What is the emerging church? Here’s a good, if egg-headed, definition from Wikipedia. And here’s an equally deep article from another church that does a good job of outlining the issues dealing with the emerging church.
But much more briefly:
Defining the emerging church is difficult because there is no “emerging church” per se, no agreed upon beliefs, no authority or ruling group, no anything that would allow specific categorization. The term “emerging” means whatever it means to the person using it, but generally recognizes that the world and the church are both in states of transition from the “modern” world to the “postmodern” world–and that basically means that the way younger generations view the world and life and how they process information is becoming more and more different than the ways their parents and grandparents did. The problem is, that in the vacuum of any explicit definition of what “emerging” means, the detractors of the emerging movement have defined it in negative terms that may or may not actually describe what is going on in the movement itself.
The emerging church is basically a reaction to what the modern church had become by the end of the 20th century. Many people working and participating in the church and certainly people of the youngest generations saw that the church was no longer creating the effect that they expected to see from people of faith. The church no longer seemed relevant culturally (certainly), but also ethically, liturgically, and even spiritually.
Advocates of an “emerging church” see themselves as moving in transition between the modern and postmodern eras–becoming or emerging into what church will become next. The changes being made included all aspects of church life from the styles of worship music, service formats, building decor, use of multimedia elements, to the style and format of teaching and instruction, interpretation of scriptures, formation of doctrine, etc. In other words, nothing is sacred in the emerging church, except the Sacred. Everything else, both the container and the content are being reexamined–“deconstructed,” to use the phraseology of postmodernism. Here’s a good look at some of the changes emergent leaders are employing.
For many people, Leonard Sweet, a Methodist pastor and educator, has the best handle on many of these issues. He has an acronym to describe what’s going on: EPIC. That stands for Experiential, Participatory, Image-based, and Communal. According to this paradigm, people in this new church as it emerges are not going to be looking at truth propositionally (academically), but relationally (that is, they’re going to be directly experiencing it). They are not going to be representational (that is passively watching as someone does something to/for them on stage); they’re going to participating at every turn. They are not going to primarily get their information from the printed word, but from printed, projected, broadcast, or live images. And they are not going to be isolated, but connected physically, electronically, culturally, and spiritually. We’re already seeing all these methods of processing reality flowering in the culture around us…advocates of the emerging movement are consciously bringing them to church.
As you can imagine, all this has been extremely controversial, but at the same time relentless and inevitable. The main controversy and contention over the emerging church, though, centers on whether this movement is consciously or unconsciously changing the meaning and intent of the Scriptures, changing the understanding of and belief in the traditional essentials of the Christian faith, and whether postmodern philosophical elements such as pluralism (that multiple interpretations of truth can be equally true) and relativism (that truth is subjective and relative to each individual) have made objective truth impossible to perceive. While some advocates of an emerging church may adhere to some or all of these beliefs, others do not, so no broad brush can be applied here.
Is theeffect an emerging church?
The short answer is no, theeffect is not an emerging church and does not affiliate with that loose movement in any way. But as a faith community that is trying to become relevant to all generations in terms of conveying the timeless truth of Jesus’ message, you will find many of the stylistic elements described above present to some degree or another in our gatherings and methods of communication.
But here are two important distinctions… We do not believe in pluralism or relativism; we believe that truth, ultimate reality, is God, and truth/God can be known objectively and will be known as it is, as He is, by anyone and everyone who experiences Him. And secondly, reference was made to changing or deconstructing both the container (the method or style by which we communicate and relate) and the content (the actual message we’re communicating and relating around). While changing the container (the wineskins to which Jesus referred) is the duty of every new generation, changing the content of the message should cause concern for us all.
Should God’s message be changed? Of course we answer, no! But we also ask, what if it’s already been changed? As the early church moved away from its Jewish roots, what if it also drifted away from the original intent of Jesus’ teaching, which could only be understood within its ancient, Jewish context? What if this drift from Jesus’ original intent has caused the message and the church built upon it to lose its relevance and power to change our lives? Then, if we responsibly work to understand Jesus and the Scriptures in their original context and are willing to accept what we find even if it is at variance with our traditional beliefs, we are not deconstructing the message, but reconstructing it. Like restoration artists, we’re restoring what centuries of accretion have obscured.
We believe that this pursuit–to understand and follow Jesus as closely as did his first followers–should be what the church is emerging toward.
See scripture for more on the restoration of the Jesus’ message and articles and links for more on emerging issues.