What is Emergent?

I’ve added a “Friend of Emergent” button to the bottom of my sidebar. Its been a long time coming – I suppose I’ve had an unofficial affiliation with emergent for some time. But I guess this makes it about as “official” as it gets for a blog.

I get a lot of questions about the emergent movement – what it is, what it stands for, why I talk about it so much, etc. Different people will give different answers to this question, but the best answer I can give is this:

Emergent is an ongoing conversation between leaders and members of various faith traditions about how Christians can go about engaging postmodern culture.

A few of the terms in this definition can be unpacked a little more:
1. “Conversation” – emergent isn’t about defining a new system of practices or beliefs. The point is not for everyone to agree on everything and to “get on the same page” (“that is so mid twentieth-century,” many of us would say). Instead, we share ideas, and accept differences.
2. “Various faith traditions” – emergent is not a new “church.” Instead, it is existing and growing within many different faith communities. There are emergent Baptists, emergent Pentecostals, emergent Catholics, and – yes – emergents can even be found within the Churches of Christ.
3. “Postmodern culture” – emergents recognize that our culture is changing in an earth-shaking way that goes beyond the typical differences from generation-to-generation. A part of this change involves a rejection of “church” – but not necessarily Jesus himself. Indeed, the postmodern problem with “church” is that there is no longer an authentic relationship between the Jesus of scripture and “church people.”
3. “Engaging” – the thing that emergents share in common is a desire to engage culture, rather than fighting culture wars. This means taking the criticisms of what is wrong with “church” very seriously. The challenge is not to find ways to shape “church” to suit the new culture, but to become more aware of how our ideas of “church” became overly entangled with the old culture and (simultaneously) separated from the Jesus of scripture.

More to come.

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