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.