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

Photo by Atilla Siha

Photo by Atilla Siha

This is a summary of the Emerging Church by Richard Rhor.

Richard believes that it is important to have a foot in both camps.
“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.
You don’t throw out the old.  The old becomes accountable for the new.
“The holy spirit is at work because this is a new kind of thinking that we never had until now.  Church is not just a life saving station.  There has got to be a new kind of reformation. However: we don’t, react, we don’t rebel, we don’t hate, we don’t oppose.  We have to be for something.  The emerging church asks the questions.  What to you believe in, what do you love, what is the heaven that you have discovered?” (Rhor).
Then there is the Evangelical, Conservative View:
When I was researching this post these were some of the opposing views that I found about the emerging church.
  • “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
Caryl Matrisciana who is an expert on false religions, cults and apostasy, links the emerging church or the post modern church to the deception of Eve and the serpent.  She states that “they have given-up the bible as the truth and moved to themselves as the truth”(Reference).
Photo by Atilla Siha

Photo by Atilla Siha

Mind blowing stuff!! 
Personally I believe that we are in a era of great transition and change.   I have a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ and His Gospel of truth.
I also believe that we have to look at new and creative ways to contextualise the gospel to a generation that are moving at the speed of light. The church cannot continue to bury its head in the sand about social issues like: greed, poverty, justice, sexuality, mental health, asylum seekers, domestic violence, suicide, and community engagement.  I believe that the modern church is already in danger of being out of step with society just as the church was in the 1950’s and moved into a time of great metamorphosis.  This is where we find ourselves again.
What do you think?  

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Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

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One Comment on “What is the Emerging Church?

  1. Pingback: A New Way to BE Church | Sunday Everyday

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