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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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Stan Theman

    Every attempt at “relevance” just shows how desperate and pitiful Mainline Protestantism is.

  • Charis Varnadore

    Anytime I encounter the term “Christian leader” I run for the hills, or at least the closest hermitage. We need to embrace a new vocabulary for this new approach to an understanding the Kingdom of God d what I means to follow Jesus. Thank you, your SERVANT, Charis

  • Sam Ochstein

    I arrived late to the whole emergent conversation. But I have to say that I’ve been deeply impacted by Brian McLaren’s books in particular, as well as Dan Kimball’s two books The Emerging Church and Emerging Worship, among others. The collection of essays, An Emergent Manifesto, along with Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence and her follow-up Emergence Christianity have also provided lots of fodder for further thinking and wrestling about Christian faith, theology, ministry, and praxis. I’ve found a deep resonance with much of what I’ve read from the emergent folks. Like so many who discover the emergent conversation, it has been a breath of fresh air. However, I think what some critics see from the emergent conversation is a lack of constructive theology and praxis. It’s easy to point out flaws and, as an earlier blog post noted on here, “make fun of fundies”, but it’s a much more difficult task to move beyond criticism and critique to constructive theories and practical implementation. At some point we have to move beyond just having a conversation (although I think the conversation is an ongoing, life-long one!) to rolling up our sleeves, getting into the mud and muck, and getting to work as agents and ambassadors of the kingdom of God in our local churches, communities, and various spheres of influence. Otherwise, we’re just talking.