Emergent Q and A, Part 3

Continuing a series on Dan Kimball’s most frequently asked questions about Emergent...

4) Do “postmoderns” want to hear apologetics?

Generally speaking, people in the emergent conversation are convinced that Christian apologetics, in their current, popular form, are doing more harm than good in postmodern culture.

“Postmoderns,” as they are called, are much more interested in how people live out their beliefs than in the details of their intellectual convictions. Thus, the experiences of churches that minister to those who are steeped in postmodern culture are that people are drawn to fellowships where people are acting out the mission of Jesus – feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, etc. – moreso that fellowships where the primary focus is on teaching and protecting/claiming doctrinal correctness.

5) Can a modern contemporary church have an “emerging” ministry and worship gathering in it and not have conflict with the senior pastor and emerging leader?

This is apparently a very common problem. Emerging ministries, started as a sort-of 20-something service, suddenly become very popular, and then – because of their popularity – church leaders outside of the ministry start trying to control the ministry. Ironically, this almost always kills the ministry, because mainstream leaders in such churches often don’t have a good “feel” for what the emerging ministries are trying to accomplish.

I haven’t experienced this myself, but it is apparently a very common story – and a huge problem.

6) Does being “emerging” mean you don’t preach or teach the Bible but only use experiential and contemplative prayer in a worship gathering?

In short, no. Insofar as I can tell, churches that try to minister to the emerging culture uniformly include bible teaching as a part of their weekly gatherings. In fact, some of the most well-informed, academically-charged teachings of which I am aware are coming from these types-of churches.

The difference is that teaching is not the FOCUS of these churches. Rather, they derive their identity from their ministries, particularly within their particular communities.

7) Does the emerging church believe in hell?

It is important to remember that emergent is a conversation that is taking place among friends who are interested in ministry in emerging culture. Emergent does not have an official “theology,” and different people in the conversation may ultimately come to different conclusions. As such, the most one can do is survey what some of the more significant leaders in the conversation have to say.

Even then, however, this question is a little tricky.

On a surface level, the answer to this question is almost always “Yes, emergent leaders believe in hell.” But that doesn’t mean that they believe hell is what evangelicals have made it out to be. Most significantly, there are a lot of questions being asked about whether hell is a place of ETERNAL punishment.

I’m planning on writing on this subject quite a bit more in the future, so stay tuned.

8 How many “emerging churches” are there? Is this a fad or something growing?  

Statistically, this is impossible to nail down. As I mentioned in a prior post, emergent is a phenomenon that is being experienced WITHIN existing churches even moreso than in the formation of NEW churches. As such, statistical analysis of the extent to which emergent is present within various churches is not really possible.

As to whether we are dealing with a “fad,” I am not sure that I am comfortable with that word – its a little too pejorative for me. However, if by that you mean “is this something that will be around in a century or two?”, my answer would go like this:

Insofar as terminology like “emergent” and “emerging conversation” is concerned, I doubt people will be using language like that in a decade or two. However, it will not be because the “fad” of emergent came and went, but because it served its purpose. The changes across almost every form of Christianity that are occurring even as we speak – changes that are part of what we are now calling the “emerging church” – and changes which emergent seems to be facilitating in some ways – are likely to be permanent. Those changes include:

– An increasing reliance on deriving identity from the PRACTICE of Jesus’ mission, as opposed to primary focus on teaching and doctirnal conviction/correctness

– An increasing use of art, poetry, etc. as an expression of faith

– A return to contemplative practices and other spiritual disciplines as a means of spiritual formation

– New, deeper understandings of the meaning of God’s redemptive purposes, which go beyond the now-traditional “heaven-after-you-die” approach

Will emergent cause these changes? I think it will in some ways. I also think a lot of them will happen in places where people have almost no familiarity what what is going on in emergent. As I said in the first post, the “emerging church” is a much bigger thing that the emergent conversation. It is something that is happening, even outside of the emergent conversation.

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