as well as teenagers, do have some very good things to say and should be listened to, it is the (almost total) disregard of Evangelicalism’s values that caused them to lose their audience. Evangelicals were offended.

3. Misidentified Evangelicalism Theory. It certainly is the case that Evangelicalism needs to reform. In fact, one of the Evangelical principles is that we are always reforming (semper reformanda). In principle, Evangelicals are not scared of change. When this principle is denied, it is no longer Evangelicalism, but some form of Fundamentalism. Emergers failed to realize the shared DNA with Evangelicals and belittled them instead. They, most of whom were former Fundamentalists (not Evangelicals), mistakenly identified Evangelicals with Fundamentalists. Therefore, their cries of change, their proclamations of enlightenment, served only to belittle Evangelicals. Ironically, their judgmental spirit of Evangelicalism backfired and caused them to look more like Fundamentalists than than those whom they criticized. It was a Fundamentalism of a different kind, but the attitude was the same. Grace left the emerging building.

4. Heretical Tolerance Theory: Oh, and then there was that. The Emerging church refused to stand up for anything. As the old song goes, “You have to stand for something or you will fall for anything.” The Emerging Church fell. It ran out of fuel. It called on everyone to leave their base and fly with them. Many of us came along for the ride. The problem is they never did land anywhere. They just flew and flew. They wanted to wait five or ten years to decide who they were. In the meantime, the fuel ran out. They did land and it was (mostly) not on friendly ground. From there they definitively cried out against Evangelical orthodoxy kicking us in the most sensitive areas: Abortion, Atonement, Justification, Assurance – and then there was the attempted burial of our belief that homosexuality was a sin. Oh, did I mention the attacks on Hell and the Exclusivity of Christ? They quickly moved from an insightful teen who might have some good things to say to crowd of disconnected enemies on the attack.

Of course, as I said, there were many of us who flew these skies with them. Some even identified with the movement believing it has many insights. But soon, most began to parachute out. It was too late for the band-aid of the Emerging/Emergent distinction. One after the other, people jumped. When its most prolific insiders jumped (along with a few pilots), it was over. We landed and acted as if it never happened. “Emerger who? Never heard of him.” And we pull our hat down over our eyes and move on.

To be fair, there is a very real sense in which the ethos of the emerging church will never die. It was not really born in 1994. It will take a new form – a more orthodox form. But that is for another discussion.

(If you have no idea what the emerging church is and would like an overview, see here.)

148 Responses to “Obituary: The Emerging Church (1994-2009)”

  1. I’ve heard decapitation is a good way of making sure vampires stay dead.

    Chop of the head, burn the body, and scatter the ashes in running water.

  2. I am surprised the Emerging movement made it this far.

  3. I don’t suppose this will stop the fault finder blogs from continuing their “ministry” though.

  4. This was an insightful statement: ‘But what happened was not unlike a disrespectful teenager who thought that he suddenly had it all figured out through a series of unadulterated epiphanies.’

    I don’t think we need to say this arrogantly, but it is important to know that we have come from some place. Even with the Reformation, it wasn’t about chucking out everything done and taught previously. But it was a reformation. And, as you state, we are in continual need of being transformed and change.

    Interestingly enough, the Emergent Village have recently begun to talk about a reemerging of the emerging church. I believe we need to guard against being overly obsessed with movements. We just need to get on with walking out the kingdom of God as the church. It’s that Christ-centred and simple stuff.

  5. I have one question about heresies. Is a heresy such because some church fathers accused other church fathers of it because they didn’t agree with them?

    Who gets to determine what a heresy is? It seems ridiculous to accuse others of heresy when a person has a relationship with Jesus and reads the Bible. From what I have seen, calling someone’s theology a heresy really is just putting them down for not seeing it the same way.

    So the Emerging Church had some questionable viewpoints, all churches do. If we accuse them of heresy then it borders on us taking the place of God to enforce our own ideas about what someone else’s relationship should be. It does not work that way and we become dictators. No one should ever be discouraged from seeking God according to their ability to understand and calling them heretic just causes them to fall into failure and seek other forms of religion that is more accepting.

    God made it very specific in the Bible what actions He does not approve of, and what He does approve of. And I think to take up the “heretic bashing club” is a form of pride and arrogance…like saying “look at me, I agree with the church fathers against you so I am acceptable before God and you aren’t”.

    Some church fathers also said it was acceptable to be anti-semitic and not help the Jews being persecuted.

  6. Umm…from where I’m sitting there’s lots of healthy emerging churches and communities still meeting, sharing the Gospel, and living out lives of faith. I don’t think I would call that “dead”–though at times I am tempted to call my traditional church service that.

    Good points Kara.

  7. Kara –

    It seems ridiculous to accuse others of heresy when a person has a relationship with Jesus and reads the Bible.

    Mormons and JW’s would claim this as well. What to do since we know they hold to some very off-base, heretical things.

    You are correct that we must be careful of being dictators. All should be done with humility, the glory of God in mind, and with a desire to see people know the truth. But, historically, most are recognised as heretics not because they didn’t believe a specific theological nuance about eschatology or that the gifts of the Spirit ceased or still exist. This has to do with more central doctrines like the Trinity, divinity of Christ, personhood and divinity of the Spirit, Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God, etc.

  8. yep

    its so dead i couldn’t keep interest in this post long enough to finish it

  9. A question from one who appears to be ignorant. On what basis when the statement says: Why but not ” on what information, facts ” that it is taken off life support. Like other blogger I see many churches traditional also on life support and some are taken off life support

  10. ScottL,
    like fundamental truths?

    1) Divinely inspired scriptures which were inerrant in the original writing;
    2) Christ’s virgin birth and deity;
    3) Christ’s substitutionary atonement;
    4) Christ’s resurrection, and
    5) Christ’s personal and imminent second coming.

  11. Is this respectful to the Emergent Church? Does it break blog rules?

  12. Michael,.

    your disdain for all things emergent is noted. I have stuck around and read you because I have thought you are a fair minded gentelman scholar. I take back my impression.

    To impune a person, let alone a belief, soely based on what you see as leadership that are parachuting out is very, very divisive. Stop talking like that and engage the issues.

    The Emergent Church is dead? I truly think not. Have you seen the work of Jacobs Well in Kansas City, have you seen what Doug Pagitt and Tim Keel are sharing? Have you taken the time to read them at all?

    The Emergent Church is working on getting the helenistic moorings out of the church and focus on the church that Jesus would love. Jesus did not establish churches that were hierarchal, loveless and bent on growth at all cost so we can survive. We are working on what it means to be a church that loves it’s neigbor with wreckless abandon, who takes Pauls command to meditate on whatever is lovely, whatever is noble, whatever is pure to a new level. We want to be engaged in our community. We want ministry to be the practical outworking of our faith… not something we go and “do”.

    Quit passing around vitrol and calling it holy water. Engage the issues. Listen to the conversations. Listen to the post modern culture and find out for yourself why people are leaving church in the millions. We are doing what we can to bring them back into the church, to egage them, to love them. After all, was that not the greatest commandment?

  13. Michael, I think your obit is premature. As a high school youth volunteer, I still see Emergent influencing our students, whether through the cool church down the road, or the stranglehold it seems to have on a number of young evangelical youth pastors. I think it will take another 10 years for it to either return to the fold in some way, or to finally cut ties and become its own religion, where it will be absorbed into all the other new age universalist cults.

  14. It seems that whenever an essential doctrine is entirely changed by man to make it read as what they define it, rather than how God defines it, that puts it in the camp of the heretical. That’s a hallmark of cults – replacing Christ with a leader/leaders/ followers who exalt themselves and their doctrines above His, thus putting themselves on an equal level with Him.

    That was Christ’s complaint with the Pharisees. They so changed the word of God by adding their own traditions that it was almost unrecognizable. Funny how even that word ‘legalistic’ has been defined to include folks who don’t want to see God’s word polluted.

    In all fairness, however, I think some of the emerging churches were more about redefining the methodology (i.e purpose driven lifers) or making the gospel more ‘relevant’ to the culture. There are notable exceptions of, course, across all denominational lines.

    What resulted, instead of more converts, was many churches setting a poor example by imitating the culture around them to draw new folks in, simply by offering them a sanitized version of popular trends. The hard parts of the gospel were left out. People lost sight of the real commission of the church, (or were never given it), which was not to merely attract and entertain people who wouldn’t ordinarily attend church, but to give them Christ’s permanent life changing message rather than a culturally relevant one that changes with the times.

  15. Michael, why declare the Emerging Church dead this week?

    To borrow from Nietzsche:

    “The Emerging Church is dead. She remains dead. And we have killed her. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

  16. Carl, I can understand why you might say that, but I think that if you read this blog post carefully and see some of my other posts, you would not make such an overstatement about my disdain of all things emergent.

    I have been very careful when talking about this, but trust me, my post evidences much truth from what I can see.

  17. Dr. G.,

    That does not make any sense.

  18. Dennis, I think Nietzsche was speaking as an outsider. I am not. :)

  19. Joe, as I said, the emerging ethos has elements that we all share and has been around a lot longer than the emerging church. I am sure that you will always see these elements.

    What I am saying is that, I believe, the “emerging church” as a movement is dead.

    I am sure there are still some out there. Therefore, its death is not without qualification. Aren’t doctors saying that when the heart stops death is still a process? :)

  20. Besides Carl, even if it was true that I am not being fair in this, does one disagreement cause you to depart so quickly? I never shoot for perfection with my readers. :)

  21. Eric, it is not about any particular church, but the emerging church as a movement. Just like the Jesus Freak movement is dead.

  22. Steve in Toronto May 4, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    The emergent church served a very useful role in that it made it possible to separate (small “o”) orthodox Christianity from it evangelical wrapper and reintroduce the history faith into mainline denominations who had come to believer that to be a orthodox Christian you had to be a republican and a homophobe. We should all be grateful for the revival of historic christianly that is taking place in the churches like the PCUSA, and the ELC and the United Methodists. If the emergent church success in accomplishing nothing else it will be viewed by history as a great success.

    God Bless

    Steve in Toronto

  23. mabaker,
    Good point there….

    That is why I am so tough on people on believe in doctrine above the established teachings of Jesus. He is Lord. And to answer Scott L., that is true, but also we must remember that if they claim to read the Bible and follow Jesus from it, they will be held accountable to God and not us for it.

    Certainly things can be taken as heresy, but look at this also…all Christians were once called heretics because we didn’t follow the norm and worship the Caesar as a god. The only reason now we aren’t still called that is because there are no more caesars. But some churches still dictate who are heretics and because of that there have been millions of people who have been killed and otherwise suffered because of that.

    I would never call anyone a heretic because I just don’t feel as a Christian that I get to make that call. I will say that if a church is based in a doctrine that is obviously against what Jesus taught then I do have the right to challenge them on that and not call them Christian.

  24. Cadis on 04 May 2009 at 11:09 am #
    like fundamental truths?
    1) Divinely inspired scriptures which were inerrant in the original writing;
    2) Christ’s virgin birth and deity;
    3) Christ’s substitutionary atonement;
    4) Christ’s resurrection, and
    5) Christ’s personal and imminent second coming.

    “imminent”? As in … it’s been nearly 2,000 years and counting so far….

  25. The emergenct church obviously did not follow the norm, so call it bad, spank it and send it to bed without supper….

    That reminds me of the Charismatic dancers in white dresses and ballet slippers….

    CCM with ATMs….

    Flag waving, ram horn blowing and rollerskating…

    Snake handling…

    Must we really pick apart every religious display of expression, which we have in this country the freedom to show? If we must then it should be wrong for Christian Native Americans to dance at powwows…it should be wrong from Quakers to contemplate…and it should be wrong for Baptist men to shut their wives up and shout amen when the preacher tells them to shut their wives up.

    The emergent church just decided to go at it a different way. But that guy from Fresh Fire Ministries…now that was a little off base. Let’s get back to what Jesus said and he was very happy when people found joy in worshipping Him. If there is no joy then it needs to be revived.

  26. EricW,
    Do you want us to give a day and an hour?

  27. To clarify – I’m not belittling or denying belief in Christ’s second coming, but even though one can read the NT documents as expecting His return in the authors’ lifetime, the fact is that Jesus hasn’t returned yet (unless you are a full Preterist and believe He fulfilled all the Second Coming statements in 70-73 A.D.).

    Perhaps “5) Christ’s personal and sudden second coming” might be more in keeping with what Jesus said about it.

  28. And especially in light of everything else that has been presented, pay careful attention to both the chronology of the predicted Messianic Kingdom (it follows after Rome), and the timing of the predicted Messianic Kingdom (it not only follows after Rome, it is set up while Rome still exists). This is such a powerful predictive verse for the coming of Messiah and His Kingdom, yet futurism completely eviscerates it with its insistence that the whole first century world has to be recreated (i.e. rebuilt Jerusalem, rebuilt Temple, rebuilt nation of Israel, reconstituted Roman Empire) in order to fulfill prophecy that was clearly fulfilled in the original first century world.

    From the above link.

  29. Steve in Toronto May 4, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Re: Eric W
    Of your 5 points only points number two and four are in any of the ancient ecumenical creeds and although I subscribe to them (with some reservations about the virgin birth: the fact that Paul never bothered to mention it , the very ambiguous nature of the word Virgin in Hebrew , the fact that I can not imagine any of the apostles actually asking Mary or Joseph if they actually had sex as well as the fact that it seems to suggest that sin is some sort of genetic mutation carried by sperm does give me some pause). I think you can make a very good case that the concept of inerrancy makes no sense out side of the context of the enlightenment and if you make the Penal substitution theory of the atonement your litmus test for orthodoxy you have basically written off the just about every Christian that lived before the reformation and at least 50 percent who have lived since. What’s wrong with just restating the Apostles and Nicene Creed and just calling it a day?


    Steve in Toronto

  30. Steve in Toronto:

    The list came from Cadis (comment 11.), not I. I merely cut-and-pasted his/her entire comments into my reply in order to make a comment about point 5.

    On a side note, Dr. Ann Nyland in her THE SOURCE NEW TESTAMENT says that the word parthenos means a young woman of marriageable age, whereas the word parthenios specifically means a virgin. If she’s right, then all the arguments and defenses and debates and apologetics re: whether Matthew and the LXX were right to translate Isaiah 7:14 with parthenos become moot, for if she’s right, then parthenos was the proper translation for almah, as parthenos says no more and no less than almah re: Mary’s actual virginity, but instead is the proper Greek translation of almah. :)

  31. Steve in Toronto wrote, “to be a orthodox Christian you had to be a republican and a homophobe”

    Why is it that if I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle, it is instantly assumed I have a phobia? A phobia is a mental illness. So I am mentally ill if I say homosexuality is wrong?

    Or we can focus on the “hate” aspect implicit in the term. I live in CA. and got a little tired of the bumper stickers that read “Stop the hate, no on 8.” Since when is disagreement the same as hate? I assume you and I would disagree on homosexuality. Does that mean you hate me? Steve, why do you hate me so?

    Lighten up and stop making inappropriate accusations. You sound just as intolerant as those you denigrate.

    Also, coming from a PCUSA background and being aware of the deep divisions that exist there, I don’t see them as a great examples of effective Christianity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a denominational split in that group, same as we have seen in the American Baptists within the past few years, and over many of the same issues. PCUSA membership has been in freefall for years, and I think (without checking) that the same is true of ELC and UM. I’m surprised you hold these groups up as models of effective Christianity. They seem far closer to sub-merging than e-merging.

  32. So, CMP, were you the attending physician or have you just received the news and feel duty bound to pass it on? Most obits at least try to point out the good in a beings life.
    I wonder, since the extremes of fundamentalism are no longer listened to by most of the Church should we declare fundamentalism dead as well?
    I think perhaps the “movement” complete with the anointed “leadership” could very well be “dead”, perhaps because it never was alive, at least not in the way traditional Church tried to define it. It would make life pretty simple if we could say the emergent Church was a cult/movement that is now defunct. The more probable reality is that the Emerging Church is merely a shift in thinking by a significant number of believers away from saying it right and toward doing it right. Those who hold to more traditional forms of Building-based Christianity are unhappy because their buildings, ministries, organizations etc. are no longer being funded. Just a thought.

  33. I admit to sucumbing a little bit to overstatement. I apologize for that and no, I do not depart so quickly.

    I am just a little irked by the way the church seems to try and divide and conqueor and talk of what divides us and not that which unites us.

    I wish I saw more of that. I really and truly do.

  34. Thanks Carl, and I agree. (Even if the post comes across as if I don’t)

  35. Steve.

    I think the new evangelical church that is ’emerging’ should be about re-introducing some of the foundational concepts of Christianity regarding moral values that the emerging and other churches watered down in response to the radical fundamentalists. They went to the other extreme, and became more about political correctness.

    Whether it’s a Jerry Falwell, a Republican, a ‘homophobe’, or a liberal politician or a Supreme court decision defining it, the moral values of God are not subject to change for his people. We are still to love the sinner and hate the sin, as Christ does. What He defines as sin, however, was also historically defined in the early church as such, and still applies now to any church with Him as the head of it.

    I went to an emerging church for a while, which began as a moderate Evangelical church, which honored Christ first. Then I saw a form of watered down morality and values creep in, along with sermons which were more topical on current issues, than upon the central issue of preaching the gospel to all, and serving as Christ served.

    It was a soft, feel good, I’m okay, you’re okay low key, self-promoting gospel about individual actualization and such, rather than placing the emphasis on every Christian fulfilling the commission Christ gives us all as His people, to proclaim His gospel, and to make converts in His name.

    Folks can get that from Oprah and Dr. Phil.

  36. Minnow, I was there at bedside performing last rites. I was practically part of the family ;).

  37. My take on CMP’s article is not so much that the Emerging Church is dead and gone, but that it no longer has the ability to generate the level of interest and debate that it used to have. We’re a little tired of it. It’s 15 minutes are done. It’s been “talked to death.”

    Then again… the response to this thread may indicate the EC is still twitching.

  38. The list was not mine but a copy and pasted definition of the word Christian fundamentalist. Wikipedia’s definition is….

    The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
    The virgin birth of Christ.
    The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
    The bodily resurrection of Christ.
    The historical reality of Christ’s miracles.

    I was addressing the insinuation that fundamentalist drove emerger’s from the church. That they were bucking against fundamentalism more than evangelicals. My response was.. define fundamentalism. I addressed it to Scott seeing he made mention the problem was not in petty disputes with the emergers but in more core issues. The core issues he touched on were similar to the defining points of a fundamentalist. I was tongue in cheek accusing Scott of being a fundamentalist. Seeing I think there is a phobia of fundamentalism.

  39. Dave, good observations.

    Here is what I figure as well. If there are no responses to this blog post on other “emerging” blogs, I would take that as another sign of the end. However, not everyone responds to me!

  40. CMP,

    I finally got to read the entire article on the Emerging / Emergent Church / Movement. Great article ! I’m going to recommend it to the TTP class tonight at Stonebriar !

    That being said.
    1) The headstone, even though quite cute, says “Emerging Church”. As in your article, there’s no such thing. How can something that doesn’t exist die ?
    2) Also as per the same article, being “Emerging” is more an attitude to be open to discuss things, more so than having a set doctrine. As long as there are believers that will entertain the “Semper Reformanda”, won’t there be emerging believers ?

    Besides that, I have the faint impression that in this article the word Emerging should be replaced with Emergent

    But then again, what do I know… I’m just an ex-Roman Catholic who’s going through the TTP, is thinking about and discussing most doctrines outside of the ones accepted as Historical Christian Orthodoxy.. and even those can be food for thought as my current reading list can demonstrate.

    In Him

  41. Mick, I can certianly understand the confusion. Really, it comes down to the death of the conversation with the designation “emerging.” No one wants to associate with it any longer. From here, however, we do have some fundamental fatique with “all things emerging” among emergers and otherwise, whether they are Emergent or emerging. It inability to define itself (which it never really aspired to do) gave forth to an inability to propery defend itself. It should have never been termed “emerging” to begin with. It gave the impression that the way of thinking represented was something new.

  42. Stan Hankins May 4, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    The flower fades, the grass withers, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.

    “Master, should we root up the tares?” ‘No, let them grow with the wheat, lest you uproot the wheat with the tares. Let them grow together. Then at the end I will seperate them, bind up the tares into bundles and burn them.”

  43. Steve in Toronto May 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Re Dave Z: Not all evangelicals Christians are Republican and not all evangelicals are Homophobic but there are a lot of both inside the fold and they are very loud and often in positions of leadership. What I am concerned about is when we put sexual and specifically homosexual sin in a special box and say god has a special problem with is as apart from all the other sins that afflict the body of Christ. I know that my divorce was a sin (even though my ex wife was metal ill, a drug addict and left me to boot) but no matter what the the culture says in a very real sence I am still married to her. As judged by the law I am an Adulterer (my second wife is also a divorcee to add insult to injury) but I am also a redeemed sinner saved by grace innocent in the eyes of God simultaneously saved and sinner. I would never argue that being gay is not a sin (yes I am arguing that the inclination not just the sex act is a sin) but I am convinced that they can still be Christens regardless of weather or not God allows them to conquer this particular sin. And as such we are obligated to treat them as our brothers and sisters. The evangelical preoccupation with this one sin that affects at most 5% percent of the population is extremely unhealthy.
    God Bless
    Steve in Toronto

  44. Stan Hankins May 4, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Steve in Toronto,
    I think the reason the sin of homosexuality is singled out so much is that the world is trying to say it is NOT a sin. In other words, there is not a movement out there that says stealing or murder is just an alternate lifestyle. But the radical homosexual movement is in full combat mode, and if a Christian stands up for what the Word of God says he is labeled “homophobic”.

    Homosexuals can be saved. Just like fornicators can be saved. But not if they insist that it is ok to be a homosexual. They must repent and believe in Jesus and forsake the wretched perverted sin — of which the Bible is very clear on.

    Trust me on this: In the near future, preachers will be forbidden to preach against homosexuality. Have you seen the “hate crimes laws” they are passing? But we MUST stand on the Word of God. It is all we have.
    God bless you Steve,


  45. Stan Hankins May 4, 2009 at 4:32 pm


    I totally agree with you that they can be saved — even if they have a lifelong struggle with the sin. I agree on that. There are many sins I too struggle with and probably will till I die. So you make a good point.


  46. As a fascinated observer of trends in Christianity and particularly the American church world (and a former Evangelical) the title caught my attention, Michael. And you delivered with some interesting specifics. I’m a little puzzled by both the tone and the content, however. As to tone, is the intent seems more than reporting of observations–celebrating or even mocking, perhaps? I’ll let you tell us what the intention was.

    On content: as Sara raised, by some measures, the Emerging movement seems to be quite alive and kicking. I don’t attend or pay it close attention, so I’ll assume you are at least onto something as to it floundering, maybe losing some of whatever sense of focus it had. But the things you listed as “kicking us in the most sensitive areas” seem to be things that surveys keep showing are ongoing areas where not only the general “Christian” populace, but also a significant percent of Evangelicals have concerns, doubts, or even flat-out disbelief.

    And I don’t think the reasons for that, and the trends in that direction have diminished, and are probably still building momentum. I don’t have direct knowledge of this, but I’d not be at all surprised if about as many “Emergings” have left to even more “liberal/heretical” ground as have gone back to more mainstream Evangelical affiliations. If someone has any stats, either confirming or disconfirming that, I’d be interested.

    From my surface knowledge of the movement (based primarily on McLaren’s books and skimming a few others’), I was having trouble seeing why he and the more “left” of their leaders kept resisting any affirmation of what I think some of them sensed: that the central story of incarnation/sacrifice/atonement/resurrection was brilliantly, in a then-familiar yet unique literary genre, tied to a historical figure and a few broad historical events, and to Hebrew prophecy and Torah, with all the compelling, important details invented and filled in. And that, even after that, it took a long period of bitter in-fighting and splitting with the predominant (and also “emerging” post-Temple) Judaism of the day to come to that “faith once for all delivered…” that gradually became orthodoxy.

  47. Scot, it obviously can’t be completely dead since I just wrote a Facebook quiz and it is one of the three options!

    When I say “dead” I am certianly not talking about the ethos which is behind it, but the front of the line garments that it wore called “emerging” or “emergent.” I just don’t find that it is acceptable anymore to be identified with all that both emerging and emergent morphed into over the last decade. When I say this, I mean acceptable among those who took the name in the first place, not simply among those who were critical from the beginning.

    I am sure that I could be wrong.

    Would you say that the Emerging Church is alive and well?

    Better: Are you comfortable being called Emerging?

  48. Howard,

    Attempting to stick to the point of this post, I will do my best to clarify some things here in twitter-like size.

    In as far as the Emerging Church in America was a child of Evangelicalism, belonging in the same general conservative circle, it has died. It is hard for them to disown their parents. It was, for better or worse, an insider “movement.”

    However, that is not to say that it has not had a great purpose in many ways. I believe it has. I still stand by my “Will the Real Emerger Please Stand Up” article that I wrote a few years ago when everyone was trying to figure out who they were and whether I was one or not.

    I do think that people like Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball will carry on this ethos in a more strategic manner in other ways with more stable associations.

    The emerging ethos is always needed and never dies. It exists in every tradition, pushing it forward and broadening perspectives. In this, it is not a Protestant, Eastern, Western, Catholic, or Orthodox thing. In fact, Liberals have had their “emergers” (think Barth).

    In some ways, the emerging circle is shared by what have been known as “progressives.” But, I guarantee, if “progressives” ever was seen as a movement the way the emerging church was, it would die also.

    There are simply too many misunderstood caricatures that arise when movements are perceived, but have no real internal stabilizing structure by which to be IDed. This was case with the Emerging church, I believe.

  49. CMP,
    Thanks for the clarification.

    And then I have to answer… “So ???”…

    “The King is dead….. Long live the King !!”

    For those that don’t know the historical content, these are the words that were uttered in England when the King would die… obviously at a certain point it became “The King is dead…Long live the Queen” and soon it’ll be the other way around… but you catch the drift.

    The point I’m trying to make is that perhaps one “group” that called themselves “emerging” or “emergent” has passed on due to the negative connotations, but the thoughts and inquisitive nature I recon has not. Perhaps they are now called “Seeker minded Evangelicals” or “Investigative Evangelicals”, but as long as they’re not calling themselves “Questionable Evangelicals” I’m ok with that ;-)

    As long as the atmosphere of dialogue in a kind and loving fashion, without compromising the core foundations of our beliefs, as long as this remains…. I’m not sure I quite care under which name it exists. I think you’ll always find me there.

    So yes, I guess you could have put me on the “emerging” evangelical side of things more than on the fundamental side of that spectrum. But evangelical nonetheless. From the charts in the article it looks like I’m in good company over there 8-)

    After all… we’re all “Simul Iustus Et Peccator

    In Him


  1. Brutally Honest - May 4, 2009

    Emerging Church assumes room temperature…

    C. Michael Patton carries the obituary: Why did the emerging church die? 1. Lack of Tact Theory: I remember learning in seminary that when one pastor replaces another, the new pastor must be very careful not to attempt change too……

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  12. The Fading Fashion Trend in Liberalism « Then Face to Face - September 29, 2009

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  15. Emergent Church Overview « The Berean Watch - July 31, 2010

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  16. Emergent Church Overview – Is the EC Unraveling? « The Berean Watch - September 16, 2010

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  17. What Happened to the Emerging Church | Parchment and Pen - January 14, 2013

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