Is the Emergent Church Dead?

Brian McLaren thinks not:

If we use Phyllis Tickle’s term “Christian Emergence” or “Emergence Christianity” to describe a broad phenomenon that is occurring across the spectrum of Christian communities (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant …), I think the movement is stronger than ever.

In Evangelical and Charismatic circles, many Evangelical/Charismatic gatekeepers have successfully driven the emergent conversation underground. They don’t talk much about emergent figures – except negatively. And people who “come out of the theological closet” are pressured and often nudged out. But there are so many people like you – who are rethinking and going through a deep awakening spiritually, and are just circumspect about it in their ecclesial circles. And surprising numbers of Evangelical/Charismatic leaders are far more sympathetic than you would expect.

In Mainline circles, there is broadening and deepening engagement at all levels.

In Catholic circles, there are growing pockets of engagement on a grass-roots level, and there are small pockets in Orthodox circles too.

Read the rest: Q & R: Is the Emerging Church mo – Brian McLaren.

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  • Curtis

    The emerging church movement has a lot to offer mainline churches, both in providing a deeper and more relevant understanding of theology, and in making church more participatory.

    Coming from a mainline church, I’m often left with the feeling that the topics that are hot sellers for Emerging Church book titles are issues that were addressed by professors in mainline seminaries 50 years ago. The mainline church has worked hard on the theology part, but the mainline church is not so good at giving its congregants a personal connection to the theology. This is something the emergent movement can offer to mainline churches. I learn more about christian theology, and my denomination’s relation to it, by reading a good ECM book than I learn by attending ten years of adult education classes at my church.

    In addition, emergent church is providing needed innovation in church structure. Mainline church is very much wedded to a 500-year-old ecclesiastical church structure and is reluctant to change. The emerging movement is showing us how church can use modern communication technology to become more flat and participatory in the 21st century, just like many other 21st century institutions are becoming, and more similar to the way church was structured in the 1st century.

    I don’t think mainline churches fully appreciate how much the emergent movement is pioneering the way toward what mainline churches will look like twenty or thirty years from now.

  • Frank
  • On the issue of Emergent and Mainline, which I think make interesting partners, I’d recommend the book The Hyphenateds, (Chalice Press, 2011), edited by Phil Snider.

    Theologically and in terms of social justice, I think that there is a connection. I’ll add that I am a Fuller graduate (1985, 1991), and took a journey that is similar to the one that Tony and Brian speak of, but did so half a decade or so earlier, and thus outside the Emergent Conversation. I do see, however, many of the same connectors. Might have been nice to have had others on the journey, but I can identify with them.

    And Tony, looking forward to seeing you on Thursday evening in Rochester Hills!

  • I am kind’a lost with the “emergent” term now. It seems like everyone really doesn’t want to be fit into a category, and if so, they you are eeeemerGenT.

    I am not an Evangelical. I am a Tebowgelical.

  • Curtis

    Has anyone done some research on how much “emergentness” there has been in the Christian church through history? I know Phyllis Tickle’s work does some of that, and Bob’s suggestion sounds interesting. The sprouting of new church off of dead wood seems to be constant theme throughout Christian church history. In many ways, the original followers of Christ was emergent off of the establish Jewish faith of the time.

    My childhood memories are full of the Seminex struggles in the Missouri Synod Lutheran church of the early 70s. That was an emergent movement. In fact, the logo chosen by Seminex was exactly that, a tree shoot emerging off of a dead stump. All Christian denominations can reflect on a time when they, too, were emergent.

    Much can be learned by studying the fact that, as Christians, we are all, by our history, emergent. If we want to see where God is taking the church, we have to keep our eyes on the new growth as God reveals it.

  • Emergent has never struck me as particularly new nor emergent. It has merely reminded me of my Anabaptist roots, of mere Christianity, of true discipleship, of the faith and life I read about in the gospels. Perhaps it is more about notoriety and celebrity, about the predominantly American endless penchant for the new and exciting. I tried, but just never seemed to get it. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. Next.

  • Evelyn

    It seems to me that the mainline churches may just be using ideas from the emergent movement as >evangelical tools< rather than actually being emergent. It takes a great deal of intelligence, community involvement, and willingness to change to actually BE emergent. Because this is difficult, many churches may simply have the trappings of emergence and modernity but remain structurally and dogmatically the same in their core. The result is modernization but not real change.

  • Wow… Brian McLaren thinks the Emergent Church isn’t dead? That’s amazing news. Hahaha… Of course he doesn’t think it’s dead. He helped start the conversation and “movement” didn’t he? It’s hard to be objective when you have a vested interest in the outcome isn’t it?

    Listen Tony, you know I said the whole thing was going the way of the dinosaur years ago. And I was right. It’s as irrelevant as the Occupy Movement. Fortunately, from what I can tell, you (as an individual) have grown beyond the small circle you played in and are making contributions at a greater level. You are not resting on your laurels but are pushing the envelope in new and fresh directions (at least in my opinion).

    As for Brian McLaren – who is he again? See I already forgot.

    • Evelyn

      Brian McLaren is a baby-boomer and Tony is a Gen-Xer. Tony may seem to be doing things that are fresh but in reality he is just a do-nothing whiner.

    • Steve,

      The fact that you think your prediction is accurate is about as surprising as the fact that BMac thinks the ECM isn’t dead.


    • jim davis

      hey! The occupy movement also is alive and well. There will be a major push back into the streets on May Day. We have been active but the media has gone away (chasin the next shiny thing).

  • Wow! Wow! Wow! New look.

  • Curtis

    The question, of course, contains its own fallacy. There never was an Emerging Church, so how can it be dead? McLaren, to his credit, instead of chastising the questioner for his misguided question, tries to give a constructive answer that directs the person to some areas where emergent practice can be found today, in Evangelical, Mainline and Catholic circles.

    The emerging church movement is not a church, although you can forgive someone who has just starting reading about it for being confused. Shortly after the term “emerging church” was coined, there was an attempt to build a network, Emergent Village, which early on give the appearance of being some sort of organized church network. Early books by McLaren, Tickle and others contain invitations to check out the Emergent Village website to get more involved. Reading one of those books today, and visiting that website with the hopes of finding a “church” to join, will leave one disappointed. There is no church there. That may be what the questioner is referring to when he observes: It seems many EC resources are becoming less available. I noticed EC websites and the EC blogosphere are becoming fewer and fewer. Tony could speak in more detail about the history and evolving intent of the Emergent Village website, since he helped run it for a while.

    The emerging church movement is not a church, it is a way of doing church. It is like open source software — it is not software itself, but a way of doing software. When looked at in this way, ECM is not dead, it is in fact shaping our church of the future, whether it be in the Evangelical, Charismatic, Catholic, or Mainline traditions.

  • Chris

    The new look is kinda garish. It looked much classier before.

    Also, there aren’t enough ads here. We need more clutter.

  • Rod

    Re: (a new online resource)

    This “fifth epochal revelation” has much to say about the life and teachings of Jesus (Part IV), even hinting that the “emerging church” is destined to reflect a greater awareness of this divine Son of Man … and to reflect this in many religions.

    A complete reading of this revelation inspires us to begin the important transition from believing that “Jesus died for me” to “Jesus lived for me” (to reveal our one Father in heaven and the fact of the brotherhood of all men).

    Further, this revelation encourages us to focus on the greater spiritual influences of that “spark of God” within and of the Spirit of Truth, the “Comforter” bestowed upon mankind after Jesus’ resurrection. In ages to come, we will lessen our dependence on all printed books and rely instead on the very real and present spiritual influences of the universe.