Emergent Village Is NOT Dead. It’s Just Different Now …

From Mike Clawson, curator of Emergent Village cohorts:

Over 15 years ago, a small group of young Christian leaders began talking about the ways in which postmodernism was transforming their approach to faith and ministry. That conversation soon expanded and evolved into what eventually became known as Emergent Village, “a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Over the past decade and more, EV has been a key catalyst in the broader phenomenon of what Phyllis Tickle calls “Emergence Christianity” — publishing books and blogs, hosting theological conversations and annual gatherings, and multiplying local cohorts to foster the conversation at the grassroots.

In many ways this work has been an unqualified success. From arts, to justice, to ancient-future spirituality, to alternative forms of church, to postmodern approaches to theology — ideas and practices that were fairly unique to the emergent conversation a decade ago are now commonplace within mainstream Christianity, and continue to spread. Thousands of churches, cohorts, neo-monastic communities, and other types of faith-based collectives incorporating emergent influences have also been planted over the years. And dozens of spin-off groups and ministries have formed to emphasize one aspect or another of Emergence.

At the same time, Emergent Village seems to be a victim of its own success. As emergent ideals filter throughout the broader church, EV itself sometimes appears to lack a distinctive identity or purpose. At the same time, it has remained a lightning rod for criticisms both externally and from within the broader emergent movement. Indeed, one could argue that providing a focus for critique has been one of the most helpful and fruitful roles EV has served in recent years. Many new groups, new initiatives, and new emphases within the movement have formed, at least in part, as a result of the shortcomings (whether real or perceived) of Emergent Village itself. Nevertheless, these circumstances have now brought the Emergent Village community to a crossroads: Do we declare our job done and hand off the remaining tasks to the myriad of new emergent/progressive Christian groups now existing (e.g. Wild Goose Festival, TransFORM, Missio Alliance, Ecclesia, the Center for Progressive Renewal, the CANA Initiative, MESA, etc.)? Or do we decide to discern together whether and how Emergent Village might continue to serve the church and the world in a unique and vital way?

I have some ideas about that. I’m guessing you do too. So let’s do what emergent types do … let’s get together and talk about it, and figure out together how we want to move forward. Join me in San Diego at the end of March for the TransFORM 2014 Gathering. There I (and others) will be helping to host a conversation about the future of Emergent Village. Together we can imagine together the next steps for EV and how it might continue to help the church emerge into the 21st Century.


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