There is only one Mount Everest; one Eiffel Tower; one London
Bridge. Most people are able to view a photo
of each of these and immediately identify them because of their
Such is not the case with the Emerging Church. There is no single
monolith, image, definition or practice of the Emerging Church that
can be reproduced, imitated or copied from one city or region to
another. In fact, do a quick search of the world wide web and you'll soon discover there is
no single "creature" called the Emerging Church. The
term is defined by its users, and is dependent upon their own
theological, sociological and cultural persuasion.
In our use of the term "Emerging Church" at Next Reformation Network
and G2k, we are not talking about a theological departure from our
conservative, evangelical biblical roots. Several years ago I was
interviewed by a committee from a well-known evangelical
denomination. One of the interviewers asked me, "what has this shift of thinking you've experienced done to your theology?" My answer was
"it has only deepened the theology I've always believed."
Simply put, we believe theologically what we've always believed
(read the "values" page at
"what do the leaders of nRn believe" at
www.nrn.net). However, what we believe ecclesiologically (how we
actually practice church) has changed radically over the past decade.
One of the beauties of the Emerging Church is its liquidity its
ability to change, mutate, and flow into the stream
of society from whence it emerges. This capacity insures that the
Church does not become (as has much of the institutional church) a
round peg in a square hole.
Think about the church experiences youve had through your life. If
youre average, you have found more often
than not that the church has not spoken to you in a language you
understood. The church may not have addressed the needs of your life in a relevant, practical way. Much of worship
might seem contrived. Sermons are too often the product of last-minute desperation, coughed up by an overworked,
stressed-out and weary pastor. Many Christians won't speak about
these things, for fear they'll be labeled trouble-makers or rebels,
but deep in the hearts of a majority of
believers in the U.S. and in much of the westernized world, these
thoughts are abundant and
A poll taken in a Seattle suburb (among just regular folks, not
church people) in July of 2003 suggests the following by an
overwhelming percentage. When asked what is the greatest
thing the church can do for our community?
the most frequent answer was provide a sense of belonging.
Apparently, people in at least this suburb feel the church provides
the opposite: I dont feel that I belong or that I am accepted when I attend church.
A second question was this: If you do not attend church regularly,
what is the reason? The answer? I work five days a week. When
Sunday comes, Im exhausted, I havent had any time with my family,
I have a home to care for.... the answer went on and on.
Does any of this ring true with you? Church has always existed in
your lifetime. In fact, as the saying goes, theres a church on every corner. There are formal churches,
informal churches, seeker-sensitive churches and come-as-you-are churches. There are musical churches, teaching
churches, family churches, charismatic churches, bible churches,
name-it-and-claim-it churches, Word churches, up-scale churches,
traditional churches, community churches, denominational churches,
house churches, fellowship churches, boomer churches, relational
churches, non-denominational churches, independent churches,
Catholic churches, Protestant churches, High churches,
neighborhood churches......with all these churches, one would think
that church has saturated society; that in this
twenty-first century, modern world, there is a church for every
need, every taste, every man, woman and child in the world!
And yet, sadly, churches continue to shrink in number. More and more
people assign the term irrelevant to their personal lexicons when
the subject of church is broached.
On a recent flight to Cincinnati I sat beside a young woman whose
family recently moved to that city. We were talking
about the Emerging Church and the Institutional church. She said,
Weve looked all over the city for a church. Weve
found Church Lite and Hollywood Church and every kind of church
you can think of; but we cant find a church where
we feel at home. ....Home. A sense of belonging.
Relationship. Think about it.....
Now, read just some of the church mottos I plucked from my own
local telephone directory:
Where people gather...to worship, share and learn
A growing church serving a growing community
Building people through a loving, caring fellowship: Building a
church through loving, caring people.
Where Truth and Love Make difference
We Build Hope
In the Heart of the City With the City at Heart
Large enough to serve you, Small enough to know you
Transforming Lives and Building Dreams
Reproducing Authentic Christianity
The End of Your Search for a Friendly Church
A Place For You
Biblically Based...Family Oriented...Dynamic Fellowship
Living Hope For Real People
King James Version Only
Proclaiming & Demonstrating the Love of God through Christ
Bible Believing, Christ centered
21st Century Church - Come see our NEW Building
A Community Dedicated to Seeking God and Serving People
A Church involved in & Caring About the Community
Experience Gods Presence The Church That Cares
Start a New Way of Living!
Where the Bible is Believed and Taught
A Historic Building
Building a Community of Grace
Unique, Expressive & Powerful!
Building Holy and Healthy Lives
A Family Church
We are followers of Jesus Christ inviting you to follow along with
Proclaiming the Good News of Gods Sovereign Grace
Where Gods Word & Spirit bring Freedom
End Your Search For a Friendly, Spiritual Church
The Liberal Religious Alternative
With all these descriptions, one would think "Wow! There's got to be
a great church for all our needs in one of
those mottos!" I mean, just think about these: Building people
through a loving, caring fellowship: Building a church through
loving, caring people. Where Truth and Love Make difference We Build
Hope End Your Search For a Friendly, Spiritual Church
Yet week after week, the numbers of "unchurched" "out-of-church"
"ex-church" "former church" grow larger and larger. George Barna has
located more than 10 million American Christians who do not attend
any kind of church at all. (These aren't the bunch
you may be thinking of "Oh, there are lots of people who claim to be
Christians, but they're only Christian in name." Not those folks.
Barna is a pretty smart pollster. He's also a born again Christian.
He knows the difference between the social "Christians" and the born
Have you found certain words cropping up in your mind lately when
you think or talk about church? Words such as "irrelevant" or "what's the point?" or "why bother?" If you've
struggled with thoughts like these, please be encouraged; while some
folks want to assign you to the religious scrap heap, believing that
you're just "backslidden" or part of the prophesied
"great falling away," some of us see something else happening.
Something frightening and at the same time encouraging and
I was visiting a 40 million dollar church complex not long ago.
There's a shopping mall atmosphere as you
wander through the gift shop, the book shop, the coffee shop and the
clothing shop. There is a multi-media presentation streaming from
flat panel screens strategically attached to walls. You can give
your finances with the
new whiz bang credit card machines. My head was spinning as I took
in the rich, plush environment and I was thinking about the
humble beginnings of "church" just after Jesus ascended into heaven
following His crucifixion and
resurrection from the dead. And a scripture came to my mind. I've
studied biblical hermeneutics and I understand something
of context, language, audience, and all those things, but the
scripture just seemed to hang around in my mind as I thought about
the "temple" I was walking through.
"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are
the temple of the living God. As God has
said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their
God, And they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from
among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is
unclean, And I will receive you." "I will be a
Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord
The Emerging Church - I'm not smart enough to engage in all the
"postmodern" discussions and therefore I'm unable to give my use of the term a fancy definition. For me,
Emerging Church just means a Safe Place, a Harbor, a Haven, something a bit less ostentatious than what we've
known. I'm ready for the "Church" to "Emerge", how about you?
In His Grace
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