Emerging Church verse the Emergent Church

I am very pleased to see a worthy article from Mark Driscoll (of Mars Hill Church, Seattle) on what is the Emerging church (This is reposted on his blog from The Criswell Theological Review).  I have done a good amount reading and talking with people about this subject and even posted a couple things myself on this blog.  What I find missing is the clarity of definition to what this is all about.  There indeed is a difference between the broader Emerging church conversations and what is officially known as Emergent (Emergent Village).  It is important to note this, since I am very much in the conversation of the Emerging church but would not feel comfortable in what is known as Emergent.  Here is some of what Driscoll says (I have added links to the individual sites):

Pagitt, McLaren, and others such as Chris Seay, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, and Andrew Jones stayed together and continued speaking and writing together as friends. I left the team because my new church needed more attention and I also had growing theological differences with some members of the team, though most remained friends. …That team eventually morphed into what is now known as Emergent. This name has caused much confusion because there is a difference between what is Emerging and what is Emergent.(emphasis added)

First, the Emerging church is a broad category that encompasses a wide variety of churches and Christians who are seeking to be effective missionaries wherever they live. This includes Europeans and Australians who are having the same conversation as their American counterparts. The Emerging church includes three distinct types of Christians. In a conversation with Dr. Ed Stetzer, a noted missiologist, he classified them as the Relevants, Reconstructionists, and Revisionists.

I am grateful for these three categories.  They define well the scope of the Emerging church conversation.  Relevants don’t want their mostly conservative theology changed, just the style of worship and ministry so they can reach the postmodern.  Reconstructionists see little life transformation in the mega-church or broader church "forms" and advocate everything from house churches to a heavy emphasis on spiritual formation and "incarnational" Christianity.  It is the Revisionists who with Brian McClaren and others question evangelical doctrines and who sound like liberals in their theological debates.

You must read the entire article.  It sparks more questions, as anything written about the Emerging church would.  Here is an observation I have made.  Some are in this conversation because they have theological issues.  Others are in it because they have evangelistic concerns.  Still, others are very concerned about the forms of our local church life.  And, to make this all worse, some have all three on their minds in the Emerging church conversation.  Mine really is with the last two, by the way.  For now, I think the issue with theology is really learning how to teach it to people who now think differently–not to change it.

Read more here: Great Freebies on the Emerging Church  The article referenced can be downloaded by clicking this link:  "A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church"

What "R" are you:

Relevants…Reconstructionists…Revisionsists?

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

24 comments

  1. You can add another “R” to the list. Though not explicitly linked with the Emerging/Emergent camps, George Barna’s book “Revolution” discusses “revolutionaries” who are beginning to see that the local church is “abiblical”. It’s not biblical, or unbiblical. It can be beneficial for the kingdom, but sometimes it can also be a detriment. It’s worth checking out. (I’m still in the process of writing reviews for it on my blog.)
    But basically, it all comes down to recognizing that the world is changing, and our approach to ministry must change if we are to be effective. What’s important is that we not undermine each other’s attempts in this area — God intentionally wants us to use differing methods of ministry to advance His kingdom.

  2. You can add another “R” to the list. Though not explicitly linked with the Emerging/Emergent camps, George Barna’s book “Revolution” discusses “revolutionaries” who are beginning to see that the local church is “abiblical”. It’s not biblical, or unbiblical. It can be beneficial for the kingdom, but sometimes it can also be a detriment. It’s worth checking out. (I’m still in the process of writing reviews for it on my blog.)
    But basically, it all comes down to recognizing that the world is changing, and our approach to ministry must change if we are to be effective. What’s important is that we not undermine each other’s attempts in this area — God intentionally wants us to use differing methods of ministry to advance His kingdom.

  3. You can add another “R” to the list. Though not explicitly linked with the Emerging/Emergent camps, George Barna’s book “Revolution” discusses “revolutionaries” who are beginning to see that the local church is “abiblical”. It’s not biblical, or unbiblical. It can be beneficial for the kingdom, but sometimes it can also be a detriment. It’s worth checking out. (I’m still in the process of writing reviews for it on my blog.)
    But basically, it all comes down to recognizing that the world is changing, and our approach to ministry must change if we are to be effective. What’s important is that we not undermine each other’s attempts in this area — God intentionally wants us to use differing methods of ministry to advance His kingdom.

  4. You can add another “R” to the list. Though not explicitly linked with the Emerging/Emergent camps, George Barna’s book “Revolution” discusses “revolutionaries” who are beginning to see that the local church is “abiblical”. It’s not biblical, or unbiblical. It can be beneficial for the kingdom, but sometimes it can also be a detriment. It’s worth checking out. (I’m still in the process of writing reviews for it on my blog.)
    But basically, it all comes down to recognizing that the world is changing, and our approach to ministry must change if we are to be effective. What’s important is that we not undermine each other’s attempts in this area — God intentionally wants us to use differing methods of ministry to advance His kingdom.

  5. Good point to bring that up, Derek. Barna’s so-called revolutionaries would actually fit nicely in the “Reconstructionist” camp, it would appear. The attitude is that church does not “work” the way Revolutionaries see it–yet they are seeking God. I would say this way of thinking is in common with a lot of the emerging church movement.
    I look foward to reading your thoughts on the book! Have you read Todd Blosinger’s thoughts about it? Worth reading…
    http://bolsinger.blogs.com/weblog/2006/01/a_notsonewnorra_1.html

  6. Good point to bring that up, Derek. Barna’s so-called revolutionaries would actually fit nicely in the “Reconstructionist” camp, it would appear. The attitude is that church does not “work” the way Revolutionaries see it–yet they are seeking God. I would say this way of thinking is in common with a lot of the emerging church movement.
    I look foward to reading your thoughts on the book! Have you read Todd Blosinger’s thoughts about it? Worth reading…
    http://bolsinger.blogs.com/weblog/2006/01/a_notsonewnorra_1.html

  7. Good point to bring that up, Derek. Barna’s so-called revolutionaries would actually fit nicely in the “Reconstructionist” camp, it would appear. The attitude is that church does not “work” the way Revolutionaries see it–yet they are seeking God. I would say this way of thinking is in common with a lot of the emerging church movement.
    I look foward to reading your thoughts on the book! Have you read Todd Blosinger’s thoughts about it? Worth reading…
    http://bolsinger.blogs.com/weblog/2006/01/a_notsonewnorra_1.html

  8. Good point to bring that up, Derek. Barna’s so-called revolutionaries would actually fit nicely in the “Reconstructionist” camp, it would appear. The attitude is that church does not “work” the way Revolutionaries see it–yet they are seeking God. I would say this way of thinking is in common with a lot of the emerging church movement.
    I look foward to reading your thoughts on the book! Have you read Todd Blosinger’s thoughts about it? Worth reading…
    http://bolsinger.blogs.com/weblog/2006/01/a_notsonewnorra_1.html

  9. Ultimately all issues are theological ones. It is our understanding of who God is that leads us into our evangelistic efforts and our church forms.
    If our view of God is tweaked then that will be manifested in our personal and corporate lives. Conversely, if our lives do not correspond to what the Bible describes them to be, the root issue is our faulty understanding of God.

    We do not ever have to worry about “rethinking” our relevance to the culture or the necessity of reconstructing current church programs and structures; if we will simply know God intimately and allow Him to work His character into us, we will quite naturally find ourselves fruitfully engaging our culture and successfully building the Church.

    I would say that the term “revisionist” is a straw man argument unworthy of application to the conversation. I am not the most well versed in “PoMo” literature, but have read several of McLaren’s books, his desire is certainly not revision. He desires to apply a knowledge of God to our understanding of everything else, including the language we use to describe things like Church, culture, evangelism, heaven and hell, etc.

  10. Ultimately all issues are theological ones. It is our understanding of who God is that leads us into our evangelistic efforts and our church forms.
    If our view of God is tweaked then that will be manifested in our personal and corporate lives. Conversely, if our lives do not correspond to what the Bible describes them to be, the root issue is our faulty understanding of God.

    We do not ever have to worry about “rethinking” our relevance to the culture or the necessity of reconstructing current church programs and structures; if we will simply know God intimately and allow Him to work His character into us, we will quite naturally find ourselves fruitfully engaging our culture and successfully building the Church.

    I would say that the term “revisionist” is a straw man argument unworthy of application to the conversation. I am not the most well versed in “PoMo” literature, but have read several of McLaren’s books, his desire is certainly not revision. He desires to apply a knowledge of God to our understanding of everything else, including the language we use to describe things like Church, culture, evangelism, heaven and hell, etc.

  11. Ultimately all issues are theological ones. It is our understanding of who God is that leads us into our evangelistic efforts and our church forms.
    If our view of God is tweaked then that will be manifested in our personal and corporate lives. Conversely, if our lives do not correspond to what the Bible describes them to be, the root issue is our faulty understanding of God.

    We do not ever have to worry about “rethinking” our relevance to the culture or the necessity of reconstructing current church programs and structures; if we will simply know God intimately and allow Him to work His character into us, we will quite naturally find ourselves fruitfully engaging our culture and successfully building the Church.

    I would say that the term “revisionist” is a straw man argument unworthy of application to the conversation. I am not the most well versed in “PoMo” literature, but have read several of McLaren’s books, his desire is certainly not revision. He desires to apply a knowledge of God to our understanding of everything else, including the language we use to describe things like Church, culture, evangelism, heaven and hell, etc.

  12. Ultimately all issues are theological ones. It is our understanding of who God is that leads us into our evangelistic efforts and our church forms.
    If our view of God is tweaked then that will be manifested in our personal and corporate lives. Conversely, if our lives do not correspond to what the Bible describes them to be, the root issue is our faulty understanding of God.

    We do not ever have to worry about “rethinking” our relevance to the culture or the necessity of reconstructing current church programs and structures; if we will simply know God intimately and allow Him to work His character into us, we will quite naturally find ourselves fruitfully engaging our culture and successfully building the Church.

    I would say that the term “revisionist” is a straw man argument unworthy of application to the conversation. I am not the most well versed in “PoMo” literature, but have read several of McLaren’s books, his desire is certainly not revision. He desires to apply a knowledge of God to our understanding of everything else, including the language we use to describe things like Church, culture, evangelism, heaven and hell, etc.

  13. Steve–Relevance is a biblical issue when Pauls says “I become all things…to save some” In our recent Church history we see Hudson Taylor who decided to contextualize his faith–he dyed his hair black, learned Chinese, dressed like a Chinese person and was able to break through and see many come to faith.
    I see that sharing our lives and our faith in an “indigenous” manner is really important. Speaking the language of postmoderns or any other cultural group is one thing. Structure and style do matter. And, methods do need to be updated or revisted. The church is just not working to help people with transformation. New methods and older ones may be the key.

    McLaren has a book about theology (A Generous Orthodoxy). He is developing a new theological approach, apparently. So, he fits well in “revisionist” camp of the emerging church. I look forward to reading this book at some point.

  14. Steve–Relevance is a biblical issue when Pauls says “I become all things…to save some” In our recent Church history we see Hudson Taylor who decided to contextualize his faith–he dyed his hair black, learned Chinese, dressed like a Chinese person and was able to break through and see many come to faith.
    I see that sharing our lives and our faith in an “indigenous” manner is really important. Speaking the language of postmoderns or any other cultural group is one thing. Structure and style do matter. And, methods do need to be updated or revisted. The church is just not working to help people with transformation. New methods and older ones may be the key.

    McLaren has a book about theology (A Generous Orthodoxy). He is developing a new theological approach, apparently. So, he fits well in “revisionist” camp of the emerging church. I look forward to reading this book at some point.

  15. Steve–Relevance is a biblical issue when Pauls says “I become all things…to save some” In our recent Church history we see Hudson Taylor who decided to contextualize his faith–he dyed his hair black, learned Chinese, dressed like a Chinese person and was able to break through and see many come to faith.
    I see that sharing our lives and our faith in an “indigenous” manner is really important. Speaking the language of postmoderns or any other cultural group is one thing. Structure and style do matter. And, methods do need to be updated or revisted. The church is just not working to help people with transformation. New methods and older ones may be the key.

    McLaren has a book about theology (A Generous Orthodoxy). He is developing a new theological approach, apparently. So, he fits well in “revisionist” camp of the emerging church. I look forward to reading this book at some point.

  16. Steve–Relevance is a biblical issue when Pauls says “I become all things…to save some” In our recent Church history we see Hudson Taylor who decided to contextualize his faith–he dyed his hair black, learned Chinese, dressed like a Chinese person and was able to break through and see many come to faith.
    I see that sharing our lives and our faith in an “indigenous” manner is really important. Speaking the language of postmoderns or any other cultural group is one thing. Structure and style do matter. And, methods do need to be updated or revisted. The church is just not working to help people with transformation. New methods and older ones may be the key.

    McLaren has a book about theology (A Generous Orthodoxy). He is developing a new theological approach, apparently. So, he fits well in “revisionist” camp of the emerging church. I look forward to reading this book at some point.

  17. Perhaps I misspoke, relevance most certainly is important. I meant to say that issues of relevance to the culture and structures of the church flow out of theology, they are a manifestation of our theology (hence the conversation we had about the Gospel we preach producing the fruit we see…).
    A Generous Orthodoxy is one of the McLaren books that I have read. I would compare it with Lewis’ Mere Christianity. McLaren is not trying to rewrite theology, but to remind the Church of it. (If theology means the study of God, which is a big “if” in many circles!)

  18. Perhaps I misspoke, relevance most certainly is important. I meant to say that issues of relevance to the culture and structures of the church flow out of theology, they are a manifestation of our theology (hence the conversation we had about the Gospel we preach producing the fruit we see…).
    A Generous Orthodoxy is one of the McLaren books that I have read. I would compare it with Lewis’ Mere Christianity. McLaren is not trying to rewrite theology, but to remind the Church of it. (If theology means the study of God, which is a big “if” in many circles!)

  19. Perhaps I misspoke, relevance most certainly is important. I meant to say that issues of relevance to the culture and structures of the church flow out of theology, they are a manifestation of our theology (hence the conversation we had about the Gospel we preach producing the fruit we see…).
    A Generous Orthodoxy is one of the McLaren books that I have read. I would compare it with Lewis’ Mere Christianity. McLaren is not trying to rewrite theology, but to remind the Church of it. (If theology means the study of God, which is a big “if” in many circles!)

  20. Perhaps I misspoke, relevance most certainly is important. I meant to say that issues of relevance to the culture and structures of the church flow out of theology, they are a manifestation of our theology (hence the conversation we had about the Gospel we preach producing the fruit we see…).
    A Generous Orthodoxy is one of the McLaren books that I have read. I would compare it with Lewis’ Mere Christianity. McLaren is not trying to rewrite theology, but to remind the Church of it. (If theology means the study of God, which is a big “if” in many circles!)

  21. Where does our methodology end and our theology begin? Can they be separated? This is really the issue I have. I love to question form, but really out of the context of historical theological roots. Perhaps, what is alarming to some is that they are intertwind a bit in these conversations. I am not alarmed at this point myself, but am concerned at least.

  22. Where does our methodology end and our theology begin? Can they be separated? This is really the issue I have. I love to question form, but really out of the context of historical theological roots. Perhaps, what is alarming to some is that they are intertwind a bit in these conversations. I am not alarmed at this point myself, but am concerned at least.

  23. Where does our methodology end and our theology begin? Can they be separated? This is really the issue I have. I love to question form, but really out of the context of historical theological roots. Perhaps, what is alarming to some is that they are intertwind a bit in these conversations. I am not alarmed at this point myself, but am concerned at least.

  24. Where does our methodology end and our theology begin? Can they be separated? This is really the issue I have. I love to question form, but really out of the context of historical theological roots. Perhaps, what is alarming to some is that they are intertwind a bit in these conversations. I am not alarmed at this point myself, but am concerned at least.

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