Fred Schmidt Questions the Emerging Church Movement

Coming off an emerging church conference featuring Brian McLaren and Nadia Bolz-Weber, Fred Schmidt is ambivalent about the ECM.  And he’s got some questions:

If the Emerging Church movement has a contribution to make to Christianity, it is in reconnecting the spiritual and religious dots. It will need to demonstrate that it is not only possible to do God and church, but that it might also be necessary.

But the Emerging Church movement has its own challenge: If, as some have said, emerging Christianity is “evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, post-evangelical, anabaptist, Adventist, liberal, post-liberal, reformed, charismatic, neo-charismatic, post-charismatic, conservative, and post-conservative“—and that’s a quote—then the problem is obvious. How do you belong to a movement that is all of these things and none of them, all at the same time?

I can’t say what that answer will be. But, from where I stand, meeting the challenge lies in the ability of the movement to connect the dots for itself and for others:

  1. Can the church explain how doing God and doing church are related?
  2. Can it create a community that is genuinely grounded in those priorities?
  3. Can it draw effectively on its inheritance? [Read the rest at Patheos: Doing God and Doing Church]
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  • Jan

    What is “doing God”? I would alter this question to “can we connect following Jesus and doing church” or “connect being the church and doing church.”

  • Aaron Swank

    Hey Tony,

    I am in Santa Cruz, Ca at Vintage Faith Church with Dan Kimball. I am part of the Protégé program, which is an internship at the church, and I have a few questions to ask. The reason I am emailing you today is because I am looking to email some of top influencers of Christianity today and ask the question.

    What are a few things you know today that you wish you could tell yourself at age 25?

    I see the Adult Mosaics and Busters (18-41) age group really searching on what it looks to live out life as a Christian in our society. And I want to learn about what these top influencers wish they would have known, what they would have done differently, and what information could have helped them in their journey of Christianity.

    When I look at Christianity in general today I see it being very watered down because either we don’t know what Christianity is truly about, or we have morphed it into some moralistic therapeutic deism knock off and people are claiming that to be Christianity.

    I want to help change this view and focus this age group to re-align their ways, faith, and desires to that of what the Bible teaches. My heart aches to draw people to who Jesus really is, and what He really taught us how to live our lives.


    I am asking you the question…

    What are a few things you know today, which you wish you knew at the age of 25?

    What could have helped you on your journey with Christ to keep you focused on what it means to be a Christian?

    Lastly, do you have any other helpful tips or advice to the Adult Mosaics and Busters on how to live their lives for Christ?

    Aaron Swank

    Love God. Love Others. Love Life.

  • Kenton

    “If the third question isn’t answered effectively, then why do I need a church of any kind? I already have an Amazon Prime membership.”

    Huh? That went WAY over my head. Church = An apostolic faith + free shipping??? Can somebody dumb that one down for me?

  • G Lake Dylan

    i have been through all the *movements* and *new* ways of being and doing church since the 1960’s (prior to that without memory as I was too young to remember) … they come, they get people excited for a little while … they fizzle … they die as another one is born … and the most they seem to do is set people in opposition to one another … with the claim of which is the more true … more right … more correct … more authentic … more relevant … more Christ like … more God favored … more (fill in the blank) manifestation of church. there was the ecumenism of the 60’s that is all but undone now by the RC church … there was the worship renewal of the 70’s but most mainline protestants still only have eucharist one sunday a month … there was the 1st church growth movement of the 80’s (ala Lyle Schaller) that was claimed to be old school and outdated by the 2nd church growth movement … the 2nd church growth movement focused on a new millenia and talked about post-modernity …. the 2nd church (ala bill easum) growth movement gave way to the post-liberal authentic church movement of the 1st decade of this century … the authentic church movement (ala len sweet) with its fluidity gave way to the emmerging church movement got all sorts of attention and continues to in the seconmd decade of this millenium. what will be next? all we can be sure of is that the emmerging church movement will fizzle and make way for whatever that will be.

  • 3 s words come to mind


  • JoeyS

    Kenton, I think he is referring to the need for inheritance. If the church is not providing grounds for “doing church” and “doing God” that has any significant draw on history then many turn to books as the agent of inheritance rather than the seemingly irrelevant church.

    I think this is a really well written and articulated article. Usually questions surrounding the EC are drawn from straw-men and situate the questioner to appeal to people who already agree with them rather than genuinely seeking what good might come of a new expression of faith.

  • Patrick O

    “all we can be sure of is that the emerging church movement will fizzle and make way”

    I’m not so sure we can be sure of this. A lot of the renewal/church growth movements that you mentioned definitely pushed the church in some new directions, but for the most part were fundamentally following the same assumptions of an evangelical protestant ecclesiology. Indeed, they were based on strategic/cultural goals that certainly do shift with the changing cultural tides.

    I certainly do believe that the ’emerging’ title will likely change, if only because it describes movement but nothing more specific. However, the core values that were pressed by emerging churches continue, and will continue, as a guide to the transformation of ecclesiology over the next decades and, yes, centuries. The dominant leader, centralized meeting oriented structure was great in the generally uneducated, slow-communication, societies throughout history. But society, at least our society, isn’t like that.

    Couple this with a significantly different underlying ecclesiology — as Tony has illustrated in his recent book/dissertation — and there something much more potent going on than yet another moving around of deck chairs.

    But this isn’t an argument that is convincing with just words. It’s something that has to actually be shown in the course of continuing history. But I do would encourage those who think this is just another one of ‘those’ movements, to step back and realize there’s a significantly deeper proposal going on, which is something the entrenched power structures of established ecclesiology realize, that’s why so many became absolutely charged up against the ECM.