The emerging church or emergent church is a diverse movement within Christianity that arose in the late 20th century as a reaction to the influence of modernism in Western Christianity. The movement is usually called a “conversation” by its proponents to emphasize its diffuse nature with contributions from many people and no explicitly defined leadership or direction.
Because there are several varieties of Emergent/Emerging churches, it is difficult to describe it as a unified movement. But there are still common philosophies which the varieties hold to. What are they? Wikipedia’s article is somewhat helpful, but I would rather hear a review done by a someone I know. My wish came true when Grace Church of Mentor asked Dr. Dave Doran to preach about it during their 2006 National Church Planting Conference last month. The title of his session was “Church Planting: Countering the Mega-church/Emergent Church Growth Movement.” I was not able to attend that morning, but mp3s of each session are available here.
This afternoon, I listened to the session a second time to take notes. That was very helpful as such a large amount of information takes time to digest. After describing each philosophy in detail, Dr. Doran offers the following thoughts:
“I would suggest that the central flaw in both movements is that they are man-centered. The Church Growth movement is man-centered in that it exalts personal and individual conversion above everything else. It takes unchurched Harry and moves his conversion to the controlling principle of everything. The Emergent Church … is man-centered in that it exalts man’s cultural situation above biblical authority. It has crossed the boundary between legitimate contexualization and a surrender to the context, so that now the church is being shaped by the culture rather than the church being in a culture.”
“We are going to have to do what Jesus prayed. And that is, Jesus said, Father I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil. And as you sent me into the world, I am sending them. We cannot live in holy huddles and actually think that we are going to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ. But we cannot afford to become like those that we are seeking to win for Christ. Or else we have lost the gospel. We’ve lost what we’re all about.”
These were concluding thoughts after a detailed description of the Mega-church and Emerging Church movements. So, you will want to listen to the entire session to understand why he came to these conclusions. The entire session lasts a little more than an hour and is well worth the time you will invest.