And Another Thing…


I don’t like repeating myself…

…but nobody has answered a question I asked in a post earlier this week and I wonder if it got lost in the shuffle. Just in case, I will ask again:

Can somebody please explain to me what the emerging/emergent church is/are? I have tried to read up on it and for the life of me, I don’t get what these cats are about.  I get some of what Brian McLaren is saying, but I have not picked up his latest book on principle, mainly because every time somebody talks about “change” I get a little skeptical; not because I am against change but because I don’t necessarily believe it to be the cure-all that it is advertised to be.  The appeal of Rob Bell’s writing escapes me completely.

I tried to read up on the movement on the web, but the quote below pretty much illustrates the point at which I start getting confused.

New Lights (those who embody a new way of thinking within a spiritual awakening) offer up themselves as the cosmions of a mind-of-Christ consciousness (a well ordered thing that has the character of Christ). As a cosmion incarnating the cells of a new body (our contemporary time period), New Lights will function as transitional vessels through which transforming energy can renew the divine image in the world, moving postmoderns from one state of embodiment to another. — Leonard Sweet

In a word, what?!  I am asking this in all sincerity; I can’t really form an opinion on any of this until I understand it.  So I am putting it to you brothers and sisters who are more knowledgeable of such things, help me get a grip on this.

Filed under: Faith and Religion, , , , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Ryan Imel says:

    Hey Odgie. I’m not familiar with Leonard Sweet, but hopefully I can help shed light on what it is you’re asking about.

    My first reaction: many of those who are considered/called “emergent” don’t call themselves that. Others began calling them that, it caught on, and there it went. So I wouldn’t rest too heavily on this title when trying to decipher what it is some of these thinkers are putting forward.

    In the most general terms, I see what McLaren and Bell are doing is approaching thoughts about God with the intention of deconstructing, examining, questioning, and re-assembling. In this way, no two people called “emergent” will necessarily have the same views on certain things. It isn’t a denominational claim nearly as much as it is an outlook on evangelism. The goal is to reach out to postmoderns (that’s a whole other discussion, really) and those who see themselves as post-church. These people require new methods and new reasoning behind their faith, and I think emergent”ists” are willing to ask those questions with them. It’s a beautiful thing, really, and not something the church should be afraid of.

    Does that help at all?


    First, welcome to AAT and thanks for commenting. Yes, your descrption does help. Let me see if I am following what you are saying: The emergent/emerging label has been applied to those who are approaching the faith in a post-modern fashion so as to reach a post-modern audience? Okay, I can get that.

  2. David B says:

    Hey Mike. I think the first comment got it about right but I’m just as confused as you are, which is why I didn’t respond before. It seems these who are of this mindset are willing to challenge just about everything about faith and they are not willing to accept ‘orthodox’ answers…but all along the way they are seeking to convince that discipleship (however anybody chooses to define it, which is the key and IMHO the biggest problem of postmodernism) in the general direction of Jesus as the key.

    I couldn’t help after reading A Generous Orthodoxy that I agreed with some of what they were saying but a lot of it I felt fell outside ‘orthodoxy’ as I see it. In all truthfulness, I hope that this is a phase that fades away quickly, if for no other reason that there will be some in Churches of Christ that will be influenced by the good elements of this mindset (and there are a few). But, as you know, the Guardians Of THE Faith will soon realize what’s going on and attach the worst abuses of emergentism to anybody who thinks differently than the traditional 1950s dogma. You don’t need me to tell you the garbage that will come when this happens.

    Yeah Dave, I know that you are right. But I strongly suspect that, like everything else in the Christian world, emergent/emerging approaches will really only catch on in churches of Christ about 20 years after the rest of Christianity has moved on. But we will see.

  3. what what? says:

    I don’t think there is really a difference. It’s just a catch all..kinda like a junk drawer.

    I’ve never read Leonard Sweet, but Rob Bell’s ideas are kind of facinating..

  4. preacherman says:

    For me brother it is reaching out to the emerging generations who don’t know about the Bible, God, Jesus. We strive to reach out in a way in which they can relate to us. We use candles, art, cross confession, lots of prayer, chanting, lots of sharing about how we feel about God, faith, religion. Some share why they don’t like Jesus or why as Dan Kimaballs says, they like Jesus but not the church. Different styles at different churches. We are living in a post-Christian society. We need to act now! My goal is to let them know Jesus personally. We are stiving to missional. Men like Dan Kimball, Scot McKnight, Brian McLaren are making a difference for the kingodom.
    Thanks for this post
    I pray that we will be missional in our communities and reach out to those who don’t know Jesus Christ!
    God bless you brother.


    Thanks for kicking in. What approach are you and/or your church taking to this task?


  5. Larry says:

    What is the emerging church? I think we are a group (or groups) of disciples who think that the overly rational world of modernity is changing right before our eyes. And in response to that change, we are willing to have a conversation about what parts of our local church could or should change so that we can reach/include those among/around us whose thinking is also changing.

    Don’t be put off by Len Sweet’s writing. He is deep. Try to get a copy of his presentations to the ZOE conference a few years ago. I think the title was An Ancient Future faith. I think you would enjoy listening to them.

    One more suggestion: include some of the emergent writers’ early works in your reading. Most profess to be on a journey, and admit that they don’t have all the answers.


    Welcome to AAT and thanks for commenting. Which early works would you recommend?


  6. preacherman says:

    Our desire is to reach out to the emerging congregations who do not know the Bible, God or His Son Jesus Christ.
    Praise God for men like Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, even Rob Bell and many others. Rob Bell just doesn’t agree with everything and that is okay. God bless each of these men as they strive to be missional in a post-Christian society.

  7. Jerri Harrington says:

    I don’t understand those terms in relation to what God is doing in His church. I do understand that a new generation is emerging that does not just accept the Bible as the word of God, and there is a new, more malignant tolerance that is winning over even our own youth, who have been taught the Bible and witnessed the love of God demonstrated among Christians–as well as not so loving behavior–all of their lives. Can you tell that I’m desperate to understand what we as God’s people need to do to be effective in this world?


    You are not alone in your desperation. It seems like the world changes so fast that we are constantly challenged to keep up with it. Regarding your comment about tolerance; what are our youth becoming tolerant of? I ask because I am admittedly out of touch with church youth now-a-days.

  8. Larry says:

    Odgie, thanks for asking for my recommendations. I pulled some books off the shelf and the memories came flooding back. I started with books by Cecil Hook and Jim Woodroof. Then there was the Heart of the Restoration series out of ACU. Others included Church Next by Eddie Gibbs, Unstoppable Force by McManus, the A New Kind of Christian trilogy by McLaren. any of the Ancient-Future works by Webber.

    Back to your original question, I was reading The New Christians by Tony Jones this morning while I was waiting to see if I would be selected for jury duty. He tells a story about the early days of the emergent movement when someone explained that a forester does not gage the health of the forest by the condition of the tops of the trees, but rather by what’s emerging from the forest floor. That helped them settle on the term “emergent” because they are focused on what’s growing up around the roots of the old established churches.


    Thanks for the recommendations (I studied under Jim Woodruff in college and he rocks!). I will follow up as time allows. Also, the tree illustration is a tremendous help in clarifying what the emergent idea is. Thank your for sharing. Don’t be a stranger. – O

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