Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Emerging Church: Gone, Baby, Gone

Trevin Wax on Five Reasons Why the Emerging Church is Receding

Good stuff.
I've discussed Em-Church Burnout before.

Emergent fatigue is setting in. Trevin's claim that the em-church most appeals to younger believers disgruntled with traditional evangelicalism is a strong one.

For all the good that "conversation" is, the one thing that is very difficult to do is orient a movement around a conversation. A conversation is not cohesion. There is not a coalescing unity in willingness to talk. Willingness to talk is good. It is godly. It is a sign of charity and humility. We should talk with everyone.

But: A guy who believes in the triune God and believes in the bodily resurrection of Christ can and should talk with a guy who believes God could be a She and that Jesus only rose symbolically, but the two of them can't forge a new evangelical identity together. Unless one changes their mind.

I also agree with Trevin that the em-church pioneers have really misread the spiritual longings of young adults.
Yes, many young adults are spiritual "mutts," but again, you can't forge a movement with conversation and creedal disunity. The young adults most passionate about the gospel of Jesus and his kingdom like answers, like plain talk, like the "meat" of tradition (as opposed to the aesthetics of tradition).

Is the emerging church movement receding?
I don't know. I think so.
"Missional" already seems to have replaced "emerging" as the buzzword du jour. The emerging guys appear to have been co-opted into some bizarre pastorpreneur, seeker megachurch hybrid conference devotee mutant sort of gurus. The timeliness of the movement seems to be going, as Lewis says, "where all times go."

The new emergence appears to be of the gospel-centered Driscoll, Keller, Acts 29, younger Calvinist variety. Maybe that movement is replete with its own problems, but doctrinal murkiness and a dispassion for the gospel are not among them.

A couple of fellows at the Boar's Head Tavern have discussed this post and its subject, so I thought I'd respond to some of their statements in case anyone linking here through them are interested . . .

My good friend Michael Spencer seems to think this post is about Calvinists believing they're taking over the emerging church.
It's not. I don't say anything about taking over the emerging church; I'm talking in fact about the same thing Trevin Wax was talking about, which is that the emerging church movement is fading into (gasp!) irrelevance. The closest I came to even saying anything like what Michael assumed is when I mentioned "the new emergence," by which I only meant that the movement emerging in younger evangelicalism that is aiming at renewal is of the gospel-centered blah blah blah variety. I stand by that. Most everyone else is jumping ship or reinventing the wheel, as BHT fellow Jason Blair mentions in his post.

Blair writes of a host of different movements and groups, each of which is an example of a movement or group writing off evangelicalism or trying to reinvent it. None of them are trying to take over, much less reform from within.
Blair writes, "The problem with the whole idea of taking over the EC is that there isn’t an organization to take over," which I completely agree with. It's just weird that I have to respond to the notion of taking over the EC when I wasn't suggesting any such thing.


co_heir said...

I'm not so sure that the emerging conversation is going to go away, rather it will continue in the church as a whole. A lot of what I see is a swing of the pendulum from one side to the other. There are those who have gone too far in the other direction, but I think that the pendulum will come back more to the middle. I'm hoping that the emerging conversation will not just end up being a bunch of hip young intellectuals talking, but will be the catalyst that moves the church back to a Biblical, Christ-centered form that is making disciples.

Bill said...

I'm with you Jared. The EC is a fad that will fade out eventually.

As your previous commenter mentioned, "conversations" will continue, and the church in America will keep trying to find itself, somehow. But I think the Emerging/Emergent label and lingo will be replaced by new labels and new lingo.

Above all, I hope the church finds a renewed focus on the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

Roger Oakland has written a commentary in response to Trevin's article. It might be worth taking a look at. Here is part of it:

Trevin Wax's article titled "5 Reasons Why the Emerging Church is Now Receding" posted February 5, 2008, asks some interesting questions and raises some valid concerns with regard to the Emerging Church. However, unfortunately Wax has drawn conclusions that steer readers far from an accurate picture of understanding the times from a biblical perspective, and it is necessary to sound the alarm.

Wax asks the question, "Has the Emerging Church begun to recede?" then answers it with a "yes," giving 5 reasons why this is so. While Wax points out several crucial problems of the emerging church, (true biblical evangelism, doctrines on hell and the deity of Christ, etc.), he has underestimated the seriousness and the expansiveness of the emerging church movement by suggesting that it's "influence" has "begun to wane."

He suggests that because some young pastors and leaders are distancing themselves from the term emergent or emerging, this is "a clear sign that the conversation is ending." This is not an accurate view of what is happening throughout the world as the documented facts reveal.

Certain aspects of the emerging church, like other trends or fads that hit Christianity, will no doubt come and go. Perhaps the name will even change. However, the underlying spirituality (I call it emerging spirituality) and the overall vision of the emerging church is not going to fade away or disappear, even if, as Wax suggests, it blends into the evangelical church. It will still exist. Thus, I would disagree that the emerging church is on its way to a burial. You can read the rest of this commentary by Roger Oakland by clicking here.

Jared said...

Anonymous, are you Roger Oakland? :-)

I find it convenient to say it still exists, just under a different name. We might as well say emerging church was still the traditional church.

This isn't about semantics (for me, anyway). The changing semantics is an indication of recession, in my opinion, but this is about doctrine and praxis.

I don't even know what "emerging spirituality" is. Can you define it?