What is the Emerging Church? by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
The emerging church is a Christian movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries that crosses a number of theological boundaries: Proponents believe the movement transcends such “modernist” labels of “conservative” and “liberal,” calling the movement a “conversation” to emphasise its developing and decentralised nature, its vast range of standpoints, and its commitment to dialogue. Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a “postmodern” society (Wiki).
Personally I find it interesting that the words ‘post-modern’ and ’emerging church’ evoke such emotions among some Christians. Simply put, post-modern is just an era of time that we are living in now.
Pre-Modern: Encompasses the Prehistoric Era, the Ancient Era and the Middle Ages.
Modern: Encompasses the start of the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, up until about the1950’s. In general we can see modernity as a rejection of mysticism in favour of materialism, of superstition in favour of science, of rulership by ecclesiastically supported divine right. A move toward science, reason and a shift of power from the church to universities and the pursuit of knowledge.
Post-Modern: Just means, coming after modernism. It is a period in history. Today we are known for our consumerism, global trading, global media, vast leaps in communication that started with the second world war and code breaking to the advent of computers and now the global phenomenon of screens and social media. Religious or political post moderns prefer a less hierarchial approach in which authority sources are more diffuse and power in general is mistrusted as we see in politics.
It is in this arena that the ‘modern church’ i.e.: all of the denominations that have been established in the last few centuries are being challenged. Each century brings challenge and with it change. It is precisely this change that bought about the Jesus movement and with it the development of the pentecostal movements in the early 1900’s that has birthed many of the churches that we see today. This happened to meet the challenges of the modern culture in the 20th century.
We are now on the cusp of more change and the church needs to look at how it moves with that or becomes irrelevant. Insert the term ‘Emerging church’.
Definitions: What then is the ‘emerging church’ by Dr John Drane:
Those who are already familiar with the subject will also know that even the term itself is contested, with the word ‘emergent’ being preferred by some, though there appears to be little differentiation of meaning between emergent and emerging.
“This is difficult to answer with any precision, partly because it is a work in progress, but also because the groups that claim this label are very diverse. On the one hand, ‘emerging church’ is being used as a shorthand way of describing a genuine concern among leaders of traditional denominations to engage in a meaningful missional way with the changing culture, and as part of that engagement to ask fundamental questions about the nature of the Church as well as about an appropriate contextualisation of Christian faith that will honour the tradition while also making the Gospel accessible to otherwise unchurched people.
There is, however, another image of ‘emerging church’, consisting of Christians who have become angry and disillusioned with their previous experience of church (predominantly at the conservative evangelical, fundamentalist and sometimes charismatic end of the spectrum), and who have established their own faith communities that – far from being accountable to any larger tradition – are fiercely independent, and often highly critical of those who remain within what they regard as the spiritually bankrupt Establishment.
It is tempting to distinguish between them in a territorial way, and it is certainly the case that this second type is more typical of ‘emerging churches’ in North America, while the first is more typical of the English scene (and to a lesser extent of Australia and New Zealand). There is some truth in this rough-and-ready distinction, and it is undoubtedly the case that no other denomination in any country has affirmed the need for new ways of being church with the enthusiasm of the Church of England” (Dr John Drane) – see article The Emerging Church by Dr John Drane.
‘The lack of any active missional engagement with the culture has forced many of their most talented younger leaders out of the mainline denominations, feeling that they had no alternative but to establish new forms of church in partnership with like-minded people’. Dr John Drane
This is a summary of the Emerging Church by Richard Rhor.
“The mother church, what has nurtured me till now and a new support group that parallels, deepens and grounds the traditional message”. But you don’t throw out the traditional message.
- “Perils of the emerging church”
- “Controversy with the emerging church”
- “Beware of the emerging church”
The blasphemous teachings of the Emerging Church, it is a raging church apostasy – Steve Wohlberg
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