Archive | Emerging Church

What Happened to the Emerging Church?

What happened to the emerging church? I don’t know.

For many years, it was the talk of the town. From its advocates to its antagonists, the emerging church gave everyone fodder for conversation. Bloggers knew every day what they were going to blog about. Revolutionists always had a distinguished place in the world. Revisionists had many friends who would take up the same rifle and shotgun. Deconstructionalists all held their distinguished hammers. If you were an emerger, you were not alone.

However, today things have changed. No one blogs about it. No one claims the name anymore. No publisher would dare accept a book about the emerging “thing” that happened in the forgotten past. Why? because around the year 2009, the identity of the emerging church went silent and many (some enthusiastically) put a gravestone over its assigned plot. In fact, I even paid my respects.

What happened to the emerging church? Which emerging Church?

Defining the “emerging church” is as difficult today as it was in the bygone days. No one ever agreed. It touched so many issues: ecclesiology, soteriology, epistemology, anthropology, and sociology. You could “emerge” with any or all of these issues.  In general, the emerging church represented a disenchantment with the traditional methodology and beliefs, primarily within the Evangelical church. It was an ununified movement of deconstructing. Many deconstructed theology. Some deconstructed liturgy. Others deconstructed truth altogether. The key unifying factor was that people were disillusioned with the folk religion they had been given, and were willing to stand up as reformers in whichever area housed their ensuing bitterness. But there was not much unity with regard to their beliefs. They just did things differently. They believed differently than their parents.

What happened to the emerging church? Who was involved in this? Continue Reading →

The Danger of Theological Novelty

Not long ago, I met with an old friend of mine who is a “swinger.” For those of you who don’t know, swinging is when both partners in a committed relationship agree to have a sexually open relationship. This guy was married and came in to talk to me about – you guessed it – marital problems. The idea behind “swinging” is that things never become mundane. Sexual monogamy, according to swingers, is nothing more than confining yourself to sexual boredom. Being with the same partner becomes cliché and uneventful. Swinging keeps things fresh and novel at all times so the high produced by provocation is always maintained.

As problematic and destructive as marital swinging is, that is not what I am writing about. I want to talk about what I call theological swinging. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest problems in theology today (and probably of any day). Let me explain.

Before going to seminary, I was given a set of books by my pastor. At the time he was, to me, the smartest person living on planet Earth. I salivated to get a peek of his notes each week. I wanted to record everything he said. And just to get to see his library – the source of the very sun! – was just about too much excitement for me to handle. That is why I was speechless the day he gave me two books, one blue and one red. I knew these were precious books to him due to the amount of notes and stickies that covered the dog-eared pages. What were they? Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Volumes 1 and 2 by Josh McDowell. Upon receipt of these books I read them over and over. The wisdom and knowledge that filled the pages was almost too much excitement for this 20-year-old wannabe apologist to take. It was so provocative to me. The provocation came not from learning the Gospel for the first time, but from seeing with my own eyes, for the first time, an attempt to defend Christianity. “Are you kidding me?!” I said each time I read about a new topic. This guy, Josh McDowell, must be a giant of the faith, demanding respect from everyone. He was my new hero.

It was not until I hit seminary that I found out the “truth.” You see, at seminary, among all the students “in the know,” I came to find out very quickly that these kinds of works are frowned upon. I came to find out that McDowell’s apologetics were called “pop” apologetics. In essence, pop apologetics is cliché defense of the faith performed by cliché apologists. Translation: it was naive. It was not kosher. If and when I quoted someone like McDowell in a conversation with fellow students, there would be some snickering. The idea conveyed was that there were certain works, written by certain authors, that were “little league” and not respectable. Whether is was Lewis Sperry Chafer, Josh McDowell, Wayne Grudem, or R.C. Sproul (all of whom were my self-proclaimed mentors until that point), they were, at best, milk from the breast of my mother; at worst, they were naive teachers who simply parroted the simple and sheltered faith of evangelicalism. If you wanted to run with the “big boys” you had to read yourself some Barth, Multmonn, Hauerwas, or one of the liberation theologians such as Boff or Gutierrez. Why? Because, quite frankly, they did not fit the “stupid” evangelical mold. These were the “cool” people to read. They were the trump cards that, when played, left other students feeling inadequate and inferior. I thought I could read Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come and be prepared for any discussion on eschatology. Who knew that quoting Theology of Hope by Jürgen Moltmann at Dallas Theological Seminary would be more prestigious than Pentecost? Who knew that saying that you had been reading A Theology of Liberation would score you more points than reading Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie? Who knew that the greatest danger for any Christian leader was to be labeled cliché? Continue Reading →

Bell’s Hell and the Destiny of Those Who’ve Never Heard of Jesus

In a recent interview with Sally Quinn of The Washington Post, Rob Bell again muddied the waters over the question of the fate of those who’ve never heard about Jesus. In doing so he also greatly misrepresented the evangelical answer to this question. Here are his words:

“If, billions and billions and billions of people, God is going to torture them in hell forever – people who never heard about Jesus are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of – then at that point we will have far bigger problems than a book from a pastor from Grand Rapids.”

Bell is responding to evangelicals who purportedly believe that people “are going to suffer in eternal agony because they didn’t believe in the Jesus they never heard of.” Let me say this as clearly as I can: No one will ever suffer for any length of time in hell or anywhere else for not believing in the Jesus they never heard of. Should I say that again or is it enough to ask that you go back and read it again?

Bell and others who make this sort of outrageous claim have evidently failed to look closely at Romans 1:18ff. Here we read that the wrath of God revealed from heaven is grounded in the persistent repudiation by mankind of the revelation God has made of himself in the created order. In other words, there is a reason for God’s wrath. It is not capricious. God’s wrath has been deliberately and persistently provoked by man’s willful rejection of God as he has revealed himself. Continue Reading →

Top Ten Reasons Why the Emerger Did Not Cross the Road?

I know. They don’t go by the name emerger anymore. But the attitude is still out there and they need representation on this issue.

10. Because he did not want to be labeled.

9. Because he was not absolutely certain that he could cross since in order to get to the other side, you would have to go half way, and in order to go half way, you would have to go half way to the half way, and in order to go half way to the half way, you would have to go half way, ad infinitum.

8. Because it was not a labyrinth shaped road.

7. Because only arrogant people cross roads. 

6. He was afriad it was the “Romans Road.” Continue Reading →

Top Ten Signs You Are Taking this Post-Evangelical/Missional/Post-Emerging Thing too Far

If you don’t like them, lighten up!

10. You refer to your local assembly as “church,” “synagogue,” or “mosque” depending on who you are talking to.

9. Your blog is a rant about how everyone else rants too much.

8. You brag that you have never been pinned down theologically on any issue.

7. You no longer identify with the Reformation because they did not prioritize global warming above sola fide.

6. You are offended when someone says they are going to “Preach the Gospel” or “Teach the truth” believing they should just “tell a story.”

5. You have yet to read the book of Romans believing Paul was too modern in his thinking. Continue Reading →

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). Continue Reading →

"Belief is No Good Without Practice" . . . and Other Stupid Statements

It was in my expository preaching course that I learned it. It was driven into my teaching psyche and intended to become a part of my basic presupposed knowledge of ministry. Without it, all your preparation would be in vain. Lacking this, your message will fail to do what God actually intended it to do.

It is the message for a new generation. It is something emergers know and they know that they know it. It is what  I hear on blogs, read in books, and a continued favorite among those who are despondently depressed and shamed when surrounded by “fundamentalists.” It is pridefully stated as if this epiphany is going to miraculously wake a sleeping Evangelical culture of John MacArthur and John Piper groupies.

What is it?

“Belief is no good without practice.” Wake up and smell the manna!

Sounds reasonable doesn’t it. Let’s put it another way.

“Belief is not the end, it is a means to an end. The end is doing not believing.”

In preaching, it goes like this:

“If you don’t have a way in which people can apply the lesson to their lives today, you have not really done anything.”


“Introduction. Body. Three points of application.”

A friend said it the other day. We visited a church led by a young seeker-friendly preacher. After the lesson he said, “Now I really liked that sermon.” “Why?,” I asked. “Because it has so much application,” he responded. “That is what I need—application.”

The idea here is that belief, in and of itself, is not the end game that God has for us. God primarily wants us to be active in our practice. Good works, being nicer to people, acting out our love, giving to the poor, self-sacrifice, not cheating on tax-returns, avoiding certain web-sites, bringing home flowers to your wife, forgiving your father, protecting the unborn, knowing when to set down the beer, taking your daughter out on a date, remembering to say “I love you” (don’t just suppose they know), and trading your Hummer for a Honda. These are all things I can do today. This is what we need. Right?

emergentos moschos skubula

(Excuse the French). Nice translation: “What a load.” Continue Reading →

The Second Coming of Emergers

With all the renewed conversation about the emerging church that is blanketing the web once again, I thought that I would enter the “conversation” in a somewhat atypical way.

Some are proclaiming the death of the emerging church saying, “The emerging church is dead—at least in nomenclature, if not in spirit.” Others such as Scot McKnight, Andrew Jones, and Dan Kimball are calling this a nominal death, believing the name itself is no longer descriptive of the original intent of the group, but that the principles expressed will move on. Scot’s post had the spirit of a “call to arms” of the emerging ethos. Others, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones may to be holding on to its designation with some hesitant resolve (if you you will allow me to combine those two words).

For those of you ready to sing a courtesy dirge, for those who are preparing their “I-told-you-so” sermon for this Sunday, for those who are breaking out the campaign, hold on. Put the cork back in. I don’t think this type of celebration is yet in order. In fact, I think that this is simply setting up for the second coming of emerging.

To me, this is a good thing that has been in the works for the last few years. It is a natural result of any attempts to reform. The movement is correcting itself. As a result, we see emergers distancing themselves from one another. It is interesting to see the way they are distancing themselves. There are no rope burns on either side. Really, it is just a matter of starting a walk together, holding  the hands of many shared concerns. But while this walk initially allowed some close associations, the ever so slight angle of the direction has proven that they were never really headed the same way to begin with. Its a matter of geometry.

How about a chart to describe this! (Start from the bottom).

(Click to Enlarge) Continue Reading →