Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Am I Emerging? (chapter three)

What are some consequences with the label "emerging church?"

I have to ask myself the question, "what are the consequences--both positive and negative--for being labeled or associated 'emerging' in Christian culture?" I think there are a few red flags that are raised when the term "emerging church" or "emergent" gets thrown around. Here are some of my personal observations about some of the dangers of being labeled emerging. Note: these are just from conversations, literature I've been reading, and personal observations.

Embracing Postmodernism - For the most part, postmodernity and postmodernism are neither good nor bad--it simply is. However, there are some philosophical areas in postmodernism that require caution, such as pluralism and the denial of metanarratives. If one chooses to uncritically embrace postmodernism--or modernism--without evaluation, it could lead to unbalanced views of truth. There is also a reactionary aspect of postmodernism that looks down upon all modern concepts. If taken too far, this reaction could lead to pride and divisiveness.

Emerging Church as a Denomination/Church-Growth Formula/Trendy Idea - With any idea that becomes popular, it is very easy to "jump on the bandwagon" without evaluation or critical thought. It is pretty easy to just claim a popular idea as your own without choosing to think for yourself. It is also easy to view popular ideas as "successful," thus implying that "if I choose to buy into this idea, then my church/ministry with be successful too." If the emerging church is just a popular trend in Christianity, then it's probably not worth much. However, if it is a movement towards critical reflection of our culture and how we do church, then there is deep value in the questions being raised.

Shifts in Theology - While the methods may have to flex and evolve with shifting culture, it can be dangerous when our overall view of God radically shifts with the methodology. While I don't think we should stubbornly refuse to evaluate our theology, we also shouldn't change everything we believe in order for our beliefs to better fit our culture.

Labels in general - Like I've said before, making blanket statements and placing labels on ideas/groups of people is a dangerous way to be thinking. I wondered this when I was asked "are you one of those emerging church guys?" I wonder the motivation behind such a question. Am I being asked to define the label of "emerging church?" Are they trying to figure out if I'm "one of us" or "one of them?" Depending on my answer, what stereotypes are going to be placed on me?

These are just some cautions that come to mind with the label "emerging church." I think I'm close to finding an answer to the
original question.


  1. Totally off topic, but I saw this shirt today and I thought of you. You should buy it.

  2. Cam-
    Definitely off topic. Definitely a shirt for me!

  3. I found this post through the multnomah blogosphere.

    Your response to the emergent church issue is very balanced. I appreciate your caution not to "jump on the bandwagon." I have personally been tempted to embrace this movement without really evaluating it.

    I am praying that God will give all of us discernment.