I am visiting this week with several leaders from within the growing and developing evangelical movement known as "The Emergent Church." I am not sure I can even define what the term means, given the wide divergence I see regarding what gets labeled "Emergent." Even within the movement itself there is considerable nonconformity. There are scores of books, major conferences, journals, magazines, and ministry styles that are all called "Emergent." What is clear to me is this—God is doing something fresh among younger leaders who are serious about mission and creative in their evangelism. The wineskins always require change and these folks know it and are doing something about it.

But this movement is not just about wineskins. There is more. To only see this aspect is to miss the moment and the ministry. There is a clear need for theology in this movement. Some leaders, like the one I talked to yesterday, are deeply interested in theology. Others seem oblivious, or appear to be drifting theologically. Some, certainly not those I am with this week, even appear to be entertaining doctrinal ideas that sound a lot like some of the ancient heresies regarding the Trinity.

The church I visited yesterday speaks of its misison as "Connecting People with Jesus and Each Other." That sums up a great deal of what is happening in Emergent. The movement is about evangelism but this is an evangelism that relates very specifically to community. We evangelize best, say Emergent leaders, when we do it in the context of relationships. This is not the old "confront them with the gospel and seek a decision" model I knew growing up with as an evangelical Baptist.

Pray for these young leaders. Pray that this movement will become one that touches the heart and soul of the church at large. Pray for the scores of new Emergent churches being planted in the US and abroad. Pray that these younger men and women will remain faithful to the gospel and to a lifestyle that is morally pure. And please pray for me as I try to listen, learn and interact with these young Emergent folks regarding the strengths and weaknesses of a new movement of the Spirit.

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  1. Joe Thorn May 5, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    I, and many others, appreciate your gracious, listening spirit in the midst of this discussion. I too see varying trends (good and bad) within the ec.
    Praying with you for Christ’s church,

  2. Steve McCoy May 5, 2005 at 5:42 pm

    I think you have exactly the right attitude toward the emerging church conversation. Thanks for your generosity towards it, and I enjoy reading your blog.

  3. Kevin Johnson May 6, 2005 at 10:16 am

    I believe you have the right attitude towards the emerging church conversation…and kudos to you for not trying to define something that really can’t be pinned down quite yet.
    I’m eager to see how the conversation develops.

  4. barlow May 6, 2005 at 11:58 pm

    I would like to know more about institutional connections. I don’t see how the emergent churches fit with the current seminary system. How do they know which ministers to call, how do they publicize needing a minister? Where are their ministers educated? How have emergent churches fared when transitioning from one minister to another, or are they all too new for this to have happened yet? It is this sort of nuts and bolts stuff that always goes through my head the minute I start reading a website for an emergent church. What kind of structures are in place to help a young man pay for seminary, for instance, in an independent emerging church? I’m sort of old fashioned, I suppose, but I just don’t know how wise it is to start an independent church – the last thing we Protestants need is a further diminishing of institutional connectedness.

  5. Two-Edged Sword May 14, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    Reformed Ecumenical Madness

    This view on Christian union… can be seen in the leaders of this movement accepting with open arms modern evangelical trends….

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